Tag Archives: gore

Fame Day: Hannibal

A while ago, I showcased one of my favorite shows, American Horror Story. One of my key talking points was that AHS‘s success was going to blaze the trail for other, similarly dark and horrific shows.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe the first of those has arrived.

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Fame Day: American Horror Story

americansdoghasdToday, I’d like to tip my hat to one of my favorite shows, a young series by the name of American Horror Story.

Now it’s no secret that the horror genre is universally despised, being seen by many as being lower on the totem pole than even toilet-humor comedies or the most saccharine romances out there. I could probably spend an entire post speculating on why exactly horror flicks are treated with such little respect (a lot of it is probably due to the genre’s inbred cousin, the “teen scream” flick), but that’s another topic for another time. I’m here to simply showcase the series and highlight a few of its key strengths and accomplishments that I think make it worthy of a Fame Day.

Each season of the show (the second has just concluded, and a third has been greenlit) is a separate story, made up of the horrific lives of the characters as they struggle with their pasts, their inner demons, and some ever-present terror always lurking just beyond the shadows. It essentially cashes in on the initial charm that LOST had before it jumped the polar bear.

Guilt and shame are themes that play heavily into the series as a whole (or at least, the past two “stories”), giving even the most heinous characters a degree of sympathy. Again, similar to LOST at its best, the constant shifting of the story from one perspective to the next prevents the series from ever being boring. Granted, the madcap pacing doesn’t always work (especially in the first story), but for the most part, the audience is always kept interested.

And that brings us to the first key accomplishment of the series:


As I stated above, horror is simply not popular- at least, not in any mainstream way. Tim Burton’s lighter works are really the closest most people get to anything remotely macabre, and the fact that the series has continually drawn in high ratings (to say nothing of critical acclaim) is nothing short of amazing. And we’re not talking about a series that is eerie or has a handful of jump-scares, we’re talking about truly unsettling elements here. I’m certainly not alone in hoping that that AHS‘s continued success serves to begin building bridges between mainstream entertainment and horror subculture; heaven knows both could benefit from some fresh perspective.

And even in the subculture, AHS is playing a pretty major role. It’s…

Raising the Bar

As a result of the genre’s (comparative) isolation, quality in horror is typically pretty rare. When you can’t secure funding for special effects, good equipment, or even B-level actors, chances are your product isn’t going to be all that good. Of course, when you have a built in audience who would pay money to watch Dwayne Johnson protect an orphanage from chupacabras, why would you even bother trying?

I would actually probably watch that…

I’ve seen my fair share of (decent) horror movies, and I can count on one hand the films that had even passable cinematography. AHS, as a series that actually has some decent funding and actually puts effort into creating tense atmospheres and believable effects, is raising the bar for the entire industry. When AHS is the basis for most people’s experience with the genre, there’s going to be pressure on the rest of the industry to meet and excel the expectations the mainstream audience is going to have. Furthermore, AHS‘s star-studded cast (including Zachary Quinto, Ian McShane, James Cromwell, and, I kid you not, Adam Levine) is hopefully going to make the horror genre more inviting to high-caliber actors who can actually sell the audience on the direness of the situation and maintain interest without having to drag in a bunch of fornicating teenagers.

The series is actually one of the few I’ve ever seen that actually gives teens any credit or respect…

And perhaps most importantly, it comes down to this:


While the stories are good, as are the actors (Jessica Lange being easily more frightening than the goriest bits of the series), it’s some of the basic discussions held during the stories that really hit home. Oppression of women and the dark history of psychology are topics repeatedly brought up, and dealt with both in a historically accurate and totally visceral manner. Perhaps the most disturbing thing I’ve yet seen in the series hasn’t been any of the monsters or murders- it’s been a demonstration (scaled back for TV, even) of the psychological “treatment” given to people “suffering from homosexuality,” seen at the time as a mental disease. Those five minutes alone were more frightening than anything else in the story- and it was amazing. Amazing to see some serious and deep social commentary made, and to see the brutality and insanity some people had to undergo actually presented in a way that’s going to resonate with the audience. You will be a better human being for having watched that scene.

Though in the spirit of honesty, your view of nuns will probably diminish a bit…

When’s the last time you could say that about a rom-com?

American Horror Story, keep up the good work.

A final note. I would’ve included more gifs, but (1) I didn’t want to spoil anything and (2) easily 90% of all AHS images are of Evan Peters, who is apparently just the bee’s knee’, if the series’ female fans are to be believed.

Why We Need Graphic Violence

Once upon a time, a lion was sent to the king of Sweden. After it died, its skin and bones were sent to a taxidermist so that the animal could be stuffed and preserved- the only problem was that this was the eighteenth century, and the taxidermist had never seen a lion before. His resulting work was this:

With only the most cursory knowledge of what a lion was, the work turned-out something that looks like it was pulled straight from a Looney-Tunes episode.

I’d suggest laughing at that picture for as long as you can- the rest of this post is going to be pretty unpleasant.

Most people’s Facebook news feeds are made up of snippets of conservations between friends, invitations to apps you’ll never use, the occasional rant, and baby pictures. Most people, but not so much me- only I do get to see pictures of babies, but more on that in a minute.

See, I grew up in the Middle East, specifically in Syria. For those of you who don’t keep up with the news (at all), my adopted homeland is currently in the grips of a brutal civil war. One of the ways the rebels and dissidents spread news is through social media- especially Facebook, and having “liked” such pages as “Syrian Days of Rage” and “Syrian Revolution 2011”, my news feed is mostly comprised of grainy YouTube videos of soldiers declaring their defection to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), or pictures of mass protests, or of a solitary Republic flag tied to a streetlight. Or a baby.

I warned you before that things were going to become unpleasant- again, if you’re sensitive, stop reading now.

This picture was of a baby who was killed in Gaza during the short-lived but brutal Gaza war in the early weeks of 2009. It was a bombing that killed the child. It was burned so badly the skin still on it had been turned soot-black, and was tight and shiny. You might mistake it for one of those life-sized baby dolls if two broken femurs hadn’t been sticking out where the legs should have been, or if the flesh around the left arm hadn’t melted off the bone.

It was frozen like that. Eyes closed and head rolled back so that against all reason, it looks like her or she could have been sleeping. The body’s held up by a Red Crescent paramedic, and there are no words in any language that will ever describe the look that’s on his face.

There are more of them. A young man on a hospital bed, the right side of his jaw ripped open and hanging against his neck, smiling as best as he still can and gesturing the peace sign. A man killed in a shelling bombardment, held together with white gauze and bedsheets.  A little boy, dead on the floor, drenched in blood and the right side of his body blown off.

That last one was from earlier today.

Last week, I mentioned how this generation is living in the longest war in American history, three times as long as WWII. I want to underscore this. I’m twenty one, and more than half of my existence has been during a period of uninterrupted conflict. I was eleven years old when the US went to war in Afghanistan, and today I could join up to fight in that exact same war. In a couple years, we’ll have kids going to high school who have never had a day of peace.

But this isn’t about that. I’m not here to rage against war, or take a stand for it. I’m not going to throw up my hands and declare that we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

Though it wouldn’t too far from the truth…

I’m not going to talk about what war does to us so much as I’m going to discuss what we do to war.

Let’s face it, for many of us, the current wars the US (and other nations) are involved in don’t affect us much. We’re not on rations, or ducking into bomb shelters, or being told that if we don’t carpool the Axis wins.

Not in so many words, anyways…

Whether a village in some valley in central Afghanistan is controlled by American or Taliban forces really doesn’t change our plans for the day. A harsh as it sounds, whether or not people are killed in Afghanistan doesn’t have much bearing on anyone but the families of the deceased, and it’s there that the problem lies.

See, we have had a problem in our society for a long time, but with the advent of the internet and similar technologies, it’s becoming worse and worse. Alienation. If you’ve heard it, it was probably in relation to Karl Marx, talking about the separation of workers from the ability to control their lives.

Because we’re dealing with some rough stuff, here’s a picture of Marx smiling…

In a more general sense, it’s simply it’s the separation of things that should naturally go together. Profit shouldn’t be separated from work, and work shouldn’t be separated from profit. Merit shouldn’t be separated from recognition, and recognition shouldn’t be separated from merit. Above all else, actions shouldn’t be separated from consequences- only that’s exactly what we have today.

Most of us are more than willing to wolf down a juicy hamburger, but how many of us would be willing to watch the cow be killed, let alone kill it ourselves? How many of us who wear shirts and shoes made in sweatshops would be willing to stand in the sweatshop hurling profanities and threats at the twelve year-olds hunched over the machinery? How many of us enjoy the advances of the civil rights movement would, back in the 60s and 70s, face off police dogs, hoses, and fire-bombs?

See, we’re a nation that enjoys the hard work of other people. We’re a nation that doesn’t like getting its hands dirty. We’re a nation that has no problem sending kids off to fight, kill, and die on some windswept ridge in Afghanistan because we don’t have anything to do with them afterwards. War is cheap for us. The men and women of our armed forces are expendable to us. Again, I’m not trying to condemn or vindicate the wars we’re in, but what I am saying is that we can’t make reasonable decisions about war until we’re actually confronted with the ugly, bloody, gritty consequences of it. We need pictures of the dead. We need them shoved in our faces on a daily basis. We shouldn’t be able to turn on the news without seeing rubble, the smoke, the wounded, or the dying in graphic detail. For all the outcry against violence in our media, the truth of the matter isn’t that the problem is with violence, but with violence that has been tailored to give us satisfaction and strip away all meaning to it. War, for good or ill, is all for nothing unless we actually understand it. Can we honestly say that we’re acting in the same way now we would be if we actually had to witness the consequences of our actions?

Until then, we’re just the same Swedish taxidermist, making ridiculous travesties out of things we don’t understand. We need graphic violence.