Have Your Say: Should Horror Have Limits? Did FrightFest Ident Go Too Far? (NSFW)

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Have Your Say: Should Horror Have Limits? Did FrightFest Ident Go Too Far? (NSFW)

Last month, at the UK's foremost horror festival, Film 4 FrightFest, a debate began to rage between critics, general festival-goers, and the organisers, over the suitability of some of their content. However it was not a confrontational feature film that sparked this furore amongst hardened, seasoned horror aficianados, but a bumper, or "ident", as they are called. A number of these short public service announcements, commissioned by FrightFest, were screened throughout the weekend, all conveying the same message to patrons to "Turn Off Your Bloody Phone!" in a variety of violent and gory ways. There were decapitations, slashings, hackings and even a smart Videodrome parody, but one particular PSA rubbed many people the wrong way. 

In each ident, the audience is asked to sympathise with the over-the-top, murderous outrage of a frustrated movie-goer, who simply wants to watch the movie in peace. However there have been numerous accusations - from some of Britain's most revered film critics - that one film lost its way. Entitled The Pencil, the ident (directed by Can Evrenol) shows a young man venting his frustration on the attractive female audience member in front of him when she refuses to stop texting during the movie. However, the method in which he vanquishes his foe garnered a number of complaints. 

Bear in mind that this particular short was screened ahead of Franck Kalhoun's Maniac remake in the midnight slot on Saturday night, and so was consciously aware that even by FrightFest audience standards, it was likely to have found the most open-minded and hard-to-faze subsection of the crowd. But, for some, it remained a step too far.

BE WARNED - THE IDENT IS VERY UNSAFE SAFE FOR WORK - but if you are in a safe environment, take a look at it and let us know what you think. Is The Pencil a delightfully tasteless bit of late night black humour, or does it cross a line that should never be crossed? Does it, as one critic pointed out on Twitter yesterday, miss the point as the "Killer isn't [SPOILER] to stop her texting - he's doing it to get off"? 

You'll also find a link below to eight more idents screened throughout FrightFest to give you a little more context, but then we would love to hear what you have to say. Should horror be held up by limits of taste and decency, or - like comedy - should nothing be taboo and filmmakers be given free rein to push the boundaries however they see fit?

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Watch the other FrightFest indents here
luskasSeptember 5, 2012 5:25 AM

Let me tell you where I'm coming from. I'm an avid fan of horror movies. In two weeks time I'll be attending the horror movie festival Motelx (www.motelx.org), and I watch them regularly throughout the year. I consider myself as a very hard-to-faze person. Now, I also have my limits. I draw the line at somethings while leaving it wide open at others. An example, the baby thing in A Serbian Film was enough for making me not want to see the film, but nothing in Martyrs was too much for me, disturbing yes, but not too much.

My opinion is that filmmakers should be allowed to go where they want to, no limits. That goes for every type of movie, comedy, action, porn, whatever. It's up to the audience whether they want to see it or not.

Regarding this particular short, it does nothing for me. I don't feel disturbed by it, I just think it's stupid. I mean the guy even blocks the view for those behind him! Making me want to kill him for that. How can I sympathize with that?!!??!
But I can understand why some people may have felt disturbed by it.

godsaremonstersSeptember 5, 2012 5:43 AM

For me putting that on screen transformed the concept from a stupid hacky joke to a stupid male empowerment fantasy. I'm not a huge fan of the sexual assault/rape joke genera, but thats not to say its never funny or that it should be taboo.
Really its all up to the organizers of the festival. If they thought this was worthy of showing then its their show and their standards. They are the ones that are ultimately responsible if their audience has an issue. I don't think this extremely stupid short shouldn't exist. Just don't expect everybody to be in on your lazy ,misogynistic "joke".
And at lease the actor didn't mind it implying he had a pencil dick.

Ard VijnSeptember 5, 2012 6:13 AM

If you visit FrightFest and have seen several films, each with a gory anti-phone message in front of it, then this is pretty funny seeing as how it's specifically placed in front of MANIAC.

Taken out of that context, or even if MANIAC would happen to be the first film you see at the festival, I can see this would be baffling and extremely tasteless.

terminal83September 5, 2012 6:33 AM

I can definitely see how out of context the indent could be considered tasteless or even misogynistic, but the point of the indents is to promote silence by gory and extremely over the top manners. I think we're all much too sensitive and easily shocked these days. How did we become so marshmallow?

