The extremely controversial and originally banned horror film, The Human Centipede 2, is due to hit cinemas this Friday. Greg Evan ponders upon whether this is a horror movie that has gone too far in its quest for the shock factor.
When The Human Centipede originally opened in 2009 it succeeded in creating its own hype and controversy. After all, the premise could be only be the work of a darkly disturbed, maybe even sick, mind. The film tells the story of a German doctor who kidnaps three tourists and joins them surgically, mouth to anus, forming a, you guessed it, ‘human centipede’. However, many viewers were left disappointed. It turned out to be nowhere near the gore fanatics were hoping for. Instead they were treated to what is essentially a pursuit movie, where the mad scientist chases down the centipede and vice versa. Thrown on top, were ample bits of comedy, medical technicalities and confusing metaphors for World War II. If you could stomach the idea, the rest of the film was a fairly enjoyable low budget horror flick, but it was nowhere as vomit-inducing as expected. Something director Tom Six makes up for in Human Centipede Part 2.
When the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) banned The Human Centipede: Part 2, a whole storm of accusations and questions erupted. Most of these came from the film’s director, Tom Six. The BBFC had decided to prevent any distribution of the film to UK shores, mostly due to the extreme scenes of violent sexual gratification portrayed through the protagonist’s eyes. After posting supposed spoilers on their website Six went ballistic at them, accusing them of recklessly revealing parts of his movie’s plot. He uttered this statement; “I made a horrific horror film, shouldn’t all good horror films be horrific?” Well, to put in bluntly Mr Six, no.
Taking Horror Too Far
A disturbing trend has caught on in the past decade or so of shlock horror. Or even Splatter Pornography, if you will. This can be traced back to the original Saw film from 2004.
What was unique about the original Saw was that it placed victims in circumstances where they could decide their own fate. The relatively low budget production gained a cult following thanks to the honest and desperate portrayals of the characters. Unfortunately, the six sequels that followed abandoned this feature and focused on nothing but horrific deaths. Combine this with a vague detective sub-plot and misleading conclusions and you have one of the most successful horror franchises of the 21st century. What Tom Six attempted to do with The Human Centipede was take the successful parts of Saw, throw in some questionable body horror and: bam, there you have it. He may have thought he was creating a great piece of iconic horror, but he forget the one important thing: the human element.
The Human Element
Humanity, morality and compassion have existed in horror since its creation and all of these elements can be credited to a truly great horror film. If we were to list the greatest horror films of all time, the list would no doubt include the likes of The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, Dracula, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Frankenstein, and so on. All of these films show that horror as a genre needs an element of fear, whether this comes through paranormal creatures or murderous villains. And it also needs human characters who fight to combat their adversaries and allow the audience to pray that they will prevail. In rare circumstances both protagonist and antagonist are portrayed as vulnerable beings.
Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre is shown as a tormented individual, forced to carry out horrific murders in order to please his deranged family. Frankenstein’s monster is rejected by the prejudices of society, but despite this still tries to befriend individuals and make amends. However, his limited understanding of his own mangled form often see these attempts end in tragedy. Even the Cannibals from Cannibal Holocaust only lash out after being provoked by their deserving victims. Morality and reasoning are key parts of the horror genre. It allows audiences to connect with the victims and try to understand just why these awful acts have been committed. According to the BBFC, The Human Centipede 2 showed none of this.
Where Does It End?
Violence and Sexual exploits have now been inserted into the movie which is allegedly void of any of the suspense or scientific experimentations of the original. Deeming the film too extreme for an 18 certificate it was criticised for its: “little attempt to portray any of the victims… as anything other than objects to be brutalised, degraded and mutilated for the amusement and arousal of the central character, as well as for the pleasure of the audience”. Thus they feared it would be in breach of the Obscene Publications Act.
Now many films have been banned by the BBFC in the past. Todd Browning’s Freaks was initially banned for around 30 years before being given a certification. Amazingly The Wild One starring Marlon Brando was unavailable until 1967, after fearing it would corrupt the minds of the nations’ youth. And if we were to run down the 74 films from the infamous Video Nasties list we’d be here all day.
Only a few films have never gained a certification in the UK, and fortunately for Tom Six, The Human Centipede 2 will not be a part of that list. After 32 cuts the BBFC deemed it suitable for an 18 certification. It remains to be seen whether this heavy editing will scupper the films horrendous imagery and concepts. Whatever the final cut will look like, that fact remains that Tom Six should address what he feels a good horror movie should be and seriously question his philosophy and ethical approach to film making.