Number 63 on Matt Sigl's countdown:

The modest bloodbaths of past slasher films proved too tame for the insatiable bloodlust of 21st Century audiences; we now had an appetite for scenes of distended violence, maximum bloodletting on the side please. The visceral thrills of viscera proved too tantalizing to refrain from indulging. Do, Do, Do...the Strappado! Torture porn is a game of chicken between director and audience. [...]

Popular offenders include: Eli Roth's Hostel and Hostel II, Wolf Creek (it's torture mate!), remakes of the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its new prequel Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Captivity and Touristas (a film in which the violence had become so explicit and banal that it felt more like viewing surgery footage than a fictional horror film). Other filmmakers would not want their work to be classified alongside these cheap exploitative pics but Lars Von Trier's recent provocation Anti-Christ and, especially, Mel Gibson's two hour gladiatorial exercise in sadism masquerading as religious devotional, The Passion Of The Christ, are as much part of the genre as is any of Eli Roth's less highbrow entries. The film series that defined what torture porn was all about was, of course, the Saw films.

The Atlantic's James Parker touched upon the genre in his April essay, "Don't Fear the Reaper":

Saw and Hostel succeeded, above all, because they are serious slasher flicks. The extremity of their goriness reclaimed the splatter death from mainstream movies (where it’s become unremarkable to see a man fed screaming to a propeller, or run through with a drill bit). And the immersive nastiness of their aestheticdecayed bathrooms, foul workshops, seeping industrial spaces, blades blotched with rustdistilled the slasher-flick elixir: atmosphere. No franchise thrives without it. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre had it: a choking, sunstruck intimacy, with madness pulsing in the eyeballs. Halloween was suburban-autumnal, a minor rhapsody of long shots and breezy streets and scuttling leaves, the whole effect tingling like wind chimes inside the empty psychosis of the slasher Michael Myers. Friday the 13th was strictly B-movie in its technique, but it succeeded in perforating an American idyll: summer camp was never the same after those nice guitar-strumming sing-along kids got slashed in their lakeside cabins.

Sigli again:

Sadly, as the images from Abu Grahib reminded us, real torture is anything but entertaining. Torture is the ultimate debasement of a person, reducing them and their consciousness to only the most animalistic of impulses. Perhaps torture porn is proof that mass media does respond quickly and effectively to our collective social anxieties. Whether these films adequately and morally confront the real psychological impact that Abu Grahib had on America, I'll leave to the experts. I just hope that torture, whether in our movies or in our politics, does not continue its stranglehold on the American psyche.

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