A splatter film is a type of horror film that focuses on the depiction of excessive violence and blood . The English verb to splatter means "to splash". The splatter, which is fixed on the concrete acts of violence such as injury or dismemberment, differs from the so-called gore (English for "clotted blood" and "pierce", "spear"), which focuses more on the finished result of these acts, as well as on detailed staged eviscerations . In most cases, however, it is difficult to differentiate precisely because the two forms often merge. Splatter or gore are also not limited to horror films; rather, corresponding elements can be found in a wide variety of genres. “Splatter films” are therefore not a genre of their own , but rather describe a general strategy of affect-oriented cinematic body representation.
Explicit depictions of violence such as in the splatter film, formerly referred to in German as "Blut und Beuschel ", were considered trash for a long time and were frowned upon. In film history, they first appear in the avant-garde films of surrealism . Surrealist Luis Buñuel has a famous scene in the short film Un Chien Andalou ( An Andalusian Dog ), which he shot with Salvador Dalí in 1928 , in which an eye is cut with a razor blade.
In the first horror films of the British Hammer Studios in the late 1950s , red blood was explicitly shed on the screen for the first time. Films like Frankenstein's Curse ( The Curse of Frankenstein , 1957) and Dracula (1958) (both starring horror icons Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee ) featured severed body parts and melting bodies. Although the films in this production context can hardly be described as splatter films in the sense of the word, they are important as the forerunners and ancestors of the splatter film.
Blood Feast (1963) by Herschell Gordon Lewis is considered the first splatter film in history . The plot revolves around a man who is under the spell of the Babylonian deity Ishtar and who has to procure all kinds of human body parts for a religious feast - through the bloody murders of attractive women, who he to pieces with his butcher knife cuts. The murders are shown very explicitly (e.g. tearing out a tongue while the victim is fully conscious or severing a leg), but the scenes seem rather amusing and naive due to the budget-related bad special and make-up effects. The genre was long a shadowy existence.
In Japan , where depictions of violence and blood are historically far less problematic in art, there have been films before that explicitly and quasi-naturalistically showed extreme violence. These films are largely unknown in the West. They are therefore of little importance for the tradition and history of the western splatter film.
The prototype of the modern horror and splatter film created in 1968 George A. Romero with his influential and style-forming plant Night of the Living Dead ( Night of the Living Dead , 1968). For inexplicable reasons, the dead rise from their graves and attack people as zombies . In a remote country house, a group of wildly mixed up survivors holed up to defend themselves against the living dead. But the group fails because of mistrust among each other: Any attempt to escape death only brings the group closer to it. The film is characterized by a gloomy, apocalyptic atmosphere that has not failed to have an impact to this day. The socially critical subtext comes to the fore, especially towards the end. The film, which was torn down at the time, is now considered an influential milestone in the genre and an indispensable part of film history .
The 1970s brought among other things the genesis of the "terror film" with it. Films like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre ( The Texas Chain Saw Massacre , 1974, Tobe Hooper ) and The Last House on the Left (The Last House on the Left, 1972, Wes Craven ) broke with beings from the world of fantasy and verorteten the horror directly in the Neighborhood. In the place of Dracula , Frankenstein and the mummy came bloodthirsty psychopaths and cannibals , who mostly attacked young victims with chainsaws and butcher's tools . Exceptions were the Hammer Studios, which made profits with films such as Dracula - Nights of Horror or Frankenstein's Infernal Monster through the explicit depiction of brute force and cruelty.
Like the wave of political paranoia films in official theaters, these small films fit the social climate of the USA in the early 1970s: under the impressions of Vietnam , the suppression of the student and civil rights movement on the streets, numerous political assassinations and corruption scandals in the upper echelons the government grew discontent among the people. A young generation of angry filmmakers gave their latent apocalyptic basic feeling in their films primary expression. Adam Simon's documentary The American Nightmare (2000) vividly highlights this aspect of the splatter films of the 1970s.
In Italy the splatter film went its own way. After the international success of Romero's second zombie film Dawn of the Dead (German: Zombie , also Zombies in the department store , 1978), the European version of which was edited by Dario Argento , the Italian director Lucio Fulci shot an unofficial sequel under the title Zombi 2 (German: Woodoo - Die Schreckensinsel der Zombies , 1979), which has nothing in common with Romero's film in terms of content and narrative. Before that, Argento had already brought the inside of the human body into the picture in a clear way with his “Gothic” witch film Suspiria (1977). The genre of the zombie film turned out to be good business in Italy: Countless plagiarisms and variations that tried to outdo each other in the severity of the representation followed.
