Horror Movies Crank Up the Gore This Halloween season's big horror flick is Saw IV, whose Jigsaw Killer inflicts gruesome punishments on his victims. Recently, the genre has grown more gory, says Seth Grahame Smith, filmmaker and author of How to Survive a Horror Movie.
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Horror Movies Crank Up the Gore

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Horror Movies Crank Up the Gore

Horror Movies Crank Up the Gore

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You know, my sisters used to have a vacuum cleaner they would sing into. This was one of those upright ones and the back handle, it was about microphone height.



BURBANK: And I was actually back at the Burbank family ranch in Silverdale, Washington, this weekend. And I decided it was time to make my little brothers and my kid miserable by subjecting them to their first ever viewing of "The Shining."

(Soundbite of movie, "The Shining")

Mr. JACK NICHOLSON (Actor): (As Jack Torrance) Here's Johnny.

BURBANK: They were so a-scared-ed(ph) that - my kid, anyway - she had to actually plug her ears and her eyes. She started out just closing her eyes but then the sound was actually too scary.

STEWART: I'm trying to picture that. Okay, I can do that.

BURBANK: She had her, like, North Face, hoody pulled up over her eyes and then had her earplug on. Well, you know, with "Saw IV," it's "Saw IV," is that one…


BURBANK: …now doing all kinds of business this weekend at the box office. Halloween coming up this Wednesday, we thought we should talk scary movies, how to survive them. We've got just the guy here.

Seth Grahame Smith is the author of "How to Survive a Horror Movie: All the Skills to Dodge the Kills." He's also the creator of a Web site dodgethekills.com.

Hi, Seth.

Mr. SETH GRAHAME SMITH (Author, "How to Survive a Horror Movie: All the Skills to Dodge the Kills"): Hi. How you guys doing?

BURBANK: Great. "Saw" movies did a tremendous amount of business this weekend, $32.1 million.

Mr. SMITH: Yeah.

BURBANK: What's the appeal?

BURBANK: Well, you know, people - it's the same thing that makes people, get on a rollercoaster and scare themselves after death, you know. They like the experience of confronting something and how that feels to scare yourself and challenge yourself in some way. I don't know what it is about us, but we seem to feel the need to put ourselves through all sorts of unnaturally scary situations.

BURBANK: It seems, though, that scary movies, I mean, and we're going back a ways now. It may be five years or so but they have really, really kind of had resurgence, is there something culturally about us that were more into being scared particularly by these kinds of very gory movies?

Mr. SMITH: I don't know. I mean, I'm sure there is a cultural component to it but the component that I tend to pay more attention to is the business component of it.

People realize in Hollywood again that horror movies are very, very profitable because they appeal to the biggest moviegoing base, which is teenagers, and they're very cheap to make and as you see, they're still very, very popular. I was ready to come on here and tell you guys about, you know, well, it's not like it was three years ago when a horror movie was number one every weekend. But apparently, America has yet to get a case of horror fatigue.

BURBANK: Well, let's hear what was turning out, $32.1 million this weekend. This is a clip from "Saw IV." This is the Jigsaw Killer running one of his tests.

(Soundbite of movie, "Saw IV")

Mr. TOBIN BELL (Actor): (As Jigsaw): Officer Rigg, you're first test, the person in front of you is in desperate need of help, but it is not your job to save them. You view this person as a victim but if you were to see what I see, beneath the mask rise a criminal, undeserving of the life she leads. Your obsession tells you to save the victim. I tell you to walk away. The choice is yours.

Unidentified Woman #1: No, stop it…


Mr. SMITH: Yikes.

BURBANK: Do you think that these movies like "Saw," it's like, you're locked in a basement, you have to cut off your head to be free - with a goldfish cracker. I mean, is there a point at which this gore's is going to be just like too much for people?

Mr. SMITH: Yeah. I think that you're already starting to see. I think "Saw" is really the only, if there's a subgenre of horror movies that these films belong to which is just called torture porn, and it really kicked off with movies like "Hostel," and the original "Saw," you know, it not so much focused on scares, traditional scares like somebody lurking in the dark and popping out and everybody in the audience jumps out of their seat in unison. But almost films that challenge you to keep your eyes on the screen, and I think that that torture porn genre is diminished and I think it's sort of going away. Although who knows, 32.1 million this weekend.

BURBANK: If you had to pick what Halloween coming up on Wednesday, what's, you know, in your top five scary movies? What should people…

Mr. SMITH: In my canon of…


Mr. SMITH: I tend to go - well, "The Shining," I mean, how can you go wrong?

BURBANK: Or as Janet(ph) or Willie(ph) calls it "The Shinning."

Mr. SMITH: "The Shinning." Right. Exactly. "The Exorcist" has to be up there. The original "Nightmare on Elm Street" is up there, "Rosemary's Baby." I tend to go for the psychological scares over the gore because, you know, those are the things that are really scary to me. When I was a kid of 8 or 9 years old, I saw "The Shining" for the first time and it took me years to realize what is so, you know, viscerally scary about that movie is the fact that a little kid trusts his parents more than anything in the whole world - that the fact that parent would go crazy and tried to kill it with an axe, I mean, come on.

BURBANK: Yeah. That was - it was no less terrifying at age 31 watching it this week than it was when I saw it when I was like 10. Well, Seth, we didn't get a chance to play a clip from your Web site, but I want to highly recommend people go to dodgethekills.com. It's really funny and really interesting, and we'll have to have you on in the future, talk more about that, okay?

Mr. SMITH: Thanks very much.

BURBANK: Thanks. That's Seth Grahame Smith, horror movie lover, director of dodgethekills.com, author of "How to Survive a Horror Movie."

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