Acknowledgements: This paper was presented at the 2009 Film Studies Association of Canada’s annual conference at the Congress of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ottawa. I would like to thank Thomas Waugh and Chuck Kleinhans, and special thanks to Julia Lesage, for guidance and input.

1. Levin, 582. [return to page 1 of essay]

2. Ibid., 583.

3. On Wikipedia, numerous films under the “torture porn” sub-heading have been added, and I assume, will continue to be added, although I do not agree with most of the films listed. See
Torture_porn - .22Torture_porn.22

4. Mirzoeff, 2009, 267.

5. Staples, 57.

6. Ibid.

7. Niedzviecki, 2.

8. Ibid., 4.

9. Ibid., 8.

10. Hollyfield, 24. Eli Roth is director of Hostel and Hostel II.

11. See Wikipedia’s article on “Extraordinary Rendition by the United States” for a brief history of displaced torture.

12. An image of the poster can be found by googling “Captivity banned poster,” or at

13. See “The Pacifist ‘Threat’” at
< http://www.commondreams.org/

14. Rich, Frank. “It Was the Porn That Made Them Do It.” New York Times. 30 May 2004. 18 February 2008.
8f560adbc451&ei= 5007&partner=USERLAND

15. See Naomi Klein’s first two chapters of The Shock Doctrine for a full history.

16. The Abu Ghraib photos were the proverbial Kantian “euthanasia of pure reason,” as valid arguments for both sides are forced to co-exist. See Zizek’s chapter on Antinomies of Tolerant Reason in Violence. Here Zizek discusses Kant’s “euthanasia of pure reason” (105) and applies this ideological trap to the publication of the Muhammad images in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, on September 30th, 2005.

16a. Jacobs, 116.

17. See Williams’ 5th chapter in Hardcore

18. Jump Cut 51 <http://www.ejumpcut.org>.

19. Ullen, Magnus. <http://www.ejumpcut.org/ >. Locating pornography outside the text was echoed by John Champagne’s study “Stop Reading Films: Film Studies, Close Analysis, and Gay Pornography.”

20. Lewis, John. <http://www.ejumpcut.org>.

21. Lewis, John. <http://www.ejumpcut.org>.

22. As quoted in Hollyfield’s Torture Porn and Bodies Politic, page 23. The full interview between Xavier Mendek and Eli Roth can be found at

23. Dickstein, 51.

24. Hollyfield argued that critics usurped the term and turned it into something negative, while Edelstein meant it as a potentially destabilizing term.

25. Carroll, 1-2.

26. Ibid., 2.

27. 1991, 269.

28. Ibid ., 270.

29. Ibid., 268. [return to page 2]

30. See Murray “Hostel II: Representations of the Body in Pain and the Cinema Experience in Torture-Porn.”

31. We cannot forget that Bijou Phillips herself is product of empty visibility. She is a rich heiress/teenage model made popular by the paparazzi for her public debaucheries and lewd behavior. Here it seems that in the same way that Paris Hilton got her comeuppance in the2005 remake of House of Wax, so too does Bijou Phillips get hers in Hostel II.

32. -------

33. Her sexual performance materializes John Berger’s assertion:

“To be born a woman has been to be born, within an allotted and confined space, into the keeping of men…[in that] a woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself…and so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman.” (Berger 46)

For Berger, femininity is inherently tied to surveillance, and surveillance is inherently tied to the self via the other’s gaze. For Berger, “Women watch themselves being looked at.” (47) Self surveillance, and femininity are highlighted as, what Judith Butler would call “performance” or “masquerade,” when Whitney, wearing a mask, gazes playfully at herself in a mirror.

34. The website ingeniously advertises itself as the “World’s Unique Reality Sex Show.” The website can be accessed through its disclaimer page at

35. Zizek, 2002, 226.

36. Ibid.

37. “Seen any good surgery on unanaesthetized people lately?” is the question Edelstein poses in the first sentence of his insightful article. The entire article can be found online at
< http://nymag.com/movies/features/15622/>.

38. One could go as far as to argue that the tears which flowed from the eyes of the faithful were symbolically equated to ejaculation—the pleasurable and cathartic release after slow, drawn out teasing/suffering.

39. I must point out here that I have curtailed the history of exploitation horror or contemporary extreme Japanese horror. To properly engage with these specific discourses simply goes beyond the focus of this paper, but hopefully others will explore those sub-genres’ generational and transnational connections.

40. Such a desire to be placed in the centre of the surveillance complex’s panoptic and synoptic gaze was first explored by Warhol’s short, silent film portraits of friends and acquaintances, Screen Tests, in the 1960s. This was explored by Ursula Frohne in her essay on Warhol’s Screen Tests as precursors to surveillance culture.

