There's a really great piece up at Women's eNews today about what's known as "torture porn." As an example she explore the horror film Hostel. The thing is, filmmaker Eli Roth thinks torture porn is "an absurd term." The violence isn't real, he says, so how could it be harmful? Instead, he proposes positioning his violent films as "feminist horror." Why? Because they feature strong female characters that always end up escaping from death and killing the murderer.
As someone who couldn't sleep after watching Nicholas Cage's 16mm, I have my doubts about "feminist horror." The very idea behind the horror genre, which Rachel Corbett points out has a dismal record on female directors, is set up around the idea of manipulating and exposing our basest fears. It's a conservative genre by nature. We don't have enough time to get to know the characters -- and that usually wrecks the suspense anyway -- and the plots center on gender and age stereotypes. The women are always flat and easily frightened. And usually scantily clad.
Horror plots are so tired I stopped watching the genre years ago. I actually laughed my way through most of The Exorcist. Maybe I'm being too harsh, and Roth's films will feature strong feminist characters that don't run in fear at a shadow, but I'll believe it when I see it.