The Appeal of the Real in Snuff USC Cinematic Arts

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THE APPEAL OF THE REAL IN SNUFF, feigned intention to harm will become space between the real and the imaginary. inextricably mixed up with real elements many seem to know what it is the kidnap. a policeman will really fire on sight 3 Simu ping and then profilmic beating torturing and. lation produces real effects The question with murder of a random victim and yet no. snuff as portrayed in Tesis becomes if you would has admit ted to having really. cannot distinguish faked footage from real seen a snuff film Of interest to my investiga. footage would not the perfect simulacrum tion of relations between simulacra and the. of death murder be produced where the real in horror film violence is that although. spectacle of death becomes inextricably snuff effectively refers to nothing it has. mixed up with real death no real referent there are a substantial. In what follows I seek to address this ques number of fictional representations of it. tion by exploring Tesis s self conscious staging In addition to Tesis the films Hardcore. of snuff examining how it draws on the net Paul Schrader 1979 Videodrome David. work of artificial signs codes of screen Cronenberg 1983 Cannibal Holocaust. violence and cinematic realism After Ruggero Deodato 1979 and 8mm Joel. contextualizing Tesis within global and Schumacher 1999 all feature a snuff film or. national trajectories of screen violence I map an underground collaborative of snuff film. how the critical field has often abstracted makers which propel the plot Furthermore. screen violence into a number of different these narrative films understanding of what. issues suggesting that Tesis s self conscious snuff is and what it ought to look like are. exploration of violence encourages a strikingly similar no frills no POV shots. deabstraction or a return to the body of the just one room an impersonal setting. text I argue that Tesis attempts to convince us one camera silent grainy. of its realism by pitting snuff against special bad editing 4. effects violence and by drawing on codes of The mondo film which is often described. realism in pornography and early cinema as the closest legal equivalent to snuff is dedi. cated to displays of spontaneous and genuine, Violent Traditions death Its spontaneity or happening across. Tesis builds on three related but distinct tradi the strange bizarre or morbid is often. tions of film violence the snuff mondo and signaled through a mobile shaky verit cam. gore films each of which has its own pecu era a convention which is aped in Tesis s. liar conventions in articulating the real and fictional mondo film Fresh Blood figure 3 5 Al. especially embodied violence A brief though mondo style films such as the. account of the historical and geographical atrocity film were made before and numer. emergence of these three traditions will ous ethnographic travelogues share. be necessary to understand their particular similarities with mondo s raison d tre Mondo. use in Tesis as well as the intervention they Cane Gualtiero Jacopetti Franco Prosperi. represent in popular culture s staging of 1963 was the first big mondo hit 6 Subse. postmodern concerns about the disappear quent films have strayed little from its basic. ance of the real format a globe hopping compilation film. The snuff film first emerged in film dis comprised of short sensationalist sequences. course in the late 1960s early 1970s Snuff suicides alligator attacks and executions. films are rumored to have originated in Latin with a loosely anthropological focus all of. America where life is cheap as declared which are presided over by a morally superior. publicity for the feature film Snuff which did narrator The notable distinction between. much to stoke the fires of the myths of snuff later mondo films and Mondo Cane is a shift. An acknowledged urban legend with curi from the weird and wonderful towards an ex. ously lasting mythic power the snuff film clusive focus on death such as in the Faces of. inhabits the tenebrous interstitial and illegal Death series Conan Le Cilaire 1978 1996 7. 46 FALL 2002, Figure 2 Fixed plane of action in the snuff image Figure 3 Fresh Blood. The gore film first emerged in the 1960s with cult hits Acci n mutante Mutant Action 1993. the exploitation classic Blood Feast Herschell and El d a de la bestia The Day of the. Gordon Lewis 1963 It has consistently occu Beast 1995 both by Basque filmmaker Alex. pied the margins of mainstream filmmaking de la Iglesia. showing up in such diverse geographic areas With its narrative focus on the detection of. as Brazil horror master Jos Mojica Marins At a snuff ring and the media scandal it creates. Midnight I Will Take Your Soul 1963 the US Tesis actively enters this Spanish trend in self. independent filmmaker George A Romero reflexive violence However as Tesis aptly. Night of the Living Dead 1969 and Italy gore articulates Spanish cinema s recourse to vio. auteur Dario Argento with his operatic grand lence in the 1990s is less a political critique. guignol style and outrageous visually flamboy than an explicit commercial strategy for com. ant plots Suspiria 1977 Deep Red 1975 and bating decreased box office and challenging. Lucio Fulci a favorite among gore fans Hollywood product Tesis makes a nod to this. The New York Ripper 1982 overt commerciality in the metacinematic fi. As well as emerging out of a dialogue with nal sequence of the film as Christina Buckley. these different traditions of cinematic vio has observed 9 A television newscaster an. lence Tesis also must be positioned within a nounces the broadcast of the snuff footage. certain tendency of Spanish national cinema now in the hands of the police while the. where as Marsha Kinder argues representa camera tracks along a hospital ward of pa. tions of violence have functioned both as tients whose mouths hang open in eager. covert political critique the oppositional cin anticipation of the violent images they are. ema of the 1960s and as a symbol of artistic about to see Tesis links the diegetic. freedom the post Franco culture of la spectator s morbid fascination with violent. movida 8 More recently the representation of images to that of the contemporary Spanish. violence in Spanish cinema has moved toward audience by cutting from the side on tracking. self reflexive parody such as seen in Pedro shot to a POV shot the diegetic audience. Almod var s Kika 1993 which like Tesis dis and the film audience s perspective becomes. plays a desire for an always elusive real In one and the same. Kika an exploitative real life crime show Lo Interrogating violent representation itself. peor del d a The Worst of the Day broadcasts Spanish films like Tesis and Kika also reflect a. images of daily violence in Madrid Kika is larger trend in the modern horror film towards. but one of a number of Spanish films in the self mimicry 10 culminating in paradoxically re. 1990s which seek