Please Do Disturb

As long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to things that are disturbing–be it sickening horror films, black metal, extreme forms of art, etc. I don’t necessarily mean things that were unsettling or shocking to uptight conservatives or whatever authoritative types I was under (though anything that got beneath their skin was certainly appealing), but that which that were unsettling or shocking to me.

Vintage driver’s ed films? You betcha. Novels such as Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door or Edward Lee’s The Bighead? Models to be studied and emulated. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and MEN BEHIND THE SUN? I’ll bring the popcorn.

There are limits, of course. I’ve no interest in seeing the Iraqi decapitation videos, or any other type of footage that features genuine human suffering. (That said, I’ve been known to watch true-death films such as FACES OF DEATH for research purposes, and I’m unfathomably fascinated by the whole snuff-film mythos.)

So what’s the attraction? I can understand the need for something like, say, SALO: 120 DAYS OF SODOM to be extremely disturbing. Sometimes art has to strike an unsettling chord to get its point across. Even CANNIBAL
HOLOCAUST has a certain integrity in its condemnation of exploitive
journalism (feel free to call bullshit on this if you like; Ruggero
Deodato clearly relished staging the very violence he sought to
criticize, but there was at least a thematic substance motivating the

But what about the faux-snuff of the AUGUST UNDERGROUND and GUINEA PIG series? Or slasher films like MANIAC and DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE, movies whose sole raison d’ etre is to present disturbing, hard-to-shake material as a form of entertainment?

Myself, I think the appeal lies in the films’ taboo nature, or perhaps they’re
simply an alternative to the “safe” entertainment that’s so prevalent. I’ve even found solace in a movie like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE , knowing that it’s still possible to feel compassion, pathos, and fear after a steady diet of the slick, desensitizing fare of mainstream horror.

I knew it was a subject I wanted to tackle for my next blog project. I
even had the perfect vehicle; Eliot called April the cruelest month, right? Why not a 30-day look at cinema’s cruelest, most depraved entries starting April 1st?

Well, there’s a reason why not. 365 Days of the Dead consumed an enormous amount of my creative life, and I found myself sacrificing a lot of time for stories that I really wanted to tell. Even with The Cruelest Month’s more limited scope I found myself in the initial stages of preparation making more compromises on
my writing than I was comfortable.

Because it’s a topic I’m nonetheless eager to discuss, I’ve decided to start Please Do Disturb, a series of irregular blog posts that examines the most disturbing,
disgusting, and occasionally indefensible films the world has to offer. As always, feedback and suggested films are wholeheartedly welcome.

So why not slip that Do Not Disturb sign off the door and join me?


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