"In her absolutely splendid novel Alif the Unseen, G. Willow Wilson has a character ask whether a given book counts as eastern literature. In reply, Vikram the Vampire says, “There is a very simple test. Is it about bored, tired people having sex?” When the character confirms that the book does, Vikram proclaims it western literature. It’s terribly clever, but omits a key subgenre: bored, tired people being terribly violent."
Any work which gives heavy, focused attention to Cold-Blooded Torture
and/or mutilation of someone. This is usually associated with popular Horror Films
from the Turn of the Millennium
; the term was coined
in 2006 by film critic David Edelstein to describe
films like Hostel
, The Devils Rejects
, and Wolf Creek
. However, it can be found in older Exploitation Films
as well as various other works, as long as seeing or reading about people suffering slow, agonizing, torturous deaths is the point of the work.
This isn't to show how wrong it is, as much as to give the audience some visceral thrills. Thus works will give lots of details (whether written, verbal, or visual) of the torture.
Films of this type may inspire one to jump up and shout "The Aristocrats
!" just to break the tension.
Although the term was popularized in the early 2000s
with the rise of films focusing on this, the genre has been around for a lot longer.
Now despite the name not referring to actual pornography, some films have combined both (and have thus become notorious for it).
A Sister Trope
, Mutilation Interrogation
(and often overlaps with both), Cuckold
(the emotional equivalent).
Contrast Too Kinky to Torture
(the victim enjoys it more than anyone else).
Not to be confused with hardcore S&M (since the torture there is more playing around), nor finding torture to be Fetish Fuel
(although some suspect some of these films invoke that).
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Anime and Manga
- Franken Fran: In one episode Fran (unknowingly) takes part in a torture porn movie. When she realizes what she took part in (and that it involved an actor playing her creator), she punishes the director appropriately.
- The first issue of the Hack/Slash ongoing series had Cassie being captured and mutilated by a torture porn-inspired slasher named Doctor Gross.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fandom, particularly the brony community, is notorious for producing dark fics that dive straight into this trope.
- 120 Days of Blueblood, a MLP version of the notorious 120 Days of Sodom (see Film and Literature)
- Reprise, the prequel to Hivefled, is explicitly described as torture porn by the author. Uhh, somewhat more literal than most examples, all things considered.
- The notorious Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers fanfic Agony in Pink, which describes the Pink Ranger being tortured to death in loving detail and was at the centre of a moral panic over online porn in Australia.
- The equally notorious The Lord of the Rings fanfic Celebrian, which speculates on what the Orcs may have done to Celebrian to traumatise her so much in unbelievably obsessive and physically-implausible detail. It's commonly used as a challenge fic to see how much you can read in one sitting before, depending on your level of sensitivity, being squicked out or bored into submission.
- Chapter 12 of Rise Against dips into this, spending most of its time as a graphic torture scene. As for who's being tortured? Meta Knight. Also, the fic is currently on hiatus, and that's the most recently posted chapter.
- Any adaptation of the Sylvia Likens case, which boils down to children raping and torturing another child to death under the guidance of an insane woman. Stephen King called The Girl Next Door (probably the most infamous of the films) one of the most disturbing and heart wrenching things he's ever seen.
- The two first films from the The Guinea Pig Collection; Devil's Experiment and Flower Of Flesh and Blood, the latter of which was mistaken for a real Snuff Film by Charlie Sheen.
- An Experiment in Torture, the plot of which is just "strippers are captured and tortured to death."
- Train, which begins with a man being skinned alive.
- W Delta Z and it's American counterpart, Scar 3D.
- Memorial Day at first seems to be a fairly standard slasher film, but then it develops a mean streak when the villain stops outright killing people and begins mutilating and torturing them, forcing one girl to crawl across razor blades while he beats with a hot metal bar.
- The Uwe Boll film Seed, infamous for a scene in which a woman is beaten with a hammer for five uninterrupted minutes.
- Cannibal, the film adaptation of the strange case of Armin Meiwes, the man who found someone willing to be killed and cannibalized. Apparently mind-shatteringly horrifying, to the point that it could probably be easily mistaken for the actual recording Meiwes made of his crime, which drove the jurors who saw it to psychological counseling.
- That film's maker would later go on to create The Angel's Melancholy, an even more horrifying depraved "art" film that some have called the most repulsive motion picture ever conceived.
- Unthinkable: Nuclear bombs are set to go off, and it's up to Samuel L. Jackson to torture their whereabouts out of the man who planted them.
- Most Nazisploitation, the probable Trope Maker for that being Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS.
- Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom is often considered an early example of this genre. Granted, the Marquis de Sade novel it's based on is even more infamous.
