Damian “The Time Warp”
Sex sells; it really is as simple as that. Case in point; I recall working in a video store at around the time when erotic thriller 9½ Weeks was released, and it soared off the shelves faster than sperm from a slalom. Men in their fifties would dawdle around feigning interest in The Purple Rose of Cairo, biding their time until the gridlock had abated, then scampering to the check-out sheepishly with said film cloaked behind whatever PG-rated floss they could lay their clammy paws on earliest. This heralded often hilarious results as beneath The Wizard of Oz would be The Wizard of Jizz and I’m fairly assured the tin men’s lack of heart wasn’t an issue in that one. Dorothy just wanted his big copper dick pressed up against her tonsils and those cute dimples on her cheeks were caused by excessive suction. Even the cowardly lion wasn’t blame free, he was just on probation.
Once the transaction had concluded the shady-looking customer would slip it into whichever compartment was accommodatingly enough sized, lick his chapped lips, set straight his rapist bifocals and hurriedly recoil, dragging behind him the last remaining strand of their dignity. There was an unspoken covenant in such instances. No eye contact, certainly no verbal interface, hasty hand wash until they hemorrhaged due to handling their congealed currency, and commencement to profusely spray the fixtures and fittings akin to a maniacal exterminator until the faint whiff of urine and/or semen had subsided. Back then it was considered shameful to rent such low-grade trash and earned you the unwanted mantle of pervert. How the worm has turned.
After the eighties we hastily moved into what Keeper refers to as the channel zero generation. Soap operas were blighting the seemingly lobotomized like a cancer, MTV allowed artists to scrutinize their sexualities a little more candidly, and stances were starting to alter somewhat. Progressively through the nineties and chiefly the noughties the line in the sand began to edge further back, and now that you can access the web in an abandoned bunker miles away from civilization, the anesthetized adolescents can access porn simply by entering prom into a search engine. It’s never been more fun being dyslexic.
If video stores hadn’t all gone the way of the dodo by now, then, I’m assured, they would see a different clientele entirely. Elderly married couples would now shuffle to the pay point with Debbie Does Dallas without compunction, no more long brown trench-coats or spectacles of molestation, and no more craggy semen-encrusted bank notes, cum-sodden plastic has long substituted them. It seems as though standpoints have softened considerably and that is part and parcel of the modern world we live in. We have long since become desensitized to the sight of the naked form and this hasn’t affected the porn industry one iota. Sex is profit…period! If you produced an educational film about the best way to knead dough and called it Titties then it would open baking up to an entirely different audience, many of whom would be bitterly disappointed I might add.
I recall my first ever introduction to Porky’s as an adolescent on the cusp of the big shake-up. Myself and a couple of excitable affiliates managed to obtain a rental copy and decided it was high time we see what all the fuss was about. The cassette was required to be entered downstairs, a splitter cable then transmitting the signal to a channel manually tuned upstairs. Our plan appeared airtight. However, on this particular occasion, my parents switched channels in the nick of time to be formally introduced to Paulie the Penis as he slid through a hole in the shower cubicle, one eye glaring at dozens of derobed co-eds with disheveled bushes and perky breasts more well-rounded and authentic than anything we had seen up until that point. Talk about bamboozled, my shamed associates were sent packing and I commenced damage limitation detail from crouching position as none of my blood supply was in my head at that juncture.
Sex and horror have remained unified through all the change and animalistic uncertainty; it never stopped being a prerequisite for any low-budget horror movie to contain a few flashes of skin. The two most taboo of genres supplement each other like a stiff dick and a gym sock, eighties slasher offering prime example of the titty tick-box exercise as its skinny dipping co-eds would invariably meet the business end of one garden utensil or another but not before gifting us a quick eyeful of their mammalia. Alas, they were customarily slaughtered moments after for breaking the cardinal rule but, by this time, we were content and processing the image in our mental viewfinders for later.
In addition to slasher flying the pink flag, filmmakers like David Cronenberg were casting the likes of delicious porn starlet Marilyn Chambers as their leads, strengthening the association between erotica and horror further. Films like Sidney J Furie’s The Entity and Ken Russell’s The Lair of The White Worm had strong sexual connotations, celebrating this with audacious artwork which turned the head through carnal imagery and consequently enjoying a new lease of life on VHS. Then there was Jörg Buttgereit’s Nekromantik movies although the world wasn’t quite ready for these just yet. Come to think of it, I’m not entirely sure it is now.
Then there’s the whole Alien debate. HR Giger’s emphatic design template for the xenomorphs was more than vaguely phallic. Let’s consider the facts shall we? I’ve been presented with a real-life facehugger and it was no less terrifying to the one which John Hurt attempted cunnilingus with. As for the chest burster; well that was a cock in all but testicles. Having said that, my member doesn’t open up to reveal a smaller set of jaws, and I’m thankful for that omission. Make no mistake though, that alien only had designs of getting inside Ripley and it finally got its wish by the third installment after it wore down her defenses and she offered it a quickie. It would likely argue that it was all about procreation but I know better. Xenomorphs are little more than undersexed space mutants when all is said and done and, what’s more, they make no attempt to conceal it.
More recently, Matt Farnsworth’s seminal social media slasher The Orphan Killer made glorious use of the supple curves of the mouth-watering Diane Foster and to absolute maximum effect. Her raw sexuality is in delicious contrast to the brutalities dished out by Marcus Miller and she has become every bit as iconic as the killer of the title. The ABCs of Death also highlights the direct linkage between erotica and horror with many of the 26 directors tasked with crafting their unique depiction of death, choosing to marry it with sexual themes and other anthologies such as Little Deaths, which means orgasm in French, keeping the affiliation strong.
Ultimately it all boils down to illicit yearning, both genres dish out adrenaline rushes the likes of which mainstream movies just don’t tender. Erotica is all about channeling the blood to one concentrated area, the hub of our genitalia; whereas horror gives you that shot of adrenaline directly to your crux, causing enormously augmented heart-rates and citing similarly sweaty palms. Once combined, you have a somewhat potent amalgamation of lust and terror the likes of which can’t be obtained any other way outside of masturbating with a cheese grater but that’s just plain demented and only mildly enjoyable.
It is also worth noting that Hammer and Amicus were taking advantage of this fusion of styles long before the eighties and if you want to be facetious then it’s always been present, just not as openly suggestive. Nowadays with thickened pelts and more open sexuality it isn’t as well documented, but the nuptials remain as strong as ever. A fair amount of intoxication can be gleaned if the harmony is precise and, being an overtly visual creature, that suits me just dandy. So as long as saucy sex kittens like Diane Foster are taking tantalizing rub-downs before our glazed eyes, we’ll always tune in. Thirty years down the track and my viewfinder is still operational. Meanwhile, I still don’t possess a single pair of identical socks all these years later. I blame it on my need to make a statement but really I know the truth. Once a wanker, always a wanker I suppose.