I went into Captive Horror Week with very low expectations. When I thought of that type of movie, my mind immediately went to the “torture porn” or Saw sequels/rip-offs that flooded the market for a while. While elements of that appeared in a lot of the movies, most of them seemed to focus on other aspects while still playing with the power dynamic that comes from a captor/captive situation. Except for The Human Centipede. That movie is still awful and I can’t believe they are making a third one of those already.
I feel like Captive Horror is a style that has a lot of potential within it to have interesting stories arise depending on how it is handled. In Hunger you had the story be about the captivity and the captives dealing with being trapped while the captor was entirely separate from what was going on. Alternately, in One Thousand Cuts, the story was all about the interaction between captor and captive and where the responsibility for what is happening lies between the two of them. There is a lot of space to play with what aspect of the captor and captive is supposed to be frightening.
The captivity itself is also one of the things that is a staple of horror in general. Being trapped and not having the ability to escape is a very real fear that many people have, claustrophobia and variations thereof, so playing upon that is a natural choice. It also represents a loss of control that frightens many people. The thought that you might wake up and have your surroundings and everything you’ve worked for stripped away and put in a situation where you are forced to exist according to someone else’s whims is a terrifying notion.
At the core, I think most of these stories tend to be about the struggle. The real drama and tension comes from the characters attempting to break free from the bondage they have been placed in and regain their freedom. It’s why when a movie like Die shows most of the characters just sort of going along with things that it feels a bit bland. Without that defiance of circumstances out of your control, the captivity no longer becomes a threat or something that seems scary. This is really what separates a good movie of this type from a bad one. The good ones will highlight the struggle and the success or failure of the captive will be reliant on their actions. A bad one will either contain no struggle or trivialize it in some way like in the Saw sequels where most of the contraptions just seem to be rigged to kill people regardless.
I’d definitely say I’ve become much more open to the Captive Horror type in general. When done well, I think it is right up there with the Monster focused movies for being able to have some type of obscured social commentary. However it comes at it in a much more relatable way such that it becomes easier for the casual observer to understand what the movie is trying to get at. Watching My Little Eye, it’s going to be easier for the audience to get more of the commentary on reality TV and so on than it generally is for someone watching, say, Dawn of the Dead to understand the commentary on consumer culture. Going forward, I will probably end up giving more of these types of movies a chance instead of the flippant dismissal I had reserved for them.