- The Saw films. While the first film is actually fairly light on explicit gore, the sequels (especially from the third one on) most certainly aren't, and the series as a whole is the Trope Codifier for the genre.
- Hostel and its sequels.
- Ichi the Killer, when Kakihara or the twins are around.
- The French film Martyrs (which a lot seem to categorize as "too good to be mere torture porn") starts as a bloody revenge flick on a seemingly normal family, devolves into humiliation torture, and ends with the martyr being graphically skinned alive, left to hang that way, and her long-sought otherworldy revelations driving her captor to suicide.
- The Human Centipede and its sequel.
- Mel Gibson got this kind of reputation through his movies The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto, which both featured prolonged and graphic scenes of torture, punishment and human sacrifice. Critics of the former often nicknamed it "The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre" for its extreme violence. Some touch on the "Porn" aspect of "Torture Porn" as well regarding Passion, with David Edelstein (the Trope Namer) calling it tantamount to a Snuff Film and Stephen King pointing out that its violence is taken to a fetishistic level.
- Certain Giallo films. Most don't feature gore, just minimal specific incidents of violence which could hardly be classified as torture porn, but some of the most extreme ones (on the borderline with the horror genre) such as Fulci's Non si sevizia un paperino (Don't Torture A Duckling) do qualify for this trope.
- Cannibal Holocaust contained scenes that were believable enough, at the time, to result in the arrest of the director, foreshadowing Charlie Sheen's snuff film fears by about twenty years. Includes rape with a foreign object followed by bludgeoning of the victim, dissection, cannibalism (of course), and an incredibly well-designed impalement scene which still is occasionally posted online as a real occurrence. To make it worse, all the animals that died in the movie were actually killed, leading to the "No Animals Were Harmed In the Making of this Film" disclaimer at the end of every movie; and the director made all the cast sign contracts to keep out of public sight and take no new work for a year to help sell the illusion that the film was genuine.
- The director in fact had to bring the actors onto a talk show to prove that he hadn't actually killed them during filming.
- Pink Flamingos, the film to start with if you're interested in the work of John Waters, plays with this trope mockingly. One scene, one very long and uncomfortable scene, features a man having sex with a chicken (resulting in bloody lacerations for the nude gentleman and an onscreen death for the chicken), and another features what can best be described as "a heartwarming torture sequence wherein women are beaten in a basement and raped with a turkey baster, with the resulting babies being sold to lesbians." Thankfully, John Waters is parodying the "True Crime" genre, so it's usually meant to be (disturbingly) funny.
- The Last House on the Left: Most of its drama comes in the form of the torture and rape of two young women.
- I Spit on Your Grave, probably the most infamous Rape and Revenge movie of all time. Not so much the original film, save for the horrifying rape scene, but the revenge portion of the remake definitely falls into this.
- Carver, which is about a hillbilly Snuff Film maker prone to mutilating some of his victims through means that include pliers to the balls, or a nail hammered into a bodypart, then wrenched out and hammered in again.
- The works of Lucifer Valentine, collectively known as "The Vomit Gore Trilogy".
- Captivity. Chiefly notorious for its incredibly tasteless marketing campaign, which led Joss Whedon and Jill Soloway to campaign for the film to be re-rated. Its critical and commercial failure ended up killing off the genre in mainstream cinema releases, and did lasting damage to the careers of both its star Elisha Cuthbert and director Roland Joffe.
- The Sinful Dwarf
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
- The Collector and its sequel.
- Sick Girl, which has what is possibly the most disturbing girl on girl rape scene ever.
- The "fucked up fondue" scene in Wrong Turn 4 Bloody Beginnings, along with a few other instances, like death via electroshock, and dismemberment on a makeshift, barbed wire rack.
- Offspring and its pseudo-sequel, The Woman.
- Many of Lucio Fulci's films, especially The New York Ripper, where a stripper is killed by having a broken bottle ground into her crotch.
- A Serbian Film, which is even more unsettling due to the abuse being sex-related, and involving children. There's a reason why we had to cut the tropes and lock the film's page — there was just no way to describe the film's content without getting out of family-friendly territory.
- A few attempts at Black Comedy torture pornos include Otis, Neighbor and The Loved Ones.
- A group of people are captured and forced to mutilate themselves in order to produce endorphins in Vile.
- Detention parodies the genre with the Film Within a Film Cinderhella, which can be roughly described as a teen slasher version of Saw, complete with that series' ridiculous traps.
- Scrapbook: A sadistic psychopath abducts women, tortures them, and forces them to chronicle their experiences in a book he is deluded enough to think he can get published.
- The Bunny Game. Though there the focus is more on extreme psychological torture and humiliation, that isn't to say there isn't some physical abuse.
- The slew of 1970s films centered around witch persecution (no doubt inspired by 1968's Witchfinder General) such as Mark of the Devil and The Bloody Judge (which star Christopher Lee, who repeatedly butted heads with the director over the unsavory content, refused to watch after it was finished).
- American Psycho, though not the film based on it.
- Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk - "Guts" is one of the featured short stories.
- Marquis de Sade is the Trope Maker, and one of the most infamous authors in history; the word "sadism" was named after him.
- In Australia during the 1960s and early 1970s, a quite strange genre of pulp fiction flourished and then suddenly died away, in the form of short novels (around 128 pages each, or occasionally slightly longer) which were mainly set during World War II, and focused on the experiences of prisoners-of-war or others who opposed the Japanese or Nazis in any way. The novels focused on incidents such as interrogation and torture of these prisoners, their attempts to escape, and such matters - and the ill-treatment and torture of the prisoners was focused on in great detail. Often women were the victims (also of sexual abuse), and ways were devised of bringing them into what you would expect to be mainly a male environment.
Many of these novels were written under the names "John Slater" and "Jim Kent", although many of the works are believed to be the work of one Ray Slattery, who also published other war-related work under his own name; the covers had lurid covers of torture scenes, and had titles like "Torture Road", "Women of Ravensbruck", "Pleasure Camp", and so on in endless permutations. A few of the novels were outside the war setting but came up with other settings in which similar scenes could occur: such as white women being sold into slavery in Middle-Eastern countries ("Sold for Pleasure").
For a while the books could be found quite easily in used bookshops, and especially in various kinds of charity shops in Australia, but then they became quite rare and expense. Some suspected that one reason why the books became rare was that the lurid covers and titles offended the conservative sensibilities of the older women who often worked in these charity shops, and so got tossed out in the rubbish. So the books over time went from costing sometimes only a few cents each to the current situation where, if you find one, it could easily cost you $20 or $30, or even much more.
- There's a reason that Jack Bauer from 24 has a trope named after him. The ways in which he acquires information from his prisoners - and how these ways are both shown and described - fall about as close to this category as one can get on network television.
- The occasional short on 1000 Ways to Die.
- Masters Of Horror, especially the second season.
- The Doctor Who story "Vengeance on Varos", which depending on your view is either a prescient satire on the genre or an early, ugly example. By earlier, milder standards "The Deadly Assassin" had quite a lot of torture scenes.
- Theon's subplot in season 3 of Game of Thrones devolves into this.
- Parodied in Lovebites. In "Coming Attractions", the protagonist couple Max and Katie are watching previews in the theater, when the trailer for a movie called Open Hearts comes up. It looks like a romantic drama at first, but it quickly turns out that the boyfriend in the movie is a depraved Serial Killer who proceeds to graphically torture the woman to death in very prolongued fashion while laughing psychotically. The two are rather disturbed by it.
- The base-breaking Six Feet Under episode "That's My Dog", in which David is kidnapped, sexually-assaulted, tortured and nearly killed by a psychopathic hitch-hiker.
- The Winchesters experience this a lot in Supernatural.
- The music video for the Eminem song "3 a.m." was described as this by New York Magazine.
- "Back Pack" by Andrew Jackson Jihad invokes this in the second verse to sad and horrifying effect.
- Big Finish Doctor Who dives into this trope on occasion. The episodes "Spare Parts", "Jubilee", "Scherzo","The Creed Of The Kromon" and "The Natural History Of Fear" (the last three of which follow each other directly) immediately come to mind.
- The Fifth Doctor is a frequent recipient of torture in Big Finish in general, to the point where it hardly even fazes him anymore. His very first episode had him breaking his leg, being strapped into a torture device and screaming in agony in the background for an entire scene while Seven and Six calmly discussed how to save the day.
- You may or may not be surprised to learn that there's a William Shakespeare play that comes about as close to this as you can get on a stage: Titus Andronicus.
- The Grand Guignol theater in Paris, open from 1897 to 1962, was a legendary purveyor of this, especially during its height in the interwar period. The name of the theater is still occasionally used as shorthand for graphic, highly stylized and fetishized violence.
- Oedipus the King has Oedipus emerge having learnt of what he's done, now having gouged out his own eyes. Medea features an extremely graphic description of what happened when Glauce put on a dress covered in highly acidic poison, and when her father hugged her body with this skin-dissolving venom still in effect.
- Some of the scenes in Survival of the Fittest can fall into this, particularly in earlier versions. In more recent history, handlers have been attempting to avert this due to both realism and good taste. However, you still get moments where Gorn conspicuously comes up in a manner similar to this trope.
- The Cinema Snob reviews some of these films, and even admits the term was just made up by snobs like him so they could look down on modern horror movies* .