Evil in Fiction

by Mike Shea on 26 August 2005

Roger Ebert has an interesting review of a horror movie (in the pure sense of the word) called "Chaos" along with a public dialog he had with the director and producer of the manipulative ultra-gory slasher film.

Movies like this always make me wonder about the purpose of movies and the purpose of movies that leave us feeling bad at the end. I can think of a few such movies I have seen recently: Million Dollar Baby, The Pianist, Monster, Elephant, and Open Water. Some of these I really liked and would recommend like Open Water and the Pianist. Others, like Million Dollar Baby, felt like false advertisement. The jarring shift of Million Dollar Baby and it's depressing ending ripped apart any of the wonderful acting, direction, story, and dialog of the first half.

Why do we see movies like this? Why do we see movies that end with depression and sadness? How many times do I have to live through the holocaust in film? It's one thing when it is used as character background as it was in X-Men. Note, a lot of reviewers felt that X-Men's use of the holocaust in a superhero movie went beyond it's right, but I felt it added authority to the movie: this isn't a stupid comic book movie, this is serious.

But when human misery, sadness, pain, and death, seem to be the pure lessons of a movie as it is in the Pianist, Million Dollar Baby, and Open Water, why do we watch? What do we gain?

Chaos is apparently unrelenting in it's view of rape, torture, mutilation, necrophilia, and murder. Even reading the review creeped me out and I'm not easily creeped out. This is different than glorified violence in Kill Bill. We might say "eaghh!" when Beatrice Kiddo tears out an eye with her bare hand, but we know its not even remotely true.

I wrote a story a few months ago called "The Book of Chaos". It interesting how the title nearly matches the title of the subject of Ebert's review, I didn't even realize it until I typed it just now. I knew when I wrote "Book of Chaos" that I was writing a story with enough violence and horror that it might steer just about everyone away. I'm not sure I even like it myself and I wrote the damn thing.

I don't know if I will ever write something like "The Book of Chaos" again and maybe it would be better of I buried that story in a vault. I really don't know yet, and I guess I'll wait until a couple of people read it and let me know. Unlike the producer and director of "Chaos", I'll take responsibility for what I wrote and do what is right. Perhaps the fantasy environment of Book of Chaos distances the reader from the violence, sacrifice, rape, and murder within, but maybe not. I really don't know.