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Roland Joffé, the film-maker behind the significant critical hits The Killing Fields (1984) and The Mission (1986), employed a hypnotic aesthetic, which unflinchingly…
Roland Joffé, the film-maker behind the significant critical hits The Killing Fields (1984) and The Mission (1986), employed a hypnotic aesthetic, which unflinchingly depicted violence and brutality within different cultural contexts. In 2007, he used a no less impressive aesthetic in a similar way, although this film, Captivity, was met with public outcry, including from self-proclaimed feminist film-maker Joss Whedon. This was based upon the depiction, in advertisements, of gendered violence in the popularly termed ‘torture porn’ subgenre, which itself has negative gendered connotations.
We aim to revisit the critical reception of Captivity in light of this public controversy, looking at the gendered tensions within considerations of genre, narration and aesthetics. Critics assumed Captivity was an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the torture horror subgenre, and there is evidence that the film-makers inserted scenes of gore throughout the narrative to encourage this affiliation. However, this chapter will consider how the film works as both an example of post-peak torture horror and an interesting precursor to more overtly feminist horror, such as A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) and Raw (2017). This is seen through the aesthetic and narrative centralizing of a knowing conflict between genders, which, while not entirely successful, does uniquely aim to provide commentary on the gender roles which genre criticism of horror has long considered implicit to the genre’s structures and pleasures.