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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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My mistake: A heartfelt apology to the makers of RapeLay

I guess I owe the makers of RapeLay, the vile Japanese rape-simulator video game, an apology, at least for headlining my last post "Sleazier Than Any Hollywood Horror Film?"

If I'd only seen the new remake of "The Last House on the Left," which opens everywhere (courtesy of Rogue Pictures) on Friday, I'd have known that no one can top Hollywood when it comes to sleaziness, especially in this new film, which critics are saying is loaded with graphic violence and a prolonged, truly terrifying rape scene. (My thanks to N.Y. Post critic-blogger Kyle Smith for tipping me off.)

Last_house_on_the_left_movie_post_2As any horror fancier would know, the movie is a remake of the 1972 Wes Craven-directed semi-classic, which featured a repugnant Charles Manson-style gang of thugs who raped and tortured two girls to death, prompting their parents to stalk and kill them in equally violent fashion. I saw the movie in film school (where Craven was celebrated as a low-budget horror auteur) on -- if you can believe it -- a double bill with Ingmar Bergman's "Virgin Spring," which chronicles the same essential folk tale of rape and revenge, though in a far less disgusting fashion. ("Virgin Spring" won an Oscar for best foreign-language film of 1960.)

So now we have, in true creatively bankrupt Hollywood fashion, a remake of a remake, the only difference being that the remake is even more graphic and disturbing than the previous film. The film's rape scene has already aroused widespread critical outrage, even from critics who have offered some begrudging admiration for other segments of the film. In his review, the Orlando Sentinel's Roger Moore calls the film "torture porn at its most torturous," bemoaning the film's "graphic rape scene" and images of "shocking sadism and cruelty."

ReelView's James Berardinelli's review calls the rape "one of the most upsetting rape scenes committed to film," while the Arizona Republic's Bill Goodykoontz's review describes it as "truly disturbing." Roger Ebert, the dean of American critics who was actually around to review the first Craven film 35-plus years ago, bluntly called the new film's rape scene "appalling." Having seen a 2005 horror film, "Chaos," which offered an even more nihilistic and cruel take on similar source material, Ebert lamented: "So now my job as a film critic involves grading rape scenes."

So far, few critics -- Berardinelli being a rare exception -- have raised the most glaring issue of all: How is it possible that the MPAA ratings board could give a film with this much brutal, graphic violence an R rating instead of an NC-17? I mean, what would it take for the clueless MPAA, which is supposed to serve concerned parents, not powerful studios, to ever draw the line and say to a filmmaker: "You've gone too far. We won't allow this much violence to be seen on screen." The ratings board is always hyper-vigilant about frontal nudity and consensual sex, but when it comes to blood-drenched violence and depravity, it has caved in, over and over, allowing filmmakers to get away with murder.

I'd like to hear from readers about where you draw the line when it comes to graphic violence. But I'd also like to see more critics take up the cudgels in this debate. If the MPAA is willing to give an R rating to "The Last House on the Left," which would allow me to take a bunch of kids to see this new film, then why shouldn't Amazon be allowed to sell Japan's RapeLay video game? It sounds to me like the movie and the video game are really playing in the same "How low can you go?" ballpark. There comes a time when you have to ask -- when is enough going to be enough?    

RELATED:

RapeLay: Sleazier Than Any Hollywood Horror Film?

 
Comments () | Archives (29)

The comments to this entry are closed.

How do you feel about the torture scene in TAKEN film being classified PG-13?

I heard about your column via GamePolitics ( http://www.gamepolitics.com/2009/03/12/la-times-if-japanese-rape-game-was-banned-amazoncom-why-did-film-brutal-rape-scene-get-r- ). I appreciate that you recognize your "mistake", although it wasn't such a big one, and an apology may have not been necessary. I would add that the movie you're talking about is rated by MPAA, and therefore "belongs" to the movie industry, while RapeLay isn't even rated by ESRB, nor PEGI, nor BBFC (not in my knowledge). So they're even not in the same category.

Now, I can't say much about this movie, but I've seen reviews of RapeLay as well as some YouTube videos, and gamer or not, this is a game that I cannot, don't want to, and will never ever defend. The reason why I play violent and gory games is that despite their violence, I NEVER have the sensation to kill people. This is more like a movie, in which I control the character who kills nothing more than other characters who don't have a real life. Plus, there are some elements that always remind you that you're in a game : the context that isn't realistic (be it sci-fi, world war 2 or zombies) or that is a pure military context that you're not expect to encounter one day. In short, despite violence, there is still a DISTANCE : you do things you cannot do in real life, in a context that you won't encounter in real life, to people or things who don't exist in real life. This is why Grand Theft Auto is sometimes disturbing (though I don't live in a big American town). This is why the distance is already blurred in Manhunt. And this is why RapeLay is totally undefendable.

But once again, it's just my opinion.

"The film's rape scene has already aroused widespread critical outrage..."

To be honest, this is the first I've heard of any outrage over the new Last House rape scene. I guess by "outrage" you mean the reviews of the film that hit today, none of which I've yet read.

That said, I'm not surprised most reviews would focus on the rape scene. Look at how many Watchmen reviewers focused on Dr. Manhattan's penis.

On a side note, Ebert panned I Spit on Your Grave, a great film in my opinion, so I don't hold much stock in his feelings for the new Last House.

