BBFC Refuses Human Centipede 2 A UK Release Certificate

It’s not fair to say that the BBFC have “banned” Tom Six‘s Human Centipede sequel, but I’m sure a lot of people will do so. What they’ve done is denied it a certificate. This means that any cinema in the UK looking to screen it will need to get special dispensation from their local council.

Essentially, I think this means it’s very unlikely that the film will play on UK cinema screens at all, though some grass roots efforts could get something fixed up. Even as I type I’m calling up to see if my local independent cinema wants to have a word with Oxford City Council. It could happen. I’m hopeful. And I’m going to lend my support where possible.

(Note: the film was apparently not submitted for cinema release and was headed only to disc. That’s definitely out of the question now)

According to the BBFC, the problem with this film couldn’t be solved with a few cuts. The issue here runs deeper. From their press release (with some rather vivid SPOILERS):

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.

Hang on… so it sounds like Six is trying, perhaps, to be satirical here. He was certainly aware of how the first film was described as pornographic, and how many critics and commentators said that for anybody to enjoy it, the viewer would have to be sick. Maybe he’s just drafting a caricature of this? Sounds more than possible.

Or maybe he just thinks we’ll all just get off on it, or find it funny. I don’t know. I haven’t seen the film, of course.

Now, it’s the last sentence in the BBFC excerpt that seems the most crazy to me:

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.

What? Because we can explicitly see a fictional character indulging in fictional sexually violent fantasies there’s a real (as opposed to “fanciful”) risk that harm will come to us? What?

What?

I don’t get it. How can this film hurt its viewers? How?

Sounds to me like Six might have made a very interesting picture here, stripping away the narrative safety net of potential escape for the “victims” to rush headlong into some imagery (and in cinematic terms, imagery is discussion, even if sometimes only faltering, badly thought-out discussion) of ideas at the core of horror cinema and its spectatorship.

I really want to see this film because it sounds absolutely horrific, just like horror films should be. I’m appalled that the BBFC won’t allow it a certificate simply because all of the soft-soap compromises have been ripped away. Doesn’t seem moral. But it does seem like they’re positioning even the most extreme horror film they’ve ever released as “entertainment”, distinct from something horrible and disgusting and appalling and upsetting.

Just because Tom Six has extinguished all hope and softness in his film, it doesn’t mean it isn’t artistically valid. It certainly doesn’t mean that adults should be allowed to see it. Even if he’s made a ridiculous piece of perverse and violently aggressive smut that can’t even formulate a point of view beyond “Look! Barbed wire rape!” I’m not sure what use there is in stopping cinemas from screening it.