Human Centipede 2 and movie censorship: a gag with legs

June 7, 2011 by Simon Kinnear in Opinion with 3 Comments

By now, you’ll probably have read the news that the BBFC has ‘banned’ (technically, refused to pass) Human Centipede 2 for UK distribution.  Perhaps you might have read the censors’ rather detailed synopsis of why you shouldn’t be allowed to watch the film: an irony that’s rather been glossed over.

All I’m thinking is, we’ve been here before.  Last August, I wrote a piece called The BBFC vs A Serbian Film, which is still I think the most widely-read article on this blog.  My opinion hasn’t changed – the whole sorry farrago is a perpetual dance between censors and directors like Tom Six who want to watch those censors squirm.

Judging from initial reports, the entire sequel seems to have been devised as a test case in pushing buttons, given that its premise is about a man who watches the first Human Centipede film and decides he can do better. On paper, it’s a savage meta-satire about the so-called degrading impact of video nasties.  On-screen, by the sound of it, Six hasn’t got the taste or talent to avoid rubbing our faces in that degradation. 

As I wrote last year, I’m not worried about the audience getting degraded.  What pisses me off is that cinema gets degraded by films like this.  During the original 1980s media panic about horror movies, for example, several serious, genuinely thoughtful and provocative movies (for example, Possession) got banned because of a few immature, borderline-snuff movie shockers. 

“A high-profile ban like Human Centipede 2 plays into the Givernment’s hands on ‘indecency’…”

Remember who was in power back then, and have a think about who’s running the country now?  It’s only a few days since the Government announced a clampdown on ‘indecent’ advertising and broadcasting for children.  It’ll be the adults next, and a high-profile ban like Human Centipede 2 plays into their hands.  Let’s put it this way: the BBFC doesn’t take stuff like this lightly.  They’ve passed some hardcore movies uncut over the past few years, because they recognise that artistic context is king.

The moral guardians in Whitehall don’t share that belief – their idea of a good movie is The King’s Speech.  So when a shit-stirrer like Mix comes along, it legitimises their instinct to thwart difficult material, and encourages a culture of beige, anodyne conformity.  Which, of course, will drive certain filmmakers (and their audience) further underground.  It won’t stop anyone watching the “sick filth,” but it might reduce the amount of quality movies elsewhere.

In short: I remain torn on the thorny issue of censorship.  I want to be challenged as much as the next movie fan, but when cinema itself becomes a human centipede, each segment more full of shit than the last, all it’s going to do is catch the attention of the exterminators.

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  1. PeteApr 3, 2012 at 5:22 pmReply

    I’m finding this all very fascinating. Just read your piece on Serbian film too. Unfortunately I’ve seen it and I’ve got no idea why I watched it. Well actually I went to a conference, Cine-Excess, last year and nearly every paper was about it or so it seemed so I felt I had to watch it. As for Human Centipede 2, it sounds too silly to pass up the invitation. The first one was hilarious in a sick depraved way.

    I’m just like you though… a bit on the fence. I don’t want to see things get banned but on the other hand some things deserve to be kept in the sick heads of those that choose to make them.

    Someone I know said they watched the uncut and cut versions of Serbian Film and they said the uncut one is worse because it means one scene seems more real because you don’t get to see as much of the crappy special effects and therefore more is left to the imagination.

    I wish some of the filmmakers would leave much, much more to our imaginations!

    • Simon KinnearApr 3, 2012 at 6:52 pmReplyAuthor

      Cheers for that. Nice to know I’m not alone; I hate feeling even vaguely censorious, but I have my limits! (I’ve still not seen either film. Maybe one day…)

  2. » The BBFC vs A Serbian Film » KinnemaniacApr 26, 2012 at 2:52 pmReply

    […] UPDATE, 7th June 2011: What d’ya know, they’ve only gone and done it again.  Here are my thoughts on the BBFC ban of Human Centipede 2. […]

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