Cinema has changed a lot over the decades. There is better representation and portrayal of minorities and the storytelling has gotten much better. However, not all the changes have been good. In today’s theaters, even the silliest movies seem to have a deeper message. Whatever happened to good old fashion exploitation films?
Case in point: Blue Underground recently released Lucio Fulci’s 1982 gory giallo The New York Ripper. The infamous film is about a serial killer in New York who sounds like Donald Duck. It is violent and sexist and still has not been released uncut in the United Kingdom. The plot is is simplistic but it also makes a person think. After watching the movie, I could not help but wonder why nothing like this is made today?
Let’s get something straight. The New York Ripper is not particularly good. It is neither a groundbreaking nor creative movie. The twists do not make sense and the ripper’s identity is fairly easy to figure out. It has great gore effects and not much else. It is the rare movie that has nothing positive to say. One can even argue the fact that it is morally bankrupt.
But here’s the thing. Next to all the blood, mayhem, and leering misogynistic cameras there is an entertaining movie. It is one that revels in it in its excesses and wants to take its audience on an entertaining, if disgusting, ride. It is the type of gorefest that Rob Zombie wishes he could make. The New York Ripper is the kind of movie you watch and enjoy then move on with your day.
A few months ago, I wrote about how messages do not have to be shoehorned into every movie. The New York Ripper is at the opposite end of that extreme. It has absolutely nothing to say. Here is a movie that is unapologetically for fans of the genre and has no other aspirations. It is a mindless story involving sex, violence, and Disney characters.
In the rush to force commentary into everything, studios have forgotten the best received messages are delivered naturally. Why aren’t there more movies like Booksmart? Olivia Wilde’s 2019 coming of age story addresses current issues and proceeds to tell an enjoyable and fun story. Why do audiences need more movies like The Hate U Give? When did delivering important social commentary and eliminating all entertainment value become the same thing? For decades, studios have fought against the idea that movies lead to violence. What makes them think they will change the world in a positive way?
This does not mean that movies should never have a deeper message. Along with providing entertainment, film can also be a way to create dialogue. The best ones can even change the way people think. These types of stories are an essential part of the film industry. Mindless distractions are a necessary part of life, but people cannot live on a steady diet of nothing.
This all leads to the main point. There are plenty of films that try to deliver a message and there are those that are entertaining, but where are the exploitation films? Have we reached a point in human society that we are too good for mindless sex and violence? Based on the Internet, it is obvious that vacuous entertainment is still extremely popular. If we have it on YouTube why can’t we have it in our theaters? Hell, the most a YouTube video can hope for is to go viral. A great exploitation movie can inspire filmmakers forever.
There have been plenty of attempts at providing great exploitation. Torture porn films got the extreme violence down but they are also boring and are a chore to watch. Quentin Tarrantino is obviously inspired by grindhouse films, but he is also a great filmmaker whose work is too well made to provide the foolish fun the best exploitation does. Nowadays, films go way over the top or take themselves too seriously. No one seems to be willing to give fans a fun story about nothing more than sex and violence.