A few explanations of some terms that I use:
The Midnight Vault – A quaint nickname for my vast collection of Exploitation Films, also known as ‘Midnight Movies’. These types movies are a fascination of mine and have been for many years now, more so than any movie that has become a critically acclaimed Oscar winner: a film full of veteran actors made by popular Directors with Hollywood budgets. There are many critics out there who’ll drool over those types of films, but I’m more interested in the visceral underbelly of cinema.
Cinematic Hedonism – A style of film-making where the director utilizes very hedonistic traits such as:
- An abundance of eroticism, sex and nudity.
- Actors who are incredibly attractive. Male characters are generally young and physically fit, female characters are also young with ample breasts and a shapely ass. Not one character resembles a normal person.
- Scenes of gore that aren’t realistic, or disturbing, the gore effects are over-the-top and humorous. Death scenes elicit a reaction of humor or light hearted shock, instead of a reaction of fear and sickness.
- Elements of humor. Cinematically Hedonistic films aren’t serious and the film includes as much comedy as it can. Most of the comedy, however, is very crude teen humor or imbecilic parodies of famous films.
Examples of Cinematic Hedonism:
- The films of Eli Roth (Hostel, Green Inferno, Cabin Fever)
- Piranha 3D.
- Slaughter High
- Terror Firmer
- Citizen Toxie
New Wave Of Exploitation Cinema – In 2007, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez banded together to create a double-bill of films that recreated the style of 1970’s era Exploitation Cinema: Deathproof and Planet Terror. Added alongside the feature presentations, fake trailers made by horror film veterans such as Eli Roth and Rob Zombie. Tarantino and Rodriguez named the entire project after the cinemas that would regularly show those types of low-budget Exploitation Films: Grindhouse. After the very successful release of Grindhouse, there was a resurgence in Exploitation cinema. Many distribution companies, such as Arrow films, Shameless Films and 88 Films, would come forward and release old exploitation films from the 1970s/1980s; but more importantly, contemporary film-makers would begin to make incredibly popular films recreating the style of old 1970s/1980s Exploitation Films that I have dubbed “New Wave Of Exploitation Cinema”.
Examples of films that fit into the New Wave Of Exploitation Cinema:
- Piranha 3D
- Hobo With A Shotgun
- Dear God No!
- Dead Snow
- Black Dynamite
- 2001 Maniacs!
- The Disco Exorcist
“Paint By Numbers” Slasher Formula – I’ve watched many a slasher movie throughout the years since I created the Midnight Vault. The more slasher movies I see, the more I started to recognize patterns in most of the slasher films that I saw. The stereotypical characters – the virgin, the jock, the stoner, the slut, the black guy, the valley girl, the clever thinker, the nerd, the hero etc – are well known, but I saw repeated pattern in how slasher film’s tell their story. Some would deviate from the norm, but the majority would follow a strict pattern that I’ve come to recognize. A three act structure that barely changes and becomes incredibly predictable:
Act 1: The film begins with an introduction to the killer first, either through backstory or by the killer’s first kill. How the killer is introduced isn’t important, it’s the fact that the killer introduced first that’s important. Straight after the killer’s introduction, the film introduces the victims, starting with the main protagonist, a typical survivor girl/guy, before introducing the rest of the characters on the killer’s ‘hit list’ one by one. By the end of Act 1, the victims are placed in an area they’re not familiar with that has a certain link to the killer.
Act 2: The main focus of Act 2 is developing the victims so that they aren’t just cannon fodder for the killer. Usually, this is done by having each character engage in ‘Antics’ that leaves them vulnerable to opportunity. The killer isn’t a major player in Act 2 as the focus is on the victims and, most importantly, the protagonist survivor, however, the killer is allowed to kill a few times to thin the crowd. However, what’s important about the deaths in Act 2, is that they are done without alerting the rest of the victims. The deaths in Act 2 always go unseen and unheard, usually because the victims allowed themselves to be put in very vulnerable situations either by trickery or plain stupidity.
