Monday, June 25, 2007


Back in April, an article in The New York Times speculated on the possibility that the Virginia Tech massacre would dampen the appetite for "torture porn" movies like Hostel II, which was scheduled for release in early June. As I pointed out at the time, the torture porn fad began with Saw -- which was released the same year Abu Ghraib came to light and a number of hostages were brutally killed on video. It didn't seem to me that real-life brutality would dampen the appetite for cinematic brutality -- if anything, the opposite seemed to be true. As it turned out, by the time Hostel II came out, we'd all pretty much forgotten about the Virginia Tech shootings. The movie tanked, but that seems to be because the torture porn market has been saturated since Saw, and the fad is coming to an end.

Well, this week a more old-fashioned horror movie triumphed at the box office:

... 1408 had the weekend's most impressive start. The Stephen King-based hotel horror checked in with a solid $20.6 million at 2,678 sites. It was the highest-grossing debut yet for a King adaptation....

And what's the plot of 1408?

[John] Cusack plays Mike Enslin, a jaded author ... who hears about the blood-curdling events at the Dolphin Hotel, where Room 1408 is always unavailable.... No one has ever lasted one hour in 1408, but Enslin plans on staying all night. The hair starts to rise on the back of your neck the moment he turns the key in the lock. The thermostat sticks on 80 degrees, turning the room into a sauna. Then it drops to below zero, covering everything in ice. The window slams on his hand. The sink spouts boiling water. When he tries to escape, the door is locked and the key breaks in half.... There's only one way to get out of 1408 -- to destroy it.

It was obvious that this was a terrible idea, and that horrible violence would result, but Cusack/Enslin persisted in doing it? Well, no wonder the movie's a hit -- it's like watching Bush pursue his Iraq policy, except the Bush character suffers for his foolishness, rather than ordinary schmucks. Or it's like being stuck in Bush's America and wondering if we can possibly stand it any longer.

No comments: