Banning of Human Centipede 2 proves BBFC still has legs

Storming around with the face and weary gait of a sun-dried Christopher Walken, the fantastically named Dieter Laser  (playing the ludicrously deranged Dr Heiter) dominated The Human Centipede (First Sequence) through nothing more than his mean mug and the fact that all the other main English speaking roles on offer were rather effectively muffled about half way through. With his 2009 original, writer/director/sleazeball Tom Six managed to simultaneously give us an insight into the mind of a thirty-six year old imbecile and also present a nightmarish vision of his lead actor’s naked rear end. Neither is a pretty sight.

The sequel, The Human Centipede (Full Sequence), concerns itself with story of a man who becomes sexually obsessed with a DVD of the original film and decides to repeat the experiment himself. Meta-filmmaking abounds, but the  interesting conceit of placing the original film within the sequel seems swiftly undermined when one considers every other aspect of the production.

As Eli Roth sits in his ill-gotten mansion made of gory prosthetics, fake blood and the priapic curiosity of the easily impressionable, I’m sure he treats the British Board of Film Classification’s classification (or lack thereof) of Six’s latest crime against celluloid as some solid bedtime reading,  laughing under the covers until Tarantino hands him his next project. The report spoilerifically outlines the two main scenes that have riled the BBFC’s collective condemnation, drawing explicit attention to the “graphic images of sexual violence, forced defecation, and mutilation” that occur throughout. Rest assured these include some rather less practical uses of sandpaper and barbed wire that I doubt you’ll see on DIY SOS anytime soon.

In recent years, the BBFC has been whipping out its scissors of decency  rather often with the most recent high profile case being that of A Serbian Film. After a trim-happy 49 cuts they saw fit to award it an 18 certificate and bestow upon the British cinema-going public a ‘Serbian Political Satire’ of uncompromising cruelty and divisiveness. Its heralding of ‘newborn porn’ and its tenuously fetid links to Serbian oppression under Milošević helped it to top the BBFC’s naughty board until Tom Six decided to sew Tab A to Slot B for a second time (Tab A being a face and Slot B being an anus, naturally).

Six may see himself as the Pasolini of ‘biological horror’ but whilst films like Salo and the aforementioned A Serbian Film managed to pass the censors after a session in the cutting room (and in the formers case a most lengthy of waits) the BBFC have flat out refused to give  The Human Centipede (Full Sequence) such a chance for cinematic acceptance. Whilst the Board explain that the original film was ‘tasteless and disgusting’, they maintain that it was played out within a conventional horror context of a ‘revolting medical experiment’ whereas its successor’s centipede becomes ‘the object of the protagonist’s depraved sexual fantasy’. That the victims become mere objects, there to be brutalised, mutilated and abused for the central character’s and the audience’s pleasure has been deemed totally unacceptable by the UK’s official censors and as such Full Sequence is now completely banned from being distributed in the UK.

The BBFC’s extreme aversion to sexualised violence is often called into question considering the often outrageous amounts of blood and brutality gratuitously splattering across our cinema screens on a weekly basis. Does sexual violence have more chance of posing ‘a real, as opposed to a fanciful, risk that harm is likely to be caused to potential viewers’ than non-sexual violence? Is Irréversible’s notorious depiction of violent rape acceptable? Roger Ebert thought so when he mused that by depicting the vengeance (and often the futility of vengeance) before the initial attack the director was forcing a point home about the brutality of revenge when removed from its brutal basis. Such a grounding was enough for the BBFC who passed it on the basis of its artistic merit. Is the decapitation of a woman during sex as in A Serbian Film not a needlessly extreme depiction of sexual violence? Isn’t the director’s unconvincing defence of ‘political satire’ just a heavily transparent veneer for the shock tactics and sexual sadism that the film practices? Well in that case I am inclined to answer yes to both, whereas the censors seem to differ.

On the other hand  it is Full Sequence’s profound lack of artistry (as judged by the BBFC) that has denied it a release in the UK. But in this era of the Hostel films and the Saw franchise, surely it can be seen that violence and suffering for the sake of violence and suffering has become a socially acceptable form of visceral entertainment (and in some way, hasn’t it always been)? That sexual violence has held its stigma is due to its oft referenced relationship to misogyny and gender politics, but with such subjective application and cinema’s historical trend of allowing more and more on screen, it is surely only a matter of time until Six’s now most infamous of sequels slides through the censors and the grasp of the law in the form of the Obscene Publications Acts of 1959 and 1964.

Will that be a bad thing? Well that’s a discussion for another day. However, make no mistake, Full Sequence will definitely get out there in no time at all. Websites of dubious credentials will soon strain under the weight of people looking for a nice relaxed night in. Feet up, pyjamas on, a nice cup of tea and a spot of light coprophagia, coprophilia, extreme mutilation and sexual violence on the TV. Just what Dr Heiter ordered.