Act 3: In Act 3, the victims stop their antics and the focus is placed directly onto the struggle between the killer and his victims. The remaining few become aware of what’s going on and try to fight back against the killer, with the killer getting the upper hand every time. As the finale approaches, the film becomes about the survivor and the killer, and the struggle becomes close and personal. The finale sees the lone survivor overcome the villain because of either circumstance, improvisation or pure luck, because the survivor couldn’t kill the killer by normal means. With the killer dead as well as all of the survivor’s friends, the survivor enjoys a moment of unwarranted tranquility before the movie ends.
This slasher movie formula has been used in:
- Friday The 13th
- Nightmare On Elm Street
- The Mutilator
- The Burning
- Hell Night
- Slaughter High
- The Toolbox Murders (Remake)
- My Bloody Valentine
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
- The Slumber Party Massacre
- Terror Train
- Rosemary’s Killer
- Prom Night
And a 20 page movie script I wrote when I was 15 years old called The Hunter before I was even aware of what an exploitation film was.
Porn & Torture Film – Not to be confused with the erroneous “Torture Porn” moniker given to films such as Hostel, Antichrist, and Martyrs; which is an insult by Holier-Than-Thou critics that dismiss a film’s content because of scenes of violence.
‘Porn & Torture Film’ is my description of a film that focuses on the brutal torture of naked women, or naked men, who moan incessantly whilst enduring scenes of eye-gouging, finger-crushing and teeth pulling. The exact nature of a Porn & Torture film is arousal, titillation, sick fascination, or in some cases, cathartic brutality. A select few Porn & Torture Films do offer more than just base scenes of violent, carnal pleasure, but most films that fit the Porn & Torture moniker are just made to titillate audiences.
Examples of Porn & Torture Films include:
- Blood Sucking Freaks
- Ilsa: She Wolf Of The SS
- Cannibal Ferox
- Island Of Death
- The Wizard Of Gore (Remake)
- I Spit On Your Grave (Remake)
Exploitation Cinema – Exploitation Cinema is quite hard to define as it covers a wide variety of films. However, there are a few basic descriptions that categorize Exploitation Cinema.
Roughly, Exploitation Cinema consists of:
- Films that exploit a certain topic to immorally shock an audience. For example: Monster Movies, Dwarf Movies, Blaxsploitation Movies, Nazi Movies, Cannibal Movies, Zombie Movies, Italian Crime Films.
- Films that exploit a certain topic to immorally titillate an audience. For example: Sex Films, Sleazy Pornographic Films, Erotically Violent Films, Porn And Torture Films, and to a lesser extent, Bikesploitation and Carsploitation films.
- Films that exploit popular films in contemporary or historic culture. For example: Britsploitation Films, Spaghetti Westerns, Rip-Off Films, Grindhouse Throwback films, Kung-Fu Exploitation Films, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez Films.
- Films that contain explicitly lurid content. For example: Splatter Films, Slasher Films, Giallo Films, Extreme Films, Chambara Samurai Films, Gory Action/Thriller Films.
- Overly bizarre, experimental and surreal films. For example: The films of David Lynch, The films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, The films of Takashi Miike, The Tetsuo series of films, Un Chien Andalou, Begotten,
- Horror films that come from Canada – Canuxploitation Films. For example: The films of David Cronenberg, The Changeling, Canadian-made Slasher films.
Another way of describing Exploitation cinema is this quote from Director Frank Henenlotter: “Exploitation films have an attitude more than anything – an attitude that you don’t find with mainstream Hollywood productions. They’re a little ruder, a little raunchier, they deal with material people don’t usually touch on, whether it’s sex or drugs or rock and roll.”
However, Exploitation films aren’t just for a cult audience, and many Exploitation Films have become cultural legends with critical acclaim:
- Jaws (Monster Movie)
- The Good The Bad And The Ugly (Spaghetti Western)
- Enter The Dragon (Kung-Fu Exploitation Films)
- An American Werewolf In London (Monster Movie/Britsploitation Film)
- Mad Max (Carsploitation)
- Blue Velvet (Surreal/Experimental Film)
- Night Of The Living Dead (Zombie Film)
- Alien (Slasher Film)
- Evil Dead II (Splatter Film)
- Deliverance (Rape/Revenge Film)
- Videodrome (Canuxsploitation Film)
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Slasher Film)
- Straw Dogs (Rape/Revenge Films)
- Shaft (Blaxsploitation)
…just to name a few.