"I mean, what would it take for the clueless MPAA, which is supposed to serve concerned parents, not powerful studios, to ever draw the line and say to a filmmaker: "You've gone too far. We won't allow this much violence to be seen on screen."

Because that's not the MPAA's job and it would disgust me if you needed someone to do that. If you think the film is misrated, fine. But if you want it to be NC-17 just so it won't be released, well I take serious issue with that.

Filmmakers can never go to far. There is no line. There is nothing fictional that should be banned from the silver screen. If you don't like it, don't go. If you don't want your kids to see it, don't take them. If you don't want me to see it, tough rocks.

"If the MPAA is willing to give an R rating to "The Last House on the Left," which would allow me to take a bunch of kids to see this new film, then why shouldn't Amazon be allowed to sell Japan's RapeLay video game?"

Giving Last House an R rating also allows me (an adult) to go see it. Of course, that's an issue with most theaters refusing to show NC-17 films and most papers and TV stations refusing to advertise them.

Also, Amazon is allowed to sell Rapelay, it just chose not to.

Andrew Eisen

Yes, we must epater la bourgeoisie. However, torture is torture and violent rape is violent rape, not entertainment, unless you enjoy filming, watching or doing those sorts of things; in which case you are a despicable person, or on the road to becoming one, like Ted Bundy with training wheels. I am against censorship, but believe that these films and games should be rated X. Perhaps violent felons and registered sex offenders should be barred from buying or possessing them as well. Ultimately they merely demonstrate the bankrupt imaginations and banality of their creators and purchasers. Can't anyone come up with an enthralling story anymore? bc

As far as I understand it, the R rating is the most restrictive that can be placed on a movie for violent content; other than leaving it unrated, which would mean it would not be shown in theaters.

The NC-17 rating was introduced to classify movies which have strong sexual content but are not intended to be pornographic. The case in point was the Anais Nin biopic "Henry & June", which had strong erotic and sexual content, but was not porn in the usual sense and had no violent content.
This leads to a bizarre situtaion - I believe some movie rental chains will stock unrated movies, but won't stock NC-17?

NC-17 needs to be applied to violent movies like this one also, in my opinion.

From the MPAA's website....
I can only conclude that the parents on the MPAA board are the gun-toting Christian variety - sex bad, violence good.........????


Parents Rate the Movies
The ratings are decided by a full-time Rating Board located in Los Angeles. There are 10-13 members of the Board who serve for periods of varying length. They work for the Classification and Rating Administration, which is funded by fees charged to producers/distributors for the rating of their films. The MPAA Chairman chooses the Chairman of the Rating Board, thereby insulating the Board from industry or other group pressure. No one in the movie industry has the authority or power to push the Board in any direction or otherwise influence it. One of the highest accolades to be conferred on the rating system is that from its birth in 1968 to this day, there has never been even the slightest jot of evidence that the rating system has deliberately fudged a decision or bowed to pressure. The Rating Board has always conducted itself at the highest level of integrity. That is a large, honorable, and valuable asset. There are no special qualifications for Board membership, except that the members must have a shared parenthood experience, must be possessed of an intelligent maturity, and most of all, have the capacity to put themselves in the role of most American parents so they can view a film and apply a rating that most parents would find suitable and helpful in aiding their decisions about their children and what movies they see.

It's funny how in North America you watch films on TV heavily edited and re-formatted.
But in Europe, they play films on TV the way they were meant to be show -- only they edit out the excessive violence. Nudity is left in, which for some insane reason they find less offensive than graphic, gratuitous violence.

You, Patrick Goldstein, are obviously missing the point of the rape scene all together. It's not senseless at all but completely relevant and crucial to the story. It is meant to be uncomfortable, disgusting and hard to watch. This is very important scene transports the audience from the theater into the film altogether. The parent's anger and revenge is reflected in the audience who should feel connected with the characters, who want as much revenge on Krug and company as the parents do. This is not a summer blockbuster that is meant to entertain and leave people in awe. This is a film in the same vein as Death Wish. This is a sucker punch.
The fact that you are calling for censorship of film is completely irresponsible as you are attempting to put limits on art. Art as a whole is not safe from anything and should never be censored for any reason. What breakthroughs would there be in art, philosphy and modern thinking with censorship and bans?
This film is rated with the appropriated rating and it's not the directors/producers/studios fault if minors sneak in to see it. It is the minor's own fault and there's alone.
I would also suggest you see the film first before passing any judgement instead of relying on word of mouth.

If you were serious, sir, you could have gone to Encino to the Classification and Ratings Administration and spoken with Joan Graves, "woman of international mystery" as you called her, whom your wife somehow found time to interview for "the Stanford alumni magazine." (!) You could have gone to the MPAA in Washington and spoken to Dan Glickman -- or to the National Association of Theater Owners and spoken to John Fithian. Or you could have spoken to Kirby Dick, whose exposé on CARA caused a brief and useless uproar, and asked him why the ratings board still works in secret. You could have, but you didn't, because you have moguls to flatter. So you did as so many entertainment writers would do: you gassed self-servingly. No, you are not serious.

Patrick,

It is impossible to get an NC-17 for violence, short of an actual snuff film.

The hypocrisy is obvious.

Roger

 
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