to explore the aesthetics of flexive films such as the Scream trilogy Wes. ultra violence as well as its manipulation in Craven 1996 1997 2000 as well as films which. the media others include the international self consciously narrativize and question the. AXES TO GRIND 47,THE APPEAL OF THE REAL IN SNUFF, Figure 4 The erotic tactility of the video image Photo appears courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. processes of representation of violence such as tions for this indescribably evil behavior 12. Man Bites Dog R my Belvaux 1992 This turn This attitude that textual violence must be. towards self reflexivity in the representation of transcended is typical of a larger discursive. violence and the textual overdetermination hierarchy that places the cerebral in this case. that it produces in both Spanish cinema and the the psychoanalytical over the corporeal here. modern horror film however has not been the body s dramatic destruction shown in. mirrored in the critical field engaged with vio Tesis s graphic snuff clips Critical privileging. lent films Instead critical discourse continues of the intellectual or psychological response. to displace its study of violent cinema away over the embodied one is reproduced in one of. from the textual presentation of violence per se the central texts of modern horror film analysis. onto other issues such as philosophy politics Carol Clover s Men Women and Chain Saws. sexuality and morality 11 Furthermore in the 1992 which despite its promising title focuses. study of violent horror the critic often locates not on the text s representation of what chain. his her analysis outside the mise en sc ne and saws do to men and women but rather on. the actual violence on which the genre turns spectator screen relations. as if the critics are shying away from the But the horrific especially gore mondo. visually unacceptable For example Barry Jor and snuff inflections of it depends on sacri. dan and Rikki Morgan Tamosunas deflect fices of flesh blood guts death severed limbs. attention away from Tesis s gory text and to and gaping wounds are their sine qua non par. ward its psychological ramifications seeking to ticularly since the late 1970s Therefore a. distance the film from its horrific traditions by critical re alignment away from abstractions. classifying it a serial killer film that and back toward the body seems in order. attempt s to transcend the sensationalist spectacle Tesis s focus on the technology of horror film. of cine gore in order to explore the dark side of making warrants a specifically textual reading. humanity and the background and motiva and an examination of its horrality its. 48 FALL 2002, knowing mobilization of the conventions that convinces us of its realism 16 Furthermore.
of its generic forebears particularly in the we can usually tell when we are watching spe. way in which Tesis differentiates between cial effects often because they give. the real as re produced in mondo and themselves away For example the flesh. snuff and the fabricated as manufactured might look false consider the chicken breast. in thriller horror aesthetic traditions of as shoulder in Dawn of the Dead George. mainstream cinema Romero 1978 Or as in Tesis s mondo movie. Fresh Blood a bad actor might make a clumsy, Snuff Mondo vs SFX job of falling down dead figure 5. This section turns to a consideration of the dif Tesis makes a point of emphasizing the aes. ferences between representations of real thetics of snuff or rather what it imagines the. violence snuff and mondo and special effects aesthetics of snuff to be through a number of. violence as a means of coming nearer to a self reflexive moments Out of absolute rever. sense of why snuff is a genre with such power ence for the ontological wholeness of the. over cultural imaginations While Thomas real s unfolding in space time one of the es. Landess has suggested the special effect vio sential aesthetic prescriptions of snuff is that it. lence of slasher or gore films is essentially a be shot in one long continuous take This. fabrication of the same visual and auditory ef Bazinian real time requirement of the snuff. fects of the snuff film 13 I would assert that film is pointed out within Tesis s diegesis by. slasher films and other horror gory sub Chema who notes that contrary to his expec. genres are rather more concerned with tations there is in fact editing throughout the. visual excess rather than the realism which is film He remarks In these kinds of films. the central concern of snuff Indeed Tesis s what s most important is seeing everything. juxtaposition of fictional snuff versus more The ontological imperative for the single take. spectacularly rendered special effect violence in snuff film is to convince of its reality that. works to convince us of the former s realism the violence is not a special effect An effect. In arguing these points I take issue with which would allow a live person to be fic. Baudrillard s assertion that there is no effec tively killed and hacked to death in one take. tive difference between the real and the is not physically possible Mechanical special. simulation and take a cue from Lawrence effects can only go so far before a cut has to. Grossberg who criticizes Baudrillard and occur to allow the effect to enter the next stage. postmodern theory generally for confusing of progression 17 Hence as Kerekes and Slater. the collapse of the ideology of the real with observe Cannibal Holocaust which pretends to. the collapse of the real itself 14 be raw uncut footage actually reveals itself to. The most important difference between be unreal The jumps and pops that are sup. special effects horror and real horror is one of posedly a result of damage to the negative. context which turns as much if not more which fracture the image are in fact the cuts. so on facts and conditions outside of the film which allow the next stage of the mechanical. text as it does on a film s narrative and visual effect to be introduced such as when Faye s. organization itself In a legally distributed head is lifted from her body Hence despite. horror movie we know that we are watching performing as damage to the negative the. special effects as opposed to a mechanically film s fragmentation textually telegraphs its. reproduced real event 15 Codified systems of status as special effect violence as opposed to. distribution and exhibition collude to signify the ontological violence it purports to be 18. the essential artificiality of the violence ren The second difference between real. that it produces in both Spanish cinema and the modern horror film however has not been mirrored in the critical field engaged with vio lent films Instead critical discourse continues to displace its study of violent cinema away from the textual presentation of violence per se onto other issues such as philosophy politics sexuality and morality 11 Furthermore in the study of violent

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