NIGHT OF THE LIVING CENSORS

By: David Cantwell


Today's horror film is Hollywood's equivalent of rap and metal. Slasher flicks share an audience with those maligned musics as they portray youthful heroes who are ultimately stronger than the movie monsters they battle and who are the only ones around savvy enough to see that the world is terrifyingly screwed up. And these films feature killers--like Freddy Kreuger--who graphically rebel against society's laws and authority figures (parents, police, ministers). It's easy to see why the audience identifies more closely with the villain's victims (or even with the villains) than with the authority figures, since these characters better represent their feelings of subordination and alienation. Like the best rap and metal, horror classics from Halloween to The Evil Dead speak powerfully to the most neglected and disenfranchised group in the land: teens.

So it's no wonder the horror film has become the new pop culture bogeyman. In 1989, the Missouri legislature passed a "Slasher Law," placing violent material under obscenity regulations. Retailers were required to keep horror films in a separate section, just like XXX material, and were forbidden to rent films lacking "serious...value" to anyone under 17.

Although this law was ruled unconstitutional on July 2, the judge objected only to the law's broad language, not its intent to censor. The state's attorney general is preparing an appeal.

It's disturbing that slasher films can cause even the hippest pop culture advocates to being using a vocabulary--"corrupting," "morbid," "trash"--better suited to Jean Dixon. With that kind of hypocrisy, the slasher-bashers will be successful in their censorship rampage. Once they establish one "protect the teens" precedent, we know who they're gonna slash next.

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