Film expert brought in for Smith trial

A professor of film studies and pop culture was called to the stand as an expert witness yesterday at the trial of Don Smith, the Woodyatt man accused of creating and distributing obscene material on the Internet in October, 2000.
Under examination by defence lawyer Darren Sawchuk, Dr. Barry Grant of Brock University revealed his credentials as a scholar familiar with horror movies, having penned essays and edited books on the genre.
Dr. Grant explained the evolution of the horror film genre, detailing Alfred Hitchcock as one of the turning points in modern horror cinema, with the identification as the movie’s “monster” in this case being an “all-American boy.
“What is the attraction of these types of films?” asked Sawchuk.
“If someone goes to horror films, they expect to see scenes that will shock them, horrify them, mortify them,” replied Dr. Grant.
“In an age where violence can be seen on the news every night, films had to become increasingly graphic,” he added. “Popular films have always been an expression of the culture from which they come.
“For instance, Westerns were contemporary re-imaginings of the past.”
“In terms of those films that shock, frighten, or horrify us, are there common themes?” continued Sawchuk.
“Yes, horror films tend to focus on victimization of women,” testified Dr. Grant. “In our culture, women have been coded as weaker, more emotional, and more vulnerable than men.
“In horror films, it creates a greater effect to have women running from a monster, screaming, as opposed to a man.”
He added nude female victims in horror movies became common by the early 1970s as the public’s acceptance of pornography and the increasing nudity in mainstream films made it profitable.
“With changes in special effects, how did things change?” asked Sawchuk.
“Special effects became an art in itself. They were the raison d’être these films in the first place,” replied Dr. Grant. “It was easier to show more explicit violation of the body.”
“What role do [special effects] play in the films?” inquired Sawchuk.
Citing a comparison between the 1951 version of “The Thing from Another Planet” and the 1982 remake, Dr. Grant pointed out special effects have come to take a take up a “large percentage of the screen time.”
“What is about these films that makes them attractive?” asked Sawchuk.
“Some people might care about the plot. But most people are interested in, to borrow a term from the pornography industry, ‘the money shots’—the shots showing the violation,” Dr. Grant testified.
“How film A’s effects might compare with film B,” he added.
“How pervasive is this?” said Sawchuk.
“There is a large subculture in Canada and the U.S. for these types of films. Fans support a large network of fanzines, like Fangoria and Necronomicon,” said Dr. Grant.
Dr. Grant’s testimony continued today.
Meanwhile, the examination of Smith’s wife, Lorna, wrapped up earlier yesterday as the jury of 10 women and two men watched the last in a series of five videos and one DVD, before which she had testified where the movies could be rented or purchased at district businesses, on-line, or at large retail outlet stores.
These movies contained either graphic violence, graphic sex, or a mix of sex and violence—ranging from a horror movie to a pornographic film to a major Hollywood action thriller.
Crown Attorney Howard Leibovich, who’s serving as co-counsel on the case with Crown Attorney Christine Bartlett-Hughes, first questioned Smith about her knowledge of her husband’s role in his pay-to-use Web site and how aware was she of the content of the site.
Referring to the videos Smith had shown to the jury last Tuesday and yesterday, Leibovich asked what were the similarities or dissimilarities between those and the visual material on her husband’s web site.
Smith noted that although the Internet clips were obviously much shorter than the films shown, most of them do contain nude women, usually portrayed as being shot in the breast or lower abdomen by a man who simply walks away after the murder.
“We were looking for films with similar special effects. But that wasn’t the only focus, it was the sexuality,” she said, adding many of the films were much more graphic than anything on her husband’s Web site.
“So you couldn’t find any material like your husband’s, with a man killing a woman and walking away?” asked Leibovich.
“In length? No,” replied Smith, who was the first witness called by Sawchuk.
Further testimony, addresses, submissions, and charges to the jury likely will take the trial into another week.
Smith is facing five charges, including two counts of making videotapes featuring undue exploitation of sex and violence, one count of possessing similar material on a computer for the purposes of distribution, and two counts of distributing obscene matter via a Web site.
The jury selection and pre-trial for this case began Oct. 21, with the trial getting underway Oct. 28.
The Crown already has already four witnesses—investigating officer Cst. Scott Gobeil of the Fort Frances OPP, psychiatrist Dr. Peter O. Collins, psychologist Dr. Neil Malamuth, and Det. Sgt. Robert Gagnon of the OPP Electronic Crime Unit.
Madame Justice H. Pierce is presiding over the trial.