The mondo or cannibal film soon developed as the second arm of the Italian splatter film : With often hypocritical ethnological interest, people ventured into the jungles of the still unexplored world to capture the atrocities of the 'uncivilized' peoples on celluloid, which, however, usually preceded them especially devised in the offices of producers and scriptwriters. Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust , published in 1979, is considered the best-known work of this kind because of its animal-killing scenes , which despite its own bloodthirstiness soars into a moral criticism of the mass media's lust for sensation . In general, staging and aesthetic poverty and blunt brutality predominated in cannibal films; often entire sequences from other cannibal films were inserted in order to save money. To this day, the subgenre is highly controversial even among splatter fans due to its real animal slaughter in front of the camera. In the 1980s, the Italian splatter film degenerated into a cheap product for video libraries, analogous to the other, once vital Italian film production.
Sam Raimi's Tanz der Teufel ( The Evil Dead , 1982) plays a central role in the US splatter film . After the serious, apocalyptic splatter films of the 1970s, this film already shows the way to the future "funsplatter", but remains gloomy enough not to pass as a comedy . Effectively staged, Tanz der Teufel turns out to be a masterpiece of the genre, especially through its experimental camera work. In Germany, the film gained prominence as the subject of a long-standing censorship debate and, due to numerous bans, developed into the most sought-after splatter film for a long time. In the provincial video scene in particular, noisy copies of the umpteenth generation have long been regarded as coveted status symbols , and uncensored imports from abroad have achieved top prices. Since a court ruling in the early 1990s, the film has been accessible again in Germany in a version cut by around 40 seconds. The confiscation of the film has been lifted since February 2017 and the uncut version with the FSK-16 seal is freely available again.
The 1980s , also shaped by the development of the home video market, were marked by an unmistakable flood of brutal and bloodthirsty splatter and gore films, which were particularly booming in Italy. Directors such as Lucio Fulci pushed the limits of what could be represented in rather undemanding cheap productions and showed in detail dismemberments, eviscerations and other disgusting effects . In Germany in particular, such works often led to indexing and confiscation under Section 131 of the Criminal Code .
In the late 1980s, the bloodthirstiness and brutality of the Gore films finally turned parodistic and led to a departure from the dark gravity of the zombie films. Films like Re-Animator (1985), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986) or the Nightmare on Elm Street saga about Freddy Krueger (1984) made the splatter film more bearable for the “popcorn cinema”.
In 1987 the filming of Bad Taste finally came to an end in New Zealand : Peter Jackson established the term “funsplatters”, which brought the splatter close to the slapstick , and also the term “ splatstick” with recourse to the alien invasion cinema “Coined. The splatstick creates the union of slapstick inserts with the excessive use of blood effects. Bad Taste (1987) and especially the later Braindead (1992) are examples of this. Bad Taste , which was shot privately on weekends with a few friends, was well received at international festivals.
With Day of the Dead (Eng. Zombie 2 ), George A. Romero shot the third part and darkest part of his zombie film series in 1985, which, however, could not match the success of the first two parts. Also in 1985, Guinea Pig - Devil's Experiment by Hideshi Hino, one of the most brutal splatter films ever appeared. The film, which shows the torture of a defenseless woman by some young people in the style of an amateur film, as well as its even more brutal successor Guinea Pig 2 - Flowers of Flesh and Blood (1985) are still considered in many forums to be the most brutal, violent and "sick" horror film . In both films, the viewer is suggested that it is a snuff film (i.e. a real and not just fictional killing in the film), but this does not correspond to the facts.
In 1992 , as already mentioned, Peter Jackson staged the climax of the "Funsplatters" with Braindead . To this day, the film bears the title of “bloodiest film of all time”, with the zombie revue primarily designed as a kind of Tom and Jerry for adults and with a multitude of hyperbolic gags that make you laugh rather than disgust. In Germany, due to its extremely explicit depiction of violence, it is nevertheless the subject of numerous censoring resolutions: Even greatly abridged versions are regularly confiscated by local courts. On the international stage, the immense success of Braindead secured its director sufficient renown to tackle more serious films (including Heavenly Creatures ) up to the filming of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings .
In the 1990s , Splatter finally reached mainstream cinema beyond genuine horror film productions as an aesthetic strategy . Films like Natural Born Killers (1994), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) or Starship Troopers (1997) as well as, in a certain sense, Mel Gibson's controversial Jesus film The Passion of Christ would hardly be conceivable in this form without the preparatory work of the splatter cinema. Postmodern TV series such as The Simpsons ennoble the genre with citing references and guest appearances by protagonists (including Tom Savini , who created the make-up effects for numerous splatter classics); Many of the early splatter pioneers are now established as serious filmmakers in Hollywood.
The Splatterkino recently celebrated a revival with numerous remakes of “classic splatter films”. After the commercially successful production Wrong Turn , which tried to follow up on the hinterland horror à la The Texas Chain Saw Massacre , Dawn of the Dead and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre were reissued in close proximity to each other, which were also recognized by the critical fan audience: Dawn of the Dead (2004) and Michael Bay's Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003). Alexandre Aja's remake of The Hills Have Eyes (1977) by Wes Craven, The Hills Have Eyes, also received positive reviews .
