Watching a gory film is like sitting through an unexpected therapy session. You settle on the couch as the shrink nudges his horn-rimmed spectacles, encouraging you to tell him all about your problems. Your eyes widen at the prospect of having someone to confide in, but having briefly consulted with your mind – your heart is hesitant. You notice kindness in the shrink’s eyes as you loosen up. You feel comfortable enough to start blithering about how daddy never hugged you enough. You build trust in him and tell him about how the uncle next door hugged you always too tightly and way too regularly. You talk to him about how you had just figured out that your own body was as much of a miracle as a garbage disposal unit. You want him to know that you tried like hell to stop that creepy man from distancing your mind further from your body. The shrink takes off his spectacles as you wonder if you are in the correct position to slouch your head sideways and cry on his shoulder. Much to your surprise and slight dismay, the shrink wipes his brow and promptly puts them back on without offering to help ease your pain.
You hold back the tears and remember that one time mommy didn’t help you with homework because she was busy dealing with your sibling’s allergy. You are completely at ease with the nice man who has been very patient, but oddly distant, with you so far.
You feel a bit restless, so you get up from the couch and saunter around the wooden flooring without saying a word. You notice that the shrink is still rhythmically shaking his head and animatedly scribbling on a spiral-bound notepad. The speed and velocity at which his pen darts back and forth on paper worries you and just for a second – a cold shiver runs up your spinal column.
You shrug it off and settle down on the couch again. You think about other life-changing incidents that you may want to share with him. You recollect that one time a college-mate of yours passed a hilarious but hurtful comment about your tee-shirt collection that made for a very upsetting afternoon.
You are silent for a few minutes now because you are torn about prioritizing your tragic anecdotes. You are unsure about your past an the moments that have led you to where you are right now. All the Freudian slips that made you skid across the slippery slope of puberty. The many upsetting moments in your adult years that demanded elevator music to wordlessly encapsulate the torment.
Suddenly, the shrink gingerly gets up from his chair and moves towards your direction, assuredly mouthing “Please go on”.
He is now only a few inches away from you. He surreptitiously arches his shoulders down as you feel suffocated by the closing gap. You are unsure what to say because you have no clue as to what is happening.
Titling his head to the left in slow-motion, the shrink pulls out a syringe from his coat pocket, grinning like a man who knows that he is about to enjoy the next few moments way more than the world expects him to. You motion to get up from the chair but he quickly takes off his spectacles again, lowering his head and looking at you dead straight in the eyes.
“I said, please go on”
The cold shivers turn into dry ice deposits that send shock waves up and down your spinal column. Your teeth chatter like tiptoeing rain during weekend matinees. You stammer your way out of the blinding fear. Your mind races; your palms turn sweaty and your eyes pale. You fear the worst as he still maintains his posture, only slightly moving his chin sideways now and then in frustration.
“Uhmm ok-k-k-ay, I nev-v-v-v-er got any poc-c-c-c-k-et mon-n-n-ney and all my fr-r-r-r-iends used to..”
At this point, the shrink grunts, looking visibly infuriated.
Just as you stop your sentence midway to ask him if everything was alright, he stabs the syringe lightning fast in your right cheekbone. You scream and go berserk like a sequestered rat. You are shocked to the point that you can’t even instinctively fight back. Your eyes dart around, trying to logically interpret the situation. Is he a murderer? A psychopath? Did you run over his hamster and forget about it? A few seconds later, your eyelids hang heavy like titanium ball-bearings. You feel sleepy.
You wake up to find yourself lying down belly-up. You gasp for air as you try and move your limbs in vain. You realize that you have been gagged and tied up. You want to know why this is happening to you more than how to get out of it alive.
You see the shrink still grinning but now standing threateningly in front of you. You feebly question his actions as he puts on a surgeon’s mask.
“What’s happening? Why are you doing this?”
He looks away and picks up a 14-inch knife from a steel tray nearby, mumbling, “Yes of course, please go on, tell me about your father…” Turning his attention back to you, he leers and screeches, “Your sister, your pet dog… come on, tell me dammit”.
As you think of a reasonable response in hope that he may untie you if you did, he brings the sharp end of the knife across your cheekbone and makes a messy incision. He mouths, “You think you know pain, I’ll show you p….” as your eyes start dropping again and you lose consciousness.
As you regain consciousness, you feel a searing pain in your head. You squirm, noticing the blood dripping by the side of the table and pieces of skin lying haphazardly next to it.
You shriek and you curse at him, mustering up every bit of energy you have left in the tank. But his eyes only vacantly stare at you, bearing as little malevolence as it did kindness.
You start convulsing in fear and anger, pausing to spit blood and bile at him as you demand an explanation. The shrinks gingerly pulls down the mask from the bridge of his nose, revealing a nasty gash on his right cheek. He squints and whispers in a menacing tone.
“This isn’t about me. It’s all about you…oh yes it is, ALL ABOUT YOU!”
Much like that shrink, films with violent content give us the wrong impression most the time. We go in looking for cheap thrills and come out as better human beings. The process isn’t amiable or free off unbelievable pain and discomfort but it teaches us a thing a two about ourselves that we would have remained blind to otherwise. They unravel the mysteries of life with innocence and childlike wonder. Most people who make films about zombies, serial killers, mutants or monstrous mammals have very little patience with the whims and fancies that audiences associate cinema as entertainment with. They have even lesser time to be amazed at how intellectual cinema can be if enough talking and reading is done about its subject matter with like-minded people.
Coupled with the ferocity in which some of these films pace themselves and the arguments in favor of desensitization they engage us with, the end result is like a vicious punch to the side of our necks. We don’t exactly get knocked out, but instead we rest your heads on the base of our palms as our limbs begin to collapse one-by-one. We crumble to the floor with neither charm nor challenge.
Sometimes the cascading levels of gore and violence may leave a bad taste in our mouths. It may even give us unnecessary glimpses into how perverse society is. However it never fails to seduce our stance on pain and its theoretical implications.
Pain is after all an archaic gateway to figuring out what you hold sacred and truly cherish. It tethers us to our inhibitions as much it satiates our innermost desires. It is one of the choicest and the best things in the world but we do our damnedest anyway to trivialize it. Even worse, we sometimes ignore it.
In fact we do cartwheels trying to avoid it. We run away from it. We hate it. We pray for it to go away.
Yet we always learn from it.