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The Gorehound’s 50th Entry: Thoughts on Revenge Horror

The popular Korean direction: Chan-Wook Park

The popular Korean director: Chan-Wook Park

Why should you care about revenge horror? Aren’t all horror movies the same? Just a bunch of teens getting hunted by a serial killer or monster? Certainly not. Horror movies are deep. They excel in exposing a characters true or secret personality. No other genre can utilize makeup and special effects to the level of creating a crazy swamp thing. The Gorehound loves horror movies because they incorporate and excel at every aspect of cinema: diversity of characters, effects, story, lighting, etc. A revengeful horror film is the apex of a perfect horror movie.

Park Chan-Wook (or Chan-Wook Park) could possibly be the most notable name in revenge horror and should be idolized for his vision: the revenge trilogy (Oldboy ’03, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance ’02, and Lady Vengeance ’05) is the best example of revenge horror. There aren’t many films that truly follow the ideology of revenge horror, though those that do are incredible. At its core, this subgenre simply seeks some unorthodox justice for a painful event such as rape or death. The deeper contribution that this subgenre offers is the creativity and justice that the victim’s agent (the person performing the revenge) plays. The justice for the act can be literally the same as the event or figuratively deeper. The revenge consumes the victim’s agent to the apex of the movie where revenge is finally obtained. While it may bring relief to the victim’s agent, it often scars. Revenge muddies thoughts and distorts reality. It can be good, but it can also be terrible.

The unfortunate part about revenge horror is the intensity. Films like I Spit On Your Grave (‘78) and Last House on The Left (’72) turn off entire populations of moviegoers. These films have no role in horror entertainment and should be discouraged. Audiences often fail to distinguish revenge horror with torture and S&M. Torturous elements are often included in revenge horror due to its relevance in inflicting pain. Revenge horror should still be entertaining, just like any other movie. Yes, we must be willing to sit through painful scenes in the turnaround of seeing the beautiful revenge that is being sought. We should feel for the characters and look forward to relief, and not just cringe and lookaway the entire film.

But revenge horror is still vibrant. There is much potential for new directors to develop this intense genre.

The remake of Old Boy (’13) is wonderful. While still maintaining many crucial scenes (e.g., octopus, continuous fight scene with the knife in the back) it has a different focus. It’s difficult to say that a remake is better (because there are many which are) so I can’t ascertain which is better but in my opinion, the Korean version is better. Though I knew the twist, I felt that it was obvious the first time we saw Olsen. I also thought this guy was tougher. He was bulkier and angrier, especially with his personality. He appeared more culturally-shocked than the original character. Just a nitpick, but I felt there wasn’t enough gore, especially in the longest and best fight scene of the movie: A hammer will tear shit up and there was very little blood or gore in this movie.

So where does this leave us? More horror movies should utilize this beautiful subgenre. It is a delicate in that it is difficult to portray the true emotional pain of revenge. It should not be taken lightly, but it should be worked towards.  It shows us the capability of human emotion. How much pain are we will to inflict on someone else who has inflicted pain on us? How far are we willing to go to?


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