Saturday, June 6, 2015

Subgenre Saturday: Splatterpunk

So, we’re back again. If you’ve been around Subgenre Saturdays with me, or just around this blog, you’ve probably figured out that I’ll take just about anything if you slap the word punk on the end. I know this about myself, I accept it, I’m good with it. So yeah, a lot of the subgenres here are going to be X-punk or punkpunk or whatever your preferred catch-all is.

Write along with this (I realize that was a typo. I did catch it, but it seemed too good not to leave in.) is something that isn’t quite the same as most of our other punkpunk genres. See, most of them fall under the big category of ‘retrofuturism,’ which is a fancy way of saying ‘tech/science that just doesn’t belong.’ High speed zeppelins and complex difference engines and machine guns that run on kerosene.

The key there is that they somehow subvert their given time period. Steampunk balks at Victoriana, dieselpunk at the ‘greatest generation,’ and cyberpunk at the distant world of the 80s. All punk genres are subversive, I think. That’s the binding theme, and today’s entry is no exception to that rule.

Ladies and not-ladies, I give you splatterpunk. Right around the dawn of cyberpunk, there was something else going on in the horror community. If you read horror, you’ll probably notice that it’s mostly about the psychological side of things and the suspense and tension. Which is amazing. I don’t do well with horror because of those things. However, there were several authors who, all independent of one another, decided that horror was too clean and distant. So they decided to muck it up and bring in intense gore and violence (hence the splatter) and, yes, a little bit of weird sexuality, too. It was very in line with the general ‘edgy’ vibe a lot of people were going for in the 80s, but splatterpunk was cranked all the way past eleven. While it’s something of a flash in the pan, as far as duration is concerned, it does still exist out there and, more importantly, it shook up the world of horror and brought back the gore.

Probably the most famous splatterpunk author (and director, screenwriter, artist, etc) is Clive Barker. Yeah, that Clive Barker. Candyman and Hellraiser and Books of Blood Clive Barker. They were dark and bloody in a way that wasn’t really seen at the time. This was the era of books like Misery and
Red Dragon. Clive Barker wasn’t the first splatterpunk, necessarily, but he more or less codified a lot of the things about this subgenre. He was to 80s horror what Lovecraft was to 20s horror. Both of them still have ripples flowing out into the world, influencing what people create to this very day.

Other well-known splatterpunk authors: Poppy Z. Brite, Jack Ketchum, Matt Shaw.

But it’s not just books (is anything ever just books?). If you want splatterpunk, look no further than the Saw franchise, or any of the horror movies directed by Rob Zombie. Hell, for that matter, just go watch some Clive Barker movies and really cut out the middle man. Hostel would fall into splatterpunk as well, and there’s a large movement in Japanese filmmaking involving splatterpunk as well. I can’t come close to naming them all, but Tokyo Gore Police comes to mind.

A lot of people will notice a similarity between splatterpunk and bizarro fiction… and they’d be right. I describe bizarro as ‘magical realism meats splatterpunk’ (Another good typo I just had to leave in.), and I think that about captures it. So if you’re not quite ready for the intense gore and sex and violence in splatterpunk, I would point you at any number of bizarro books. If you are ready? Have at it.

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