Generally speaking I’ve got a high tolerance for physical violence as depicted in movies. I love Kung Fu films and horror films and as such the art of bodily destruction is something I’ve gained an affinity for. However I’ve always found that I’m something of a wimp when it comes to torture, I have no real issue with the Jason Voorhees of the world macheteing their way through a dozen camp counsellors, but prolonged injury on one character is something I’ve always found difficult to watch. It is one of the reasons I probably always identified with the Nightmare on Elm Street films out of the big three, I was both repulsed and fascinated by the increasingly prolonged agony Freddy Kruger inflicted on his victims. The thing which both repelled me also held my interest.
I don’t know if it’s natural thing or a figment of my personal circumstances but from about the age of eight all the way up into my late teens I had an all encompassing fear of death. Not just the general ‘Oh gee, I hope I don’t die soonish’ fear that most people have, but deep existential dilemmas about what the point of everything was if we just died and got forgotten. As I got older I found that my fear of death was replaced by a fear of pain and as such the power of slasher films like Scream, and Friday 13th has dissipated. Say what you want about the killers of the Scream franchise or Michael Myers, at least they’re efficient. You probably don’t even feel all that much after the first knife stab. In theory the Saw films should be the perfect kind of film for me, but I’ve always found it hard to care for any of the protagonists of the films beyond Carey Elwes and his hysterical English accent. The one moment in the Saw franchise which bothered me, the one moment that gave me pause, wasn’t even centred around a character I liked. At one point in either the second or third film, I forget which as the Saw films merge into one horrible lump, where Donnie Wahlberg shatters his foot into a lump of pity using a piece of masonry. For all of the swinging pendulums, barb wire rooms, and circular saw blood extractors in the series, Donnie Wahlberg smashing his ankle into mush is the one thing that stuck with. Incidentally Donnie Wahlberg’s final scene in the franchise is probably my favourite moment of unintentional comedy in the entire thing. It’s hard enough to care about Donnie Wahlberg as it is, without him being dispatched by a two gigantic Ice Mallets that look like they were just shipped in from the ACME Corporation.
Donnie Whalberg’s poor composited CGI Death Puppet had something of a head cold.
So why did the foot breaking bother me so? Well I’ve got a thing about broken bones which is just completely illogical, I can’t stand to see broken limbs in film, they just trigger some primal ‘OH GOD WHY’ reaction in my brain, the only other thing that provokes this reaction is a recurring nightmare I have about a Spider exploding into somehow bigger Spiders. But in the realm of things not created by my hateful, hateful, subconscious the snappage of a limb provokes a sheer terror reaction. The one moment in modern cinema that can make me shudder even to think about is in the fairly innocuous The Prestige. For those who’ve seen the film you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say the scene involves Borden stealing Angier’s safety mattress. For those who haven’t IT’S ALL LIGHTNING CLONES, LIGHTNING CLONES CREATED BY NICOLAI MOTHERFUCKING TESLA.
Pictured: Rupert Angier, Magician. Extras, Unsure of how to act Victorian.
Not Pictured: Crippling Leg Trauma
Anyway that sequence still sort of whirs it’s way around my brain and it’s largely just sound design and the ACTING TALENT of Hugh Jackman selling it. Oddly enough Tony Jaa ruining a whole bunch of goons in the final twenty minutes of his big screen remake of that Simpsons episode where Bart wins an Elephant* is something which doesn’t bother me. Possibly because it’s all rather unexplicity, possibly because earlier in the film it’s been shown that they all eat chinchillas and thus deserve punishment and possibly due to the sneaking suspicion that if I don’t enjoy the film then Tony Jaa will find me and break some of my limbs.
This fear of broken limbs and shattered dreams completely clouded my viewing of Darren Aronofsky’s totally brilliant Black Swan. Now the film itself is designed to disorientate and disassociate the audience, but whilst I found the body horror stuff to be deeply unpleasant I was literally waiting the entire time for someone’s leg to snap in half and as such I managed to work myself into a level of tension I’d never experienced whilst watching a movie. In actuality when the film ended I actually felt a slight tinge of relief.
So the moral of the story, if you wanna freak me out just start breaking some limbs. Unless the limbs belong to some Thai mooks who eat chinchillas.
*Known as Tom Yum Goong or The Warrior King or Tony Jaa 2: The Jaaening