Day 7 of Calloween Movie Month
Content warnings: blood and gore, kidnapping, torture, talk of irl death, vomit, suicide, dubious consent, vehicular accidents, elderly death
Spoilers and discussion of many of these topics below. You have been warned.
The greatest horror of all: having a bad taste in men.
Thesis (Also known as Tesis, it's Spanish name) is a film about Angela. A college student who's writing her thesis on violence in media. She searches for reference material, which leads her to a snuff film featuring a girl from her school, an edgy horror loving nerd named Chema, and a suspicious popular pretty boy named Bosco.
This is a multifaceted question with many answers, but if you want my opinion, I'll give it to you.
Sure, maybe some gore site aficionados or even fans of violent movies and video games are sick freaks who'll be on the news before they're thirty. But that can't be all or even the majority. I think people are hyperaware of their own mortality at basically all times. Have you ever narrowly avoided a speeding car? Gotten in an accident yourself? Slipped in the shower or beside the pool? Eaten food that was probably more than a little off?
The human body is as frail as it is resilient. It's hard sometimes not to worry when you know something stupid could kill you before you even have the chance to understand what's happening. I think when people are attracted to violence, real or simulated, they're seeking out a sense of catharsis. Ever heard the adage that the paranoid man, upon seeing the things he concerned his fears with were correct, wouldn't be scared but instead self assured?
When someone witness is a fatal or injurious misfortune befall somebody, they get subconsciously vindicated. If it can happen to him, it can happen to me too. Suddenly the looks over your shoulder for a ski masked serial killer while you walk alone at night don't seem so unreasonable. Paranoia being proven gives a sense of finality and confirmation that's rare to have when its unproven.
The thesis of Thesis is as such: everyone, to some extent, is attracted to violence and death. But how far would you go? What could you see that would be too much? What could you see that would entirely desensitize you?
Early in the movie Chema, finds out what Angela's thesis is about and that she might have a tape he's interested. He pokes and prods at her until she agrees to come to his house. He shows her something from his collection, a fake movie within the movie called Fresh Blood, which calls to mind films from the mondo film/shockumentary craze of the 80s and 90s: sensationalized movies showing all kinds of death and violence with varying degrees of realism. She watches, rapt and disgusted at the footage of medical procedures, police shootouts, and wartime executions. Chema tells her he wants to see what tape she has, so she plays it. This is Angela's first time seeing it, though she has been obsessively listening to the audio that she was able to record from her TV that wouldn't actually play the thing.
At first she refuses to look, saying its too awful, telling Chema to turn it off. But as it goes on and Chema remarks at how it's horrific even by his desensitized standards, she slowly lets herself look as the worst of the tape plays before her. She can hardly handle it, it quite literally sickens her. But she keeps coming back to it, again and again.
She's like this with people, too. Chema's house doesn't have the most welcoming decor, between the shock gore films and the mannequins he's fashioned to look like torture victims. But she keeps coming back to him and his creepy r/malelivingspace. And Bosco, despite his charm, is at least somewhat disrespectful of her boundaries and sense of safety and even worse has a chance of being a serial killer who filmed the very video she stumbled across. Which he even ends up being, which she realizes too late after her obsessive love/lust for him blinds her to his true intentions and gets her to trust too heavily.
Angela has an understandable but unhealthy attraction to danger and disgust despite how much she says she wants no part in it.
This is in interesting contrast to Chema, who loves shock films and horror movies and gore and jokes constantly about Angela wanting to sleep with him. But respects her boundaries and doesn't try to push her any which way, and who desperately tries to comfort himself about killing the editor of the tape when he was threatening her.
The scene towards the start where they're listening to music and it changes the song with each switch of perspective. When Angela is being viewed from Chema's perspective, it plays a heavy metal song. Showing he views her as dangerous and dark. When Chema is being viewed from Angela's perspective, it plays soft classical music. She sees him as graceful and warm.
The film makes great use of the tactile. The act of putting in a tape and pressing play, of turning on a camera, of running your fingers across a TV screen. It all works to hit on how real everything is to these characters. The focus of these physical manifestations of their viewing of the darkest thing a person is capable of raises the stakes effortlessly.
It's also very good at highlighting how normal and acceptable the worst people can be on the surface. Bosco, a very deeply violent and sadistic man is sweet and charming. He disarms Angela despite the red flags and ultimately lures her into his trap. And Angela, who seems like a mousy stuffy writer, fights her way out of becoming the next on a list of victims and a pile of videos, accepting the reality of blood on her hands.
It makes you question something I think is important: does the viewing of real death and violence make you complicit? It's a real chicken or egg question.
What came first? The desire to watch death, or the desire to make it available to watch? Is it public demand causing it to exist, or is it the existence that creates the demand?
The film ends in a hospital. After Angela goes to visit Chema so they can make amends, they leave together. The last thing we see is a newscaster explaining the serial killings coming to an end, and telling everyone they're going to show the snuff film that started all of this presumably in full.
Everyone watches as her perfectly made up face fades away to one last warning of the graphic content awaiting them. Despite the warnings, none of them turn away.