In 2003 Aja also shot the highly regarded (but indexed in Germany) splatter film High Tension , which was received very positively by reviewers. Rob Zombie's splatter revue House of 1000 Corpses (2003), on the other hand, fell through with the criticism, but for fans it can be decoded as a reference-rich, lovingly designed homage. In 2005 Rob Zombie shot the sequel The Devil's Rejects , which, however, could not build on the success of its predecessor. In 2005 the film Hostel and in 2007 its sequel Hostel 2 came out in cinemas. Hostel 3 was released at the end of December 2011 .
Beyond these big A-productions, splatter and horror films continue to eke out a niche existence: numerous small horror and splatter films have been and are being produced around the world, which are presented to a fan audience at events such as the annual Fantasy Film Festival .
Impact research and regulation
Splatter and gore films, like hardly any other type of film (with the possible exception of pornography ), arouse ambiguous reactions and sometimes clear rejection. The bloodthirsty, aggressive works and often playing with the feeling of disgust are seen by many recipients as tasteless, if not perverted or “sick”. Most of the time, individual splatter films, especially in the B-movie sector, have a small but all the more enthusiastic fan base, while the mainstream audience often does not even notice them.
The effect of splatter films on the recipients is controversial. Many impact theories either assume that the viewer is freed from already existing aggression (“ catharsis hypothesis ”), or, conversely, that he is accustomed to violence or even encouraged to act violently (“ conditioning hypothesis”). The assessment of the connection between media and real violence is, however, very controversial in science, as can currently be observed in the similar discussion about the so-called " killer games " by some politicians . The social consensus is that younger children in particular have problems in adequately processing the confrontation with media violence emotionally, even if there is disagreement about the exact consequences in this regard.
Because it touches on deeply anchored social norms and taboos , the portrayal of violence in films is politically regulated and, if necessary, censored in almost all societies - albeit in very different ways . That is why most splatter films, which are essentially based on the stylistic feature of explicit depictions of violence, are only shown to the audience in abridged versions and / or under certain age restrictions. A general code for the grading of age ratings has emerged from the Voluntary Self-Regulation of the Film Industry (FSK) and the similarly functioning Legal Commission (JK) of the Central Organization of the Film Industry (SPIO) . Most splatter films in Germany are only released from the age of 18 (less often from 16) in order to protect minors from the emotionally disturbing and psychologically traumatizing effects of all too brutal cinematic violence.
If a film ( cut or uncut) requires stricter control of youth protection regulations - which is by no means uncommon for splatter films - it may no longer be openly distributed or advertised and is then considered to be indexed . The seizure of films - and thus a ban on sales to those over the age of 18 - also occurs in this genre. The relevant section of the law that comes into effect in such cases is Criminal Code in Germany , which regulates the criminal offense of " depicting violence " or, more precisely, the glorification of violence or the trivialization of violence . Distribution and passing on of indexed films to minors can be prosecuted and punished with imprisonment of up to one year.
The occasionally criticized practice of censorship or shortening, indexing and, if necessary, confiscation of films - organized in Germany by the Federal Testing Office for Media Harmful to Young People - primarily serves to protect minors and is not undisputed.
Many famous actors played in more or less well-known splatter and horror films in their early years. So did Brad Pitt in 1988 his first major role in the film Death Party 2 . Jennifer Aniston had her first major role in the horror film Leprechaun - The Killer Goblin . Other examples are Johnny Depp in Nightmare , Kevin Bacon in Friday the 13th or Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey in Texas Chainsaw Massacre . Jamie Lee Curtis first became known as the Scream Queen through Halloween . Through the Tanz der Teufel films, the leading actor Bruce Campbell became a cult figure of the genre.
- Julia Köhne, Ralph Kuschke and Arno Meteling (eds.): Splatter Movies. Essays on the modern horror film (Deep Focus 4). Bertz + Fischer, Berlin 2006 (2nd edition), ISBN 3-86505-157-X .
- Daniel Libbitz: Gore - The Masters of Blood. , Hille: MPW media, publishing and advertising company Knorr Martens, 2007, ISBN 3-931608-76-X .
- Trebbin, Frank: Fear sits next to you Self-published by F.Trebbin 1998, ISBN 3-929234-03-3 .
- Marc-Christian Jäger: “The night of the living gives way to the brightness of death. About the splatter film as a postmodern 'theater of horror' ” , in: F.LM - Texts on the Film , Issue 5 (2004).
- Jerome Philipp Schäfer: “The position of the viewer in the terror film. A media-historical comparison from 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' to 'House of 1000 Corpses' ” , in: F.LM - Texts on the Film , online edition, April 6, 2009.