Strap on your seat-belts, chuck on a helmet and tie-up your laces, because I’m about to go full movie nerd on all of you. On this week’s edition of ‘things Julian enjoys’ I’ll be breaking down one of my favourite film genres: paracinema, or, exploitation film
Exploitation films are B-grade movies. They rely on gaining financial success by exploiting or capitalising on niche trends and fads. These include ultra violence and sex. They tend to have lower production values and appeal to smaller pockets of society.
The exploitation film was popularised in the 60s and 70s when cinematic censorship became more relaxed. Audiences began to move away from the rosier subject-matter portrayed in films such as An American in Paris or All That Heaven Allows and began to take interest in darker topics. Earlier exploitation films include Night of the Living Dead, which centres around a zombie apocalypse and the ensuing carnage.
Much of the controversy that exists around the exploitation film is its anti-establishment nature. Since the birth of Hollywood and the American film industry, a lot has been done to maintain a clean image. This is especially relevant in the earlier stages of the film industry. The cinema was a means of escapism from the hardships of life, so naturally the people calling the shots wanted to satisfy audiences with tales of romanticism and success.
However, exploitation film operated independently of Hollywood and used its own means for distribution. It was therefore irrepressible by mainstream studios.
What’s great about exploitation film is that it’s all about viewer ownership. It breaks normal filmic conventions to bring the audience exactly what they want, even if it’s a bit messed up. Further, what’s defined as an exploitation film is solely dependant on its audience’s reception. There are no rules and regulations.
The increase of exploitation films lead to Grindhouse cinemas. Grindhouse cinemas were those who specialised in exploitation films. They initially began to combat the decrease in patrons attending drive-in cinema’s, and relied on their lurid content to draw a crowd.
To sum it up, you know the scenes in those movies where the jock is trying to feel up a girl in his car during some scary movie that they snuck into? Chances are that was a corny representation of a Grindhouse cinema.
While exploitation films might seem like some obscure genre that only sadistic people watch, it’s actually made incredible inroads into mainstream culture. A lot of Tarantino’s work relies on exploitation techniques, drawing inspiration from Spaghetti Westerns, Blaxploitation and Nazisploitation.
Other prominent exploitation film directors include Robert Rodriguez, director of Sin City. Interestingly, in 2007 Tarantino and Rodriguez teamed up to create Grindhouse, a double-header consisting of Death Proof and Planet Terror. The two films are packed to the rafters with blood and gore, creative editing and kick-ass one-liners.
One of the most creative exploitation films I’ve ever seen is the aptly titled Hobo With A Shotgun, which follows the tale of a homeless man hell-bent on ridding his town of violent gang members. Armed with a shotgun and an axe, the film is more or less a complete bloodbath.
Exploitation film is awesome because it emphasises creativity.
It draws on the very core of why I love movies: If you can imagine it, you can film it, even if the idea is seemingly ludicrous.
For those of you who are keen to get a taste of some sweet sweet exploitation, check out the movies the below:
- Death Proof
- Planet Terror
- Hobo with a Shotgun
- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
- Night of the Living dead