So, friend. Let us say that you are a director. A director of films! Films for entertainment purposes! But, sadly, no-one is paying enough attention to your films, for the public, they are crude and tasteless. What do you do? How do you handle yourself? How do you advance your art?
Well, if you are director Tom Six, you basically just stop trying. Or, no, scratch that: You pioneer the art of anti-trying. You, director Tom Six, must now consciously try to make the worst movie ever. Something so reprehensible that people will have to talk about it. They will have to have conversations which include the phrase “[MOVIE DIRECTED BY TOM SIX]“, just so that they can tell each other, “you should never, ever watch [MOVIE DIRECTED BY TOM SIX], for real, it is the worst.”
And thus, Poop: The Motion Picture Experience, AKA The Human Centipede, was born. For the three human beings on earth who haven’t read the plot: Um, don’t? But also, to get a vague idea of it, just think about the fact that there are a few things that most people would not enjoy experiencing and/or watching, such as involuntary dental surgery and eating dooky. Thus, a movie where a guy gives you involuntary dental surgery, and then you eat dooky. And then, I guess, you die? HORROR!
Ah, but the real horror has only just begun. Because, sad to say, The Human Centipede has paid off well enough for director Tom Six to make a sequel. A sequel that has already been banned in the UK. And with that, let’s consider all the [TRIGGER WARNINGS] you might need to be in effect, OK? And let’s talk about why.
SPOILER: “Why” is rape.
Okay. So, let’s assume if you made it past that “read more” tag, you are ready to read some gory description. Because here is one of those, describing the BBFC’s reasons for banning the Human Centipede sequel:
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’.
Oh, how nice. And here, for your further entertainment, is an example of Tom Six’s writing craft, as he condemns the BBFC’s decision:
Thank you BBFC for putting spoilers of my movie on your website and thank you for banning my film in this exceptional way. Apparently I made an horrific horror-film, but shouldn’t a good horror film be horrific? My dear people it is a f****cking MOVIE. It is all fictional. Not real. It is all make-belief. It is art. Give people their own choice to watch it or not. If people can’t handle or like my movies they just don’t watch them. If people like my movies they have to be able to see it any time, anywhere also in the UK.
Naturally, there are a few questions raised by this statement. Such as: Can you really “spoil” The Human Centipede II? The previous movie’s entire strategy for success was getting people to talk about the disgusting stuff that happens therein, so that people would watch it to see whether the stuff was really all that disgusting. I am guessing we were meant to be talking about the various genital tortures. It’s not like anyone is going to be walking out of the theater going, “dang, the impact of that sandpaper-masturbation scene was really spoiled, given that I had been warned about it in advance!” It’s a scene where a dude masturbates with some damn sandpaper. I assure you, the viewer will still be shocked!
Also: Is it even remotely possible that director Tom Six is as surprised by this as he would seem to be? I mean, dude. You directed a movie where people have to eat each others’ poop for sex purposes. What were you expecting, a Daytime Emmy? People are still going to see this thing — even in the UK, one suspects, there will be ways for people to do so — and they’re just going to be more excited about seeing it, given that it’s been banned. If anything, their anticipation for the genital torture will be all the more intense.
But, finally: I am so, so tired of sexual assault being used to “spice up” horror. The whole Human Centipede premise is based on a sexualized assault, even if that isn’t explicit: “Their flesh is his fantasy” is the damn tag line. And now Six has decided the best way to up the ante is with even more literal rape. Which just feels common, at this point. Every time somebody wants to “shock” or “horrify” me, every time they want to create something “horrific” and get all hey-bro-check-out-this-fuggin-shit about it, