The face of the horror movie genre is changing, and maybe not for the better.
Within the last few years, ghouls and monsters have taken second stage to a new kind of macabre genre: that of so-called “body horror,” which relies on gruesome depictions of human torture and suffering to convey fear and, often times, disgust as well.
Arguably, the most famous among such films would be the Saw series, with perhaps even more disturbing renditions spawning from their popularity with the issuance of vile flicks the likes of the Human Centipede films (which are almost too atrocious to mention, but they certainly do fit the genre in question). Earlier movies that film buffs still consider “predecessors” of the genre might include David Lynch’s 1977 Eraserhead, although the big difference between the “new” body horror flicks and earlier works like Eraserhead is that, while the latter was wacky, unhinged, and at times difficult to understand, there was an obvious degree of cinematic art depicted with Lynch’s work, especially considering that Eraserhead was his first feature-length film.
Think what you will of the modern “body horror” that others have compared to “torture porn”… I personally don’t understand it. In fact, I rather loathe it. And obviously, I’m not the only person who thinks it’s stupid enough to poke a little fun at.
Critically acclaimed director Kevin Smith has recently completed filming Tusk, a parody of the body horror genre that features actor Justin Long as a podcaster who searches for weird things (why does that sound so familiar… oh well). Long’s character receives an invitation from an old man who invites him to Canada to hear the strange stories of his travels, but ends up being held hostage as the man begins to perform experiments on him aimed at transforming him into a walrus.
Below is a link to the film’s trailer:
Smith explains that the idea was based on an actual story he heard on the popular Smodcast, which involved a purported wealthy recluse offering to rent out a room in his expansive mansion, but with a unique caveat: rather than accepting rent money, he wished for the new tenant to dress up once a week as a walrus, splash around in the water, and to be fed fish and crabs.
The story wasn’t legit, of course. “There was a hoaxter in Brighton, England, who had put the story out online,” Smith revealed during an appearance on Arsenio. “But it fired me up.”
In his own critique of modern thriller films, Smith has also compared his idea on a basis of overall stupidity with other films in related sub-genres. “The Purge was a stupid movie and it made a bunch of money,” Smith says. “[Tusk] is as stupid as The Purge. Like, why couldn’t this work?” According to IMDB, The Purge, involves a wealthy family that is held hostage “for harboring the target of a murderous syndicate during the Purge, a 12-hour period in which any and all crime is legalized.”
Yeah, that’s pretty stupid alright. I would personally commend Smith for his admittedly silly approach, and his “if ya can’t beat ’em, join ’em” attitude. Amidst a genre of films that seek to sicken its viewers and give them nightmares, rather than to create the morbid appeal of the old-school horror genre that, once upon a time, was actually still fun to watch, it is brilliant that Smith would engage in parody by making his own R-rated contribution to the modern gross-out industry.
So what the hell, why don’t I do the same?
Granted, I haven’t got the kind of budget Smith has to work with, but thanks to the efforts of my brother and fellow podcaster, Caleb Hanks, as well as his iPhone, some cotton balls, a laundry basket, and a bag of baby spinach leaves, I think we’ve created the nearest approximation we could to what, we feel, many will one day tout as a “masterpiece” in the body horror genre.
Thus, I present to you Shell, a twisted story about a similarly cantankerous old fart who lures a podcasting co-host off into his abode and transforms him into a human-turtle hybrid. I think the idea is roughy equal in silliness to what Smith was going for with Tusk, and perhaps a little more frightening, actually.
Well, at least as frightening as Colonel Sanders trying to hand feed you from a bag of baby spinach:
In retrospect, maybe there’s more to this “body horror” silliness than I previously thought. I guess I just needed “to come out of my shell” a bit, huh?