MadWolfSeptember 5, 2012 7:18 AM

That was just Stupid... The guy made his "point" by stabbing her right? People will do anything for a laugh these dayz...

SonaBoySeptember 5, 2012 9:37 AM

That girl's gonna be a star.

Greg ChristieSeptember 5, 2012 12:03 PM

And this has been showing up all over my newsfeed the past 24 hours and dozens of major sites.

Good, bad, funny, tasteless. It worked hasn't it? All Hail the internet! Frightfest isn't necessarily a piss small festival, I'm familiar with it, and it's been around for a good 12 years, but it never really had much international acclaim to it until the past the 2 or 3 years. The Fantastic Fest has set the standard for genre festivals. Everyone wants to turn their small genre focused fests into international press junkets. You need gimmicks, and these guys are even stealing anti phone/offensive PSA's from Fantastic Fest to get that attention.

Can we blame them? Did Fantastic Fest not run a bumper contest back in 2009 for films that showcased children in danger which led to dozens of funny, offensive videos of children being killed?

That was far more successful. Why?

Well, Fantastic Fest is the biggest of the big, they attract real filmmakers with real talent. This is what happens when a smaller fest emulates them with half the resources and pull. This is stupid. Does it cross a line? Not really. Is it offensive, slightly, but it's trying to be. It's trying to get attention, and obviously, it's worked. It's on fucking Gawker for Christ sake.

As far as most horror nuts go, S&Man is kinda the final word on the scene. I mean, this is a festival that programmed Hidden in the Woods this year right? Half the films playing are about women being slaughtered, the majority of the entire fucking horror genre is about men horrified, and rejected by women who in return kill them. So this is kind of appropriate for a horror festival no? it's kind of meta really. Then again, everything is meta, and that's why everything sucks now.

Also, to respond to Terminal83, I don't know what you're thinking. If anything we've become desensitized, not marshmellow. Cannibal holocaust was SHOCKING back in the 70's, now, hipsters get the poster art as tattoos.I weep for our culture. This silly little video isn't necessarily graphic, but for this to be the short played before films, to be representative of the entire film festival, a man cumming in a woman's head after he murders/rapes her as a joke? Yeah, if we should just shrug our shoulders at that material without being able to even discuss it at all, means we're apathetic fucking fools. No one is saying this should banned, I think we're just asking, what does it mean that this is perfectly acceptable? We might like to think Exploitation films were more transgressive back in the 70's, but all the kids who grew up with Tarintino fail to realize that exploitation films were underground entertainment, they were mostly marketed as porn and played at the same theaters as porn. They weren't mainstream, now today, everything is mainstream. Bu then again, in two or three mouse clicks, you can watch the real thing. So what's the point?

WhyOfFrySeptember 5, 2012 12:15 PM

Thumbs up! I can't add anything to Mr. Greg Christies comment.
Except: I would have liked the ident more if the person in front of the murderer was a fat old guy. Or a robot. Or a combination of the two.

heatbagSeptember 5, 2012 12:50 PM

Horror shouldn't have limits but it should have context.

Having just watched the bumper, I think we can all agree that from a purely mechanical level, it is probably nothing any Twitch reader hasn't seen before.

However, it is also pretty clear from a quick watch where the problems with it are stemming from.

At this moment in history, there is battle over women, their bodies, their place in society and feminism. Be it in the US Congress or in the realm of gaming. It's a raw nerve in the public consciousness being openly debated and discussed as we speak.

As you are probably all aware, the horror genre has historically been an excellent place to explore feminist issue. No matter where you fall on the subject. And many smart (and stupid) films have used horror tropes to delve into it.

The problem with this particular 40 seconds, however, is that it isn't acknowledging or discussing any issues. It is completely deaf to or unaware of the world that it exists in.

As a result, it becomes a problem. Nothing exists in a vacuum and it becomes difficult to view this as anything other than a sign of indifference to the casual abuse of women.

https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawnJw2-0LHvDzfqYLvp9KvzdtfjaV60h36sSeptember 5, 2012 12:55 PM

Ok,after the introduction, I wxpected something REALLY over the top disturbing/violent. But that clip was just some harmelss bad humor. I just laughed and wondered what the fuzz was all about.

