Published May 04, 2009Already arousing attention among filmgoers, this unapologetic history of the infamous Insex torture porn site greets viewers like a slap in the face. The opening montage features lovely female models not merely bound and gagged but suffering and suffocating in a variety of ways.
To their credit, directors Anna Lorentzon and Barbara Bell don't sensationalize this material but delve into the dark world of Insex with an open mind and genuine curiosity. Who created this site and why would women allow themselves to be tortured for money?
Insex was born in the imagination of a Carnegie Mellon professor who goes by the stage name of PD. When he was a boy, PD's cousins tied him up for fun, just like in the Wonder Woman comics. That's how PD experienced his first orgasm. Years later, he glimpsed Japan's S&M stage acts between tours in the Vietnam War. In the following years, PD incorporated S&M imagery in his paintings and performance art until the Internet exploded.
In 1997, PD founded Insex and eventually attracted 35,000 worldwide customers who paid to see woman brutalized in a variety of custom-made machines. What set Insex apart from run-of-the-mill porn sites was its gritty "serial killer" aesthetic. Everything looked real (though the film reveals that some reactions were manufactured or exaggerated). Most films took place in dark, dirty cellars where models were submerged in tanks of water or their breasts bound until they swelled like balloons.
What's more shocking is that these films were made with the full cooperation of the models and they were always brought to orgasm (often by a vibrator) as they were tortured. The models that appear on camera reminisce about their Insex days like it was just another job, albeit one where they were paid well for physical suffering. At least one of them, actress 101, fell in love with PD until drug abuse tore them apart. Another lover/model, 912, retired to work behind the scenes as a videographer and producer. As well, co-director Lorentzon was an Insex producer.
Male collaborators testify that PD's work method was intuitive, like a painter's, and hint that money and notoriety sometimes inflated his ego. However, the film shies away from explaining more and that is a mistake. Another error is reducing Washington's crackdown on the site (the feds pressured credit card companies into not processing customer payments) to an afterthought.
Graphic Sexual Horror will shock audiences that, if they get past their initial reaction, will be rewarded by a film that explores our darkest desires and fantasies, whether we choose to acknowledge them or not. (NC-17)