In a genre dominated by gore and torture porn (Hostel and Saw), a film like Otis brings a much needed laugh break to the carnage. The titul...

Otis: Political Comedy meets Torture Porn


In a genre dominated by gore and torture porn (Hostel and Saw), a film like Otis brings a much needed laugh break to the carnage. The titular character is Otis, a 40 year old pizza delivery guy with a hard on for his sister-in-law (Kim) and a desire to live out his brother's football glory days. To satisfy these secret yearnings he kidnaps young blonde nymphets and keeps them chained up in his basement. Once trapped, he plays out an elaborate fantasy where he courts "Kim" and takes her to the prom in his trans am. But when the girls refuse to "play-play along" he kills them and cuts their bodies into bits.
But Otis isn't the only killer in this movie. When the Lawson family finds out who kidnapped their little girl Riley, they're out for blood and mistakenly torture and kill Otis's brother. Otis is a smart little film that takes the torture elements of torture porn, which echoes the very real atrocities of places like Abu Ghraib, and gives it a message--criticizing the motives that justify the torture and murder of terrorists in a post 9-11 world.

Right away the movie draws a parallel between vigilantism and the American actions in the war on terror. During an television interview with the family of a missing girl, the scroll under the newscast recounts the words of a UN spokesperson, who calls the US decision to attack Iran "International Vigilantism" This connection is reinforced by the portrayal of the Lawson family. They are the quintessential American family, with a dark side. The father has unresolved anger issues and the son is a video-game junkie with "157 kills" Funnily enough, the parent’s efforts to get the son back on track include making him do his homework, which is reading Lord of the Flies and Heart of Darkness (“The horror!”). Mom also has violent tendencies threatens to feed Otis's entrails to her neighbor's Shitzu. in this way, the family functions as an explicit metaphor for America's motivations for starting the war on terror, as they default to the “eye for an eye” justification.

Otis can be considered the terrorist other that threatens the family on their home turf. He snatches Riley in front of her house in broad daylight and throws her in the back of his 70's Nissan. Will, Riley's dad, makes this symbolism clear when he says Otis doesn't deserve a cushy prison, instead he should be sent "somewhere unconstitutional. Where the terrorists go and never come back"
The family seeking revenge on the serial killer can also be likened to the American occupation of Iraq launched by President Bush to search for weapons of mass destruction. As the actor who plays Will Lawson puts it, "[the film] is about being so certain that you're right and going in and finding out you’re wrong and what do you do? You have a mess to clean up" This same kind of certainty was shared by President Bush when, despite UN inspections to the contrary, he was convinced Iraq was still stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. It was only after the occupation that the US government found Iraq had suspended the production of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in 1991, twelve years before. The Lawson family makes the same kind of mistake when they attack and torture Otis’ brother, thinking he’s the one who kidnapped their child. In the midst of their fun, they get a phone call from the special agent in charge of Riley's case and discover the man they've just tortured to death is not Otis. The audience is then left with the burden of how to justify his death.

Otis is a very different take on the torture porn sub-genre of horror and presents a compelling message in addition to the gore.

0 comments: