(Picture from http://www.myfavoritewesterns.com)
I sat down to watch a movie with my girlfriend that I was excited to show her as it was quite frankly awesome. Bone Tomahawk deserves a plethora of articles praising it for its fantastic performances and blending of the western and horror genre to create something truly affecting and memorable. Unfortunately for my girlfriend though it didn’t affect her in a pleasant way at all. She proceeded to ask me why I would show her such a film. That I was sick to do so and that it was a form of bullying. These statements shocked me but I was more worried that this film has actually distressed her badly and that is the last thing I want to do to someone that I love. I apologised and now go through a content vetting process whenever I choose a movie for us to watch together. So it made me wonder, what gore affects someone so drastically?
Now spoilers ahead, but the films climax is one of the most brutal ever to be put to celluloid, with one characters demise being particularly shocking. To convey how shocking it is I have to go into graphic detail so be warned ye of weak constitution. The antagonists of the movie proceed to scalp this poor character after stripping him naked, then nail said scalp into his mouth. Bad right? There’s more, the antagonists (who are cannibals by the way, not that makes it less shocking) hack the character in half from the crotch as he is hung upside down. It’s all topped off with the now hopefully dead bloke being pulled apart with his entrails being spilled out on to the floor.
Some of you who are reading this might think my girlfriend may have been overreacting a little bit, and this next bit of information may give credence to your argument. You see, she has actually already seen all of the Friday 13th films, the Nightmare on Elm Street movies and recently we sat through the first three of the Hellraiser series. There was no signs of the revulsion and anger she had shown after viewing Bone Tomahawk. There is a scene in Friday the 13th that is very similar, Jason Vorhees (the famous unstoppable killer of the franchise) takes it upon himself to hack a generic teen machete fodder in half as he feels the need to show off by walking around a cabin in a handstand position. Now the scene cuts away rather quickly after Jason takes a swing at him, and the dummy taking the impact isn’t that convincing, hence the totally different affect on the viewer this scene has compared with the formerly mentioned one in Bone tomahawk. Could this be the reason for such a contrast of reaction? Possibly, but I think movie violence and gore and its effect on people is rooted in its use in classic faitytales and literature.
Fairy-tales that may have had enough blood and violence to keep a Saw movie fan happy (I’m looking at you Hansel and Gretel) but because they aren’t seeped in realism, because there is that magic un-believability about them, it makes us comfortable with even the most uncomfortable subject matters. However, there was something that muddied the water of my girlfriends reasoning. The TV series Hannibal came to mind due to the both of us watching it and the intense and boundary pushing spectacles of gore that was shown in every episode. Slicing open someone’s gut or sawing a characters skull open is presented on Hannibal in such a way that the viewer is too distracted by the artistry on screen rather than the brutality.
So was I in the wrong showing a film with such brutality within to my girlfriend? Or was it safe to assume that because of content viewed by her beforehand, would steel her against any possible unpleasantness on screen?
It’s a complicated quandary that has caused me enough grief. Not as much grief as being cut in half by cannibals, but to be honest….pretty close. If anyone has any thoughts on this subject, please feel free to sound off in the comments section.