Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence
If Kim Kardashian can turn a sex tape into a successful line of handbags, Britney Spears can turn a mental health melt-down into a fragrance fortune and Winona Ryder's kleptomania can re-launch her flailing career, then now more than ever the maxim of "any publicity is good publicity" must be true.
So when film classification boards all over the globe delivered a ban on the Human Centipede sequel, Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence, they clearly hadn't thought that one through. What ensued could be only deemed as a media "frenzy", and as Neil Foley, of Monster Pictures - the film's distributor - notes, "it was music to our ears".
The Human Centipede films are small, low-budget releases that use the upward thrust of negative spin to garner worldwide attention and have, through their inclusion of scatological as well as gore-laden sequences, somehow managed to find comparison between the films of filmmaking royalty Luis Bunuel and Palo Passolini.
The first film, if you have been comatose for the last year or so, pertains to a doctor who sews three unsuspecting subjects mouth-to-anus, just for his own medical scrapbook, the scariest part being the stamp of accuracy given by medical professionals the world over. In its sequel, director Tom Six parodies just this fear of horror movie emulation by casting a lowly parking attendant as the deranged Dr Frankenstein wannabe using staples instead of stitches and an abandoned warehouse instead of a surgery. Oh and this time it's a cast of 12, not 3, that make up said centipede. In its unabridged 87 minute feature length, film classification boards found much to be desired. The graphic depictions of seams splitting (yes, human seams), a violent birth and copious bludgeonings of heads, teeth and limbs enraged the British Board of Film Classification so much so that not only did they ban the film entirely but for the first time ever they released a three page document justifying the ban and downright slandering the filmmaker and his creation, calling it "undoubtedly tasteless and disgusting". And as Neil Foley describes, "they tore the film apart and that's exactly what you want as a marketer…the language was so lurid, using phrases like depraved etc. Horror fans love that so we just jumped on it".
Neil and his team at Monster Pictures quickly capitalised on this "series of overreactions' and released a YouTube clip showing viewers reacting to the film that earned thousand of hits within its first hours, including many by Christian and community groups. Having seen the film themselves, they lobbied quickly and deftly, and on November 28 the film was refused classification. Monster Pictures took it within their stride and on December 14 submitted a "slightly trimmed" cut (with only 30 seconds lost from the original) that was granted a R18+ rating. In contrast to British audiences who have lot nearly three minutes of prime gross-out material, Australian audiences have fared pretty well, with the censorship board not getting as much use out of their scissors as they would have liked. Foley says the Film Boards in Australia "operate really well in line with current community standards. They passed it and see it for what it is and where it fits in the general landscape of horror films and the context of those horror films." So essentially what Australian community groups have done have staged a rather extensive and expensive marketing campaign for the one thing they truly hate.
"You can't buy that kind of publicity, at least we don't have the money to buy that publicity. We are a small company doing niche films for niche audiences. Essentially this is a fringe film, with a very limited release so it's fantastic for us to have this level of controversy". And now with the South Park parodies and countless copycat "reaction" clips circulating on YouTube, it seems the film has become a part of the pop culture zeitgeist as well. In viewing these clips, it's immediately apparent that the intention of a film such as this is anything but bloody.
"It's quite obviously a parody. The whole thing is so ridiculous and so over the top. Once you can get past the dark conventions of the horror genre, it's pretty much a comedy". And for those who may not find all the blood, guts and well, poo, all that funny? "Everyone's entitled to have a morality that finds [The Human Centipede] offensive but for the rest of us, we shouldn't be stopped having that taste."
One great fear of the conservative viewers is the supposed long-lasting psychological impacts of a film like this on its viewers. So, after travelling the country and seeing the film countless times (Neil admits at least nine times the whole way through) with distributors, the cast and director - how is his head holding up? "Oh, it's completely corrupted me, right now as I'm driving I'm hunting down old people," he laughs. So then kids, best to stay off the streets than out of the cinema.
BY SOPHIE MATHISEN
Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence screens at Cinema Nova on Boxing Day, Monday December 26.