SaltonerSeptember 5, 2012 1:17 PM

Anyone who writes more than a paragraph about this is over-thinking what they just watched. It's bad taste, it's repulsive, it's funny, it's EVERYTHING horror represents! Everyone needs to calm down and if you want some real horror news to talk about, read an article about Syria.

Greg ChristieSeptember 5, 2012 1:48 PM

Ugh, such an easy and boring comment to deflate sociological debate. Yeah, this is all inconsequential, trivial stuff. Anything and everything in the first world is rendered completely petty and inconsequential when compared to real wars and third world conflicts. But sure, in any comment thread that gets heated, there's always, the snarky guy who takes the time to respond by saying it's stupid to respond and there's real problems in the world. No shit, Sherlock. But to suggest that anyone who's provoked or inspired to think about gender roles,violence, and notions of what's taboo is apathetic for not be concerned enough with a tragic foreign conflict that has no bearing on their life is unfair and self righteous in a contradictory way. Forums like this provide a relief from the real world, an excursion from some boring, tepid day job. This is captivating the blog-o-sphere because it's indicative of something bigger in regards to contemporary popular culture where there are no taboos anymore, and what does that mean? When serial killers are now internet celebrities where we can watch their films, and the line between snuff and entertainment is becoming more and more blurred, I'm not condemning anything. But you're right, I'm beneath you because I haven't spent my morning crying over starving children in Africa. I guess I'm a pretty horrible human being for wasting my time reading this shit. Still, this little shot would have been 100% unacceptable material as a bumper for any film festival 20 years ago outside of a Nick Zed, Annie Sprinkle, Richard Kern collective screening at a Greenwich Village gallery. And this is site isn't AICN. This is a site for those who are passionate about film and the film market, industry. This stupid, and disgusting short represents a bigger, growing trend in the entire scene. So for those of us who work in that scene, are passionate about the scene, this is a hot talking point.

Tom StoneSeptember 5, 2012 2:41 PM

The original was far more graphically suggestive and this digital version seems to have been altered, but I always thought the cover of this 2009 program for the Sydney Underground Film Festival pushed things too far...
http://suff.com.au/documents/archives/programs/2009program.pdf


I remember at the time wondering how the female patrons and organizers of the festival felt about it. Although they did this the previous year, so not sure what else I should have expected... http://suff.com.au/documents/archives/programs/2008program.pdf

trojinxx24September 5, 2012 3:43 PM

I didn't have so much of a problem with the skit as a whole. It did definitely not convey the message the psa was supposed to illuminate, but it did invite plenty of discussion. My main beef besides the lack of a direct message, don't text or get skull fucked isn't viable lol, was did we really need to see cum drip out of her mouth and onto the phone?! Wasn't aware that horror had crossed into porn territory.

godsaremonstersSeptember 5, 2012 4:28 PM

Well said.

damon.rickardSeptember 5, 2012 5:20 PM

Firstly it's unfair to label Frightfest as little. And stating it doesn't attract real filmmakers with real talent is just disrespectful to the people who show their films there. Yes not all are good and Hidden In The Woods was awful but most of the films are good or excellent. Of the 50 odd films they showed, I think only 5 had representation of misogyny (not quite the half stated - try getting the facts first). So the comment that this is all it's about (and us horror nuts seem to care about as well - please do some research before stereotyping us) could only come from someone criticising it that hasn't even attended!

Considering the writer of Hollywood fare such as Sinister turned up as did Jennifer (daughter of David) Lynch. Oh and Greg Nicotero (effects maestro of some of the most successful films of all time), Simon Pegg, Dario Argento (yes that small Italian filmmaker who is obviously not a real director with real talent) . Films with support and producers from the likes of Eli Roth and Sam Raimi (well I gues his Spiderman films did only gross over a billion dollars). Actors such as Michelle Ryan, Ross Noble, Katherine Isabelle. This is just to name a few.

The screen holds 1400 people (whilst that might not be massive, it isn't small) and sells out for 5 days with people and the talent traveling from all over the world to be there. There is also the fact that smaller films recognise the festival as a way to launch into bigger distribution deals if it plays well such is the influence of the festival. So before belittling a festival you don't know anything about please research it or even better attend it!

The short was part of a series of spoof horror ads to get people to turn their phones off (following it becoming a running joke last year). That's it. It's riffing on the types of imagery you can get in horror. Nothing more, nothing less. They went down a storm at the fest but this doesn't suggest the people watching it are sick or small minded. In fact the festival is full of some of the most intelligent people I have met. We just understand the difference between fantasy and reality and where imagery is trying to suggest some form of pencil rape or it's just trying to be inventive and gratuitous. This was certainly the latter.

I am aware of the horror in this world and watching a film doesn't change that fact. Stopping horror films doesn't stop the atrocities is Syria so why connect them? Why are you not just as concerned at the millions of people tuning in to see who won The X Factor? Why simply label horror films as not recognising the world (if you actually had an appreciation of the genre you would find a number of them either satirise or provide political comment on the world today and have important messages. You may laugh at that statement but until you watch enough horror films to know then please refrain from mocking what I said). Some horror films are awful but so are some comedies and some dramas etc etc are films that have over the top gore more dangerous than a film that promotes and glamorises gang violence??

People are down on horror simply because they don't like it and therefore others are wrong to do so. You'll find the average horror aficionado is one of the most well adjusted people you will meet. More so than someone letting their two year old enter a beauty pageant, more so than someone who believes it is right to kill someone because they are gay (oh yes the harmless religious people who don't think horror is good for people). I could go on. But I won't. If you still think horror is disgusting, degrades people and damages people then I doubt saying anything more will change your mind but please don't post things attacking a group of people you haven't even tried to understand or attack their festival because it's not the oh so mighty Fantastic Fest!

SaltonerSeptember 5, 2012 5:43 PM

You like to hear yourself talk! Nice to know people like to bury their head in the sand by saying what happens in Syria, or anywhere else that isn't inside their home doesn't effect them? Seriously? And my point wasn't to say it's dumb overall, it's just dumb in this instance. It's a 30 second bumper that the vast majority of people will NEVER see. If you want to talk about actual film that gets people riled up, then by all means I'm ready to have an intelligent, heated conversation about it. That was my point. If I didn't think entertainment was worth while for passionate discussion, then why the hell would I even be looking at this site? I also completely disagree with you about snuff and entertainment blurring the line, again, take a look at REAL llife. Watch ANY movie with severe violence, then YouTube Bud Dwyer and tell me you can't tell the difference? It's night and fucking day. This site is for anyone with a love for entertainment, not just snobs working in the industry. You must work at a lousy company, cause I also work in the field of entertainment, and my job is far from boring and tepid.

Greg ChristieSeptember 5, 2012 6:50 PM

Alright, by no means did I intend to fully slight Fright Fest, I'm not saying that it's little or inept in any way. I explicitly said the opposite actually. But you're having a knee jerk reaction to knee jerk reactions. It's very well established horror festival that I'm sure is run by great, passionate people. And my remarks in comparing it to Fantastic Fest was intended mostly as snark. I was formally on the Fantastic Fest love train and still admire and respect what the Alamo has accomplished, but I think its singular influence on almost all other genre festivals is undeniable and not necessarily for the best with this whole rockstar approach to everything.The film festival scene, particularly genre festival scene has been formed into something else entirely due to the international online media blitz of Fantastic Fest is mostly due to Aint it Cool News. I can think of no fucking genre festival that got media coverage by internationally syndicated television networks, that has as large of an online presence. That's not a slight to other festivals. But in the past few years, it just seems that a lot of festivals are now trying to compete, up the anty. By no means do I mean to insult the hard work and ambitions of everyone involved with Fright Fest and I apologize if I did . You probably didn't read everything I wrote, and why should you? it's just a comment on a forum on a blog. I'm just saying this is part of a bigger issue, specifically, with where the internet has taken us and how hard it is for festivals and horror filmmakers to remain successful and compete in such an over saturated market. Everything is becoming more and more extreme to get them site hits. I would suspect Fright Fest popped up on more twitter feeds, facebook posts, and goggle search lists today than it ever has before. And it took a guy cumming in a dead woman's head to do that. I'm not insulting the festival, I'm insulting the entire internet. Also, I do have to say, if you're going to present intentionally provocative, offensive, and controversial material such as this, you're going to need thicker skin. Play with fire you get burned, showcase incredibly grotesque and intentionally confrontational material, you can't be angered if people are pissed by it. Wasn't that the point? This OBVIOUSLY wasn't intended for deep analyzing and I nor anyone else so far on this thread is suggesting that people who are entertained by this are sick, degenerate serial killers. But I will say, this was ugly and mean spirited. But I also think it's appropriate for a horror festival but there is something to this that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, excuse the pun, and I think it's all in the shot with the cum coming out of her mouth. It's pornographic, it's meant to be, the joke is watching the attractive woman rendered a dead cum bucket and it's undeniably tied to gender social politics. To just shrug that off is ignorant. As an avid horror fan and festival curator that screened Dead Hooker in a Trunk organized with live burlesque, I'm not politically correct or some prude, but I never would have shown this bumper at a festival, It's not clever enough to earn that "money shot." It's worth talking about without condemning others. I'm not condemning the horror scene, no one here is. That said, this and Hidden in the Woods are things I think ought to be fucking questioned. I think we ought look at ourselves and ask why do we want to seek out the most fucked up things we can. And if that's insulting everyone who's involved with the festival, they probably shouldn't be doing this.