41. Berry-Flint, 25.

42. Shatz , 7 5.

43. Ibid., 74

44. Hollyfield has argued that Hostel is an inverted mirror reflection of the teen sex comedy. P. 26.

45. Although lacking in equality, some examples of females as killers in horror include, Urban Legend, Friday the 13th, and Scream 2

46. Hollyfield, 28.

47. See Willemen.

48. Straight Guys for Gay Eyes (http://www.sg4ge.com) is a new online gay porn website which features no gay sex! The website features men having sex with women, but with the focus being almost exclusively on the men, their bodies, faces and motions, further fragmenting the female body and female subjectivity to the point where they are essentially a hole to be used to induce signs of visible pleasure in the men. If gay men watched heterosexual pornography with an attentive focus on the male body, this website simply removes the extra energy needed to focus. Alternatively, although there is a huge emphasis on the men’s masculinity (flexing while fucking, etc.) the site also “feminizes” the men by situating the “heterosexual” male body as something to be explored, substantiated mostly through exploring the male buttocks/anus through visual display and the female actors performing anilingus.

50. Willemen, Paul. 102.

51. This is particularly true of Saw as the film would have been in post-production when the photographs were released. [return to page 3]

52. For discussion of the Abu Ghraib images from a feminist perspective, see One of the Guys: Women as Aggressors and Torturers, ed. Tara McKelvey. Emery: Avalon Publishing, 2007. See also the extensive section on torture and the media in Jump Cut (no. 51, 2009).

53. See Lila Rajiva’s The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American Media. For a comprehensive review, archive and analysis of the debates which emerged in U.S. media outlets in the wake of the images’ release.

54. Clover begins this discussion under sub-heading Cruel Cinema on 205.

55. This of course was the point of her book that identification does, in fact, change from killer to “Final Girl” in contemporary horror.

56. Morris’ Standard Operating Procedures (2008) attempted to provide an alternative perspective on the images by discovering what went on “behind” the images. It is here we discover that thousands of pictures were taken, and it is also here that Sabrina Harman has along history of “unconsciously” giving a thumbs up when posing in a picture, regardless of what is being captured.

56b. Martin, 136.

57. In discussing the Abu Ghraib photos’ relationship to surveillance, Nicholas Mirzoeff observes that “in some of the photographs the view is from a level above the torture itself, which, as Allen Feldman has noted, is the viewpoint of surveillance rather than of participation."(24) See his 2006 article in Radical History Review.

58. Clover, 189.

59. The film also features brief torture clips of an ex-porn star from what appears to be a potential “snuff” film. We again see surveillance and extreme representation being used in tandem.

60. Hollyfield, 31.

61. Ibid., 166-167.

62. Foucault, 200.

63. Hollyfield.

63b. For a more detailed discussion of Saw’s conservatism, see Christppher Sharrett’s “The Problem of ‘Saw’: ‘Torture Porn’ and the Conservatism of Contemporary Horror Films.”

64. Beginning in Saw III, however, the police are perplexed by the first torture victim’s inescapable situation. This points to the presence of another killer, someone other than Jigsaw, because Jigsaw, “does not torture.”

65. In Saw II and V victims need to “confess” in order to escape.

66. Mills 59.

67. Ibid., 60.

68. Niedzviecki, 142.

69. Foucault, 143.

70. See Astrit Schidt-Burkhardt. “The All-Seer: God’s Eye as Proto-Surveillance.”

71. 2009, 280; re-wording Burgin, 2000.

72. Asslein, 214.

73. Ibid., 205.

74. Russell, 121. [return to page 4]

75. Ibid, 122.

76. Weibel, 208.

77. Ibid. , 214.

78. Weibel, 215.

79. Frohne, 256.

80. Zizek, 2002, 225.

81 Frohne, 260.

82. 110-111.

83. See Levin, 586.

84. Frohne, 255.

85. Niedzviecki, 17.

86. Asselin paraphrasing Virilio, 211.

87. Although this is partly an issue of censorship and economic as the torture or murder of young children would have given the film an NC17 rating and killed its theatrical run.

88. Hollyfield, 30.

88b. And in their respective cases, the violence of patriarchal capitalism.

89. Dovey, 247.

98b. Mulvey, 145.

90. Sample, Virtual Torture: Videogames and the War on Terror.


92. Although in this case it is mobile and fluid rather than attached to, or near, a wall.

93. Buckland and Elsaesser, 162.

94. I argue that the pace would be quick, or timed, and likely frantic, or mixture of frantic and calm, but Buckland and Elsaesser specifically refer to Nicholas Luppa’s conception of pace in video games; “pacing and the beats that are being counted in that pacing are the beats between interactions.” See page 163.

95. Ibid., 162-163.

96. Ibid.

97. All data retrieved from http://www.boxofficemojo.com

Appendix A: Box office grosses

Name of film [98] Opening weekend Total domestic gross







Hostel II



Paranormal Activity

(wide-release opening)





Saw II






Saw IV



Saw V



Saw VI






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