By Lee Cassanell
Throughout the 80s a cousin of mine with a connection in Saudi Arabia was the proud owner of one of the greatest pirate video collections in the land. Not only did he receive the latest US cinema releases long before they hit the UK he also acquired an extensive collection of banned or heavily-censored films that were not available in Britain.
Flicks such as A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Evil Dead (1981), Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979), Straw Dogs (1971), Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and I Spit on your Grave (1971) were all either banned by the BBFC or classified as ‘video nasties’, or both, and thus were bestowed with an oft undeserved notoriety. Naturally all of these are now readily available to purchase and view but at the time they were like gold dust, really violent gold dust, and I don’t like to brag but I’d seen them all by the time I left Primary School.
Yes some of the scenes were shocking and, admittedly, I had a few nightmares. Freddy Kruger was the most disturbing of all though and you could pick up a copy of the Elm Street series at any local video shop. I mean, what’s more frightening? A demon chained up in a basement, a power tool wielding psycho or a hideous razor fingered child abuser who wants to murder you in your sleep? I was so disturbed by Kruger that he affected me on a psychological level: shadows became his glove and for a while I slept with the light on; too afraid to close my eyes in case Freddy came a calling.
I realise my street-cred is taking a bit of a hit here but to preserve my hard Northern exterior I’d like to affirm that this period didn’t last. Eventually I became obsessed with being scared, subjected myself to every creepy movie on the market and became thoroughly desensitized to all manner of violence; I was beyond terror. Or so I thought…
One fine day I was watching television and a news report came on about the trial of serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, the so called ‘Rostov Ripper’ who had been accused of raping, murdering and mutilating 53 souls, mostly young boys and girls. He appeared on the screen, his face lit up by the intermittent strobe of camera flashbulbs and I saw something in his eyes which I’ve never seen before and hope to never see again: Evil. Not the religious bearded imp with a pitchfork kind but a twisted, debased, madness; a human black hole void of regret; an essence that horror villains frequently tried to replicate but never truly could. That image became seared in my mind and from then on I was no longer interested in scaring myself. I’ll watch a cheesy Hollywood horror if someone puts it on and glance through news of the latest mass murderer but I no longer seek out the macabre.
Yesterday all the hoo-ha over the BBFC banning The Human Centipede II (2011) tempted me into watch the trailer, just to see what all the fuss was about. Yeah that’s right: I ate the apple and I’m thoroughly pissed off that I allowed my head to be turned. I’ve resisted the ridiculous Hostel series, which a few friends raved about whilst describing graphic scenes of torture, and spurned the silly A Serbian Film (2010) which has been internationally lauded for its shock value. I thought I was above all the promotional tricks and gimmicks but last night, as I was watching The Human Centipede trailer unfold, I realised the decision by the BBFC to flex its flagging muscles has done nothing but hype this movie to hell. They’ve made this film taboo; tantalizing. The fact that the BBFC still believes it carries any weight, other than as an inadvertent marketing tool, is astounding.
As for The Human Centipede II…who gives a damn? I realise I’m speaking as somebody who has little interaction with the modern horror genre but I’d urge you to think before recommend this film to a friend. After all with online downloads promoting a BBFC banned film hardly makes you the Luke Skywalker of motion pictures does it? Sure if your friends are hardened horror fans that eat snuff flicks for breakfast chances are it will be water off a ducks back but if they are more sensitive souls then what’s the harm of letting it pass them by?
There are people of all ages watching all kinds on the Internet from Terrorist beheadings to violent pornography and that’s just the way things are. People are curious and will seek things out of their own accord but to point them in the direction of such things is criminally irresponsible and the BBFCs biblical proclamation has done just that.
I do not personally like films of this nature. I think they can twist and damage people and who knows how that will manifest itself but that is just my opinion, take it or leave it. A film board trying to impose its will on society is a different kettle of fish and smacks of nanny state status. If such things are tolerated where will it lead? To living in a society where everything we see and hear is controlled by an institution on behalf of the state that’s where, oh yes I read 1984, and that, my friends, would surely be the scariest horror story of all.