The Human Centipede: First Sequence is a modern horror-movie victim of the internet age. A film that in any other decade would have become a true video nasty passed around between horror fans, it instead became a meme. The very concept of the film was passed around virally, to the point that most people became comfortable and cavalier with the concept of the film before ever walking into the theater or popping in the DVD. The film is effective enough, but its creepiness trades on the inherently fucked up nature of the plot, so to strip away the novelty and shock of that is to neuter much of its impact. There’s still some value to the film, but Tom Six made it clear very quickly when he started his follow up that he would be launching in the opposite direction, trading spare subtlety for blatant intensity. It now sounds like he meant it, and that he may have made the modern Salo: 120 Days of Sodom.
Details are emerging because the film has been reviewed by the UK Board of Film Classification, and been refused a rating. The board has unequivocally refused to grant the film a rating, regardless of cuts. They’re doing so because the film is considered to be in potential violation of many obscenity laws, and contains pervasive sexual cruelty and violence of a particularly extreme and “corrupting” nature. This isn’t something the board does frequently, but it does mean the filmmakers can not release or publish their film in the UK- relegating it to a piracy-only watch in that country, but a legendary horror flick everywhere else. You can’t buy this kind of publicity.
The filmmakers have six weeks to appeal, but it seems clear that shit isn’t going to happen.
The board has released a statement detailing exactly why they’ve made this decision, and with it comes some details about the films plot, including some specific details. I’m going to stay vague for a moment, and then I’ll post the full explanation below.
From what I read it sounds like Six has not only gone meta with his film, he’s made something that could end up being the new Salo. For those not familiar, Salo is an endurance test of a film from Pier Pasolini that in 1975 used a plot, modeled after the writings of Marquis DeSade, which centered around the systematic degradation of human beings to illuminate the horrors of fascism. The filmmakers was murdered before the film’s release, but it went on to be banned in dozens of markets and become legendary for its scenes of brutality, sexual degradation, violence, mental trauma and much more. I’ve written about it before, and it’s popped up on one of our nastier lists. If you think the comparison is premature, consider this line from the Brit’s explanation of their non-rating…
“There is little attempt to portray any of the victims in the film 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.”
I’m not sure if Tom Six has aspired quite as high as to take aim at an entire philosophy, but it does seem like he may have topped A Serbian Film for creating a controversial shitstorm of a movie that is a less a film than a roller coaster of endurance. There is the potential for some interesting subtext though, as I’ll discuss below.
From here on, there may be spoilers. I’d still like to hear your thoughts in the comments or on the boards if you skip them.
Anyway, the most intriguing element of the film seems to be a metatextual storyline that has an obsessed fan of the first film reenacting the experiment as a portal to his own fucked up sexual proclivities. The description below details some very specific, very horrifying events, and if the film is as continuously graphic as it sounds… damn. With this though, comes the possibility of Six commenting on the modern nature of fetishistic culture, the place of horror movies, and more. I don’t know if Six has pulled a Haneke, but it sounds like he had something to say, one way or another.
So here we go, take a look at this business…
“The first film dealt with a mad doctor who sews together three kidnapped people in order to produce the ‘human centipede’of the title. Although the concept of the film was undoubtedly tasteless and disgusting it was a relatively traditional and conventional horror film and the Board concluded that it was not in breach of our Guidelines at ‘18’. This new work, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), tells the story of a man who becomes sexually obsessed with a DVD recording of the first film and who imagines putting the ‘centipede’ idea into practice. Unlike the first film, the sequel presents graphic images of sexual violence, forced defecation, and mutilation, and the viewer is invited to witness events from the perspective of the protagonist. Whereas in the first film the ‘centipede’ idea is presented as a revolting medical experiment, with the focus on whether the victims will be able to escape, this sequel presents the ‘centipede’ idea as the object of the protagonist’s depraved sexual fantasy.
The principal focus of The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is the sexual arousal of the central character at both the idea and the spectacle of the total degradation, humiliation, mutilation, torture, and murder of his naked victims. Examples of this include a scene early in the film in which he masturbates whilst he watches a DVD of the original Human Centipede film, with sandpaper wrapped around his penis, and a sequence later in the film in which he becomes aroused at the sight of the members of the ‘centipede’ being forced to defecate into one another’s mouths, culminating in sight of the man wrapping barbed wire around his penis and raping the woman at the rear of the ‘centipede’. There is little attempt to portray any of the victims in the film 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. There is a strong focus throughout on the link between sexual arousal and sexual violence and a clear association between pain, perversity and sexual pleasure. It is the Board’s conclusion that the explicit presentation of the central character’s obsessive sexually violent fantasies is in breach of its Classification Guidelines and poses a real, as opposed to a fanciful, risk that harm is likely to be caused to potential viewers.
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said: “It is the Board’s carefully considered view that to issue a certificate to this work, even if confined to adults, would be inconsistent with the Board’s Guidelines, would risk potential harm within the terms of the VRA, and would be unacceptable to the public.
“The Board also seeks to avoid classifying material that may be in breach of the Obscene Publications Acts 1959 and 1964 (OPA) or any other relevant legislation. The OPA prohibits the publication of works that have a tendency to deprave or corrupt a significant proportion of those likely to see them. In order to avoid classifying potentially obscene material, the Board engages in regular discussions with the relevant enforcement agencies, including the CPS, the police, and the Ministry of Justice. It is the Board’s view that there is a genuine risk that this video work, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), may be considered obscene within the terms of the OPA, for the reasons given above.”
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