Kwenton BelletteSeptember 5, 2012 8:23 PM

Grrr stupid video is private, can someone describe what happens? He kills her with a pencil and it is sexually suggestive, or more overt than that?

https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawm3tBF4TMkU8jFhWt4JpGEdM69jxF75M6wSeptember 5, 2012 9:37 PM

ha ha... i really shouldn't leave a comment because a) i'm drunk and b) i am good friends with the director! Go Can!
But I said at the time this was 'Post Serbian Film-having-a-laugh'.... and to take it more seriously sums up how obsessive some horror fans are who should really grow up or grow balls or both.
This was brilliant irony and only offended stuck up horror people.
The audience cheered and applauded when it screened (at midnight!)... are they wrong?
Can's film just reflected the state of the (horror genre) world... its not pretty... deal with it and don't shoot the messenger.

Why am I posting this? Alex C.
I love you all!

Corey MitchellSeptember 5, 2012 9:50 PM

These comments have gotten me very excited to see HIDDEN IN THE WOODS. Thanks for the tip!

luskasSeptember 7, 2012 10:28 AM

Wow... I like porn, and I have no problem with nudity or the exploitation of women on movies, I'm european by the way so I'm used to nudity on street ads, but those posters are so bad... the photoshop, the design, the colors, and the horrible use of women, they look like a 5min job from a 12yo... Even porn festivals have better posters... Like this:

http://img.filmous.com/static/photos/102058/poster.jpg

damon.rickardSeptember 8, 2012 10:51 AM

Don't say we didn't warn you!! :)

damon.rickardSeptember 8, 2012 11:07 AM

I did read your whole bit and it was thought through and I agreed with some of what you said but it was comments such as
"Fantastic Fest is the biggest of the big,they attract real filmmakers with real talent. This is what happens when a smaller fest emulates them with half the resources and pull. This is stupid"
and
"As far as most horror nuts go, S&Man is kinda the final word on the scene. I mean, this is a festival that programmed Hidden in the Woods this year right? Half the films playing are about women being slaughtered, the majority of the entire fucking horror genre is about men horrified, and rejected by women who in return kill them"
It was hard to take this any other way then you saying its little or inept.
I strongly recommend you coming to Fright Fest next year to see what it's really like. I may have only gotten international acclaim over the last few years but it didn't have the backing of one of the most powerful websites in movie land. It was just a few genre fans wanting to share their passion with like-minded folk. Naturally to keep the money coming in and to get better sponsorship etc they need to do gimmicky things to keep it fresh and these were perfect fodder for the intended audience. I don't think there was any intent for hot topic discussion outside of the fest. And this only makes the festival better for those of us that attend. So I feel it is a little unfair to be attacking it from a social/deeper meaning standpoint just because you didn't like it. You also have to remember that the people that were in these shorts are people that attend the festival and so that made it all seem all the more special for us. They were made for us and for the festival.

If you want to see some of last year's specially made films that were in homage to John Carpenter then go to http://www.frightfest.co.uk/FrightFestTV/johncarpentertrb.html
It might help show you more of what the festival is about.

By the way, massive cudos on the Dead Hooker In A Trunk screening - the Twisted Twins were at Fright Fest premiering their new offering, American Mary and it was outstanding. And they themselves were one of the highlights of the festival. Love the idea of having done it with a live burlesque too.

And I 100% completely agree with your opinion on Hidden In The Woods.

Corey MitchellSeptember 8, 2012 2:07 PM

LOL! I have a strong stomach so I should be okay. Thanks, though