Here's a familiar war cry of those who dislike or misunderstand horror, "All that violence in horror films will desensitize people to violence in real life."
It's an argument that's been raging for decades now.
I have a simple rebuttal, "Bullshit."
In case proponents of that ludicrous view haven't been paying attention, humans are violent, competitive, carnivores with a natural disposition for using bloodshed to eradicate enemies, push forward their own beliefs, and even eat. Millions of years of this behavior have rewarded us with the top spot on the food chain. And guess what? It all happened before horror films.
So that claim is dead at birth. And I've always felt this way, but recently I confirmed it. I'm not desensitized to real life violence because of horror films, because when I see violence in real life it still makes me fucking sick.
How do I know I'm not desensitized?
Because I just saw a film called The Blood of Beasts, a 1949 documentary by French filmmaker Georges Franju. I'd heard of the film for years. Franju, a surrealist, wanted to transpose images of the suburbs around Paris with graphic death images of cattle, horses, and sheep from the local slaughterhouse just across the street.
Franju's point, it seems, was to show how the origin of our very food has become a dark secret. A dirty little hold over from our more primitive origins. Eat a meat sandwich today? Then know that an animal had it's throat slit, was hung upside down and drained of it's blood in steaming, terrified agony and it was gutted, skinned and it's meat shipped off to the kitchen that prepared your lunch. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a vegetarian or a vegan. And I love meat. But seeing the stark violence of the slaughterhouse in Franju's film reminded me that I'm incredibly sheltered from that bloody, primitive side of our nature. Most of us are.
But more importantly, it reminded me that I'm not desensitized to violence. In short, I'm very sensitive to real violence. Even acceptable violence against animals that we eat. It was shocking and horrifying to see a retired pull horse led into the glue factory and shot in the head. Sound shocking to you? Good, then you're not desensitized either.
The reason I finally saw Blood is because I just got the Criterion Collection DVD of the French film Eyes Without a Face (1960) and Criterion threw the documentary on as one of the extras.
I think Criterion's point in including the documentary as a companion extra was because so much of Eyes is about butchery and skinning of human women... and while the story is incredible and the film engages on all levels as a horror thriller, it's made even more poignant by watching Blood first, because your imagination will be all the more adept at filling in the blanks on the fictitious violence against humans after you've witnessed the same kind of real violence against animals.
Is Blood of Beasts pleasant? No. Does it remind me that violence of any kind is repulsive? Yes. Does it turn me off of horror films? Not a chance.
If anything, it reminds me what child's play we're dealing with in horror films, when compared to actual, real-life violence. And thank God for that.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go get a burger and watch Friday the 13th.
Gaudium Per Atrox.