I’ve read a couple of pieces about nudity in horror films recently.
As an independent horror filmmaker who needs to get my stuff distributed in order to stay in the game, the question of nudity tends to crop up in every film we make. I’ve seen it argued that horror tends to shy away from nudity nowadays; that in the 70s it was seen as an essential part of the mix for a successful flick (particularly an indie) but that nowadays, what with the internet and everything, people can look elsewhere for a dose of skin and really don’t expect (or necessarily want) to see nudity in horror films.
I also read a piece which framed the discussion in somewhat different way, suggesting that there’s a section of the horror fanbase operating a massive double standard and that although they expect a degree of female nudity in horror they are actively repulsed by any male nudity. I must admit that particular article lit something of a fire in the back of my mind, and I found myself rewriting a scene in a spec script to include full male nudity that I could just put into the background of a shot and leave a dick swinging there for ages.
Seriously, if you’re a male who is not grown up enough to deal with male nudity as just one of the elements likely to crop up in a film aimed at adults, (yet are perfectly happy with female nudity), you’re not grown up enough to be watching horror films in the first place. Leave the DVD on the shelf, and go check out a footballing blunders compilation or something. You’ll enjoy it more. Seriously, just bugger off and let the grown ups have a conversation without having to put up with your pantomime cringing and inability to relate to your own body.
There clearly isn’t enough male nudity in my back-catalogue. There is, however, a certain amount of female nudity, so I worry that I’m feeding into this vibe. The roots of this trace back to 2004 when I was knocking on doors (literally and figuratively) and trying to sell my first movie, TrashHouse. I’d included an awful lot of stuff that I’d figured would make the flick a viable commodity, from chainsaws to decent one-liners, but that initial cut didn’t have any kind of nudity.
I tried to sell the flick for about a year after we locked it. No dice. I was increasingly worried that we were going to lose our entire investment and never even see the thing get released. In a vague state of panic some time in 2005, I commissioned an agency in Essex to shoot cutaways of a glamour model. I dropped about 3 seconds of partial nudity into the next cut of the movie and, by complete coincidence, shifted the UK and US DVD rights to the very next distribution company to view the film.
I’m sure it was coincidence.
Don’t you reckon?
Either way, those three seconds of partial nudity were enough for our very first ever review to mention ‘boobs’ in their list of things to enjoy about the flick, and that review quote ended up on the DVD cover for both the original release of the movie and the re-release.
This meant that my producer and I sat down and had a serious chat about how we’d deal with nudity in the next two movies (Hellbride and KillerKiller) which we’d already scheduled to shoot back-to-back in the summer of 2006. We decided to stick some nudity into the opening scenes of both movies just to tick the box for potential distributors, then not particularly worry about it for the rest of the running time. As it happened, this suited KillerKiller‘s intro rather beautifully and the opening scene remains one of my favourite things that we’ve ever done. Even a fairly bad review we got somewhere on the internet said of the opening ‘Now that, my friends, is how you start a fucking movie’.
However, this really wasn’t the case with Hellbride. Despite various attempts to make it work, the ‘opening scene nudity’ thing really didn’t fit the vibe of the film, which, as was increasingly apparent, was really a romantic comedy with horror elements rather than being a full-on fright flick. We ended up ditching that opening and going for something that felt true and right. The only nudity anywhere in the film is so massively out of focus I suspect that to all intents and purposes it doesn’t really count. We still sold the movie in the end, but it wasn’t as easy a sell as KillerKiller and we didn’t get nearly as many distribution offers.
Again, I imagine, coincidence.
I approach all of these elements with a fairly fierce desire to do right by everyone and not add to the problems of the world. I would never want any actor to ever feel pressured into shooting something they might regret being ‘out there’ at another point of their career. On the other hand, as long as the performers are fully onboard and it suits the movie, I figure it’s just another potential ingredient in the mix.
I bet I get pressure to cut that swinging dick in order to sell that spec script, though. Hypocrisy is alive and well and going straight to DVD in a horror section near you.
PS. Since writing this blog, we’ve made available a filmed version of our 2013 live show Werewolves, Cheerleaders & Chainsaws. It features a few anecdotes about nudity in movies. It’s NSFW and features bloody violence, strong language and, indeed, nudity. The video is below.