September 6, 2008

Redeeming Qualities of Violence?

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The BeginningTotally off topic, but what the hell - I'm entitled to indulge every once in awhile. Regular readers may remember that I'm a bit of a horror film fan. I finally got around to watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning last night. I'd been avoiding it because I figured it would be bad. As a fan of the original, I worried that this could ruin it. It wasn't great, but it did manage to be better than I was expecting. So here is the question I'd like to pose for this post: Can the depiction of graphic violence for the sake of violence have any real merit?

I'll admit that I found the film entertaining. I wouldn't recommend it to others, and I have no need to see it again. Still, it wasn't a terrible way to waste an evening. Is this enough to redeem what was a brutal and nasty film?

I could try to argue artistic merit and claim that the film needs no social merit because it functions as art. This seems a bit week in this particular case. I have seen many films which were far more violent and disturbing but that genuinely worked as art. I'm not sure this one was up to the standard where it could be considered art.

Did it have any cathartic value? No, not really. The violence was sufficiently predictable and over-the-top that it didn't really accomplish anything emotional. Or maybe I'm just thoroughly desensitized to content like this by now. Had to happen sooner or later I suppose.

Maybe movies like this do not need to have any social merit, any redeeming qualities. Maybe the fact that someone finds them entertaining is enough. I don't know. I do not mind graphic violence when I feel that there is some point to it. In the absence of any such point, it seems to accomplish little more than desensitization. I'm not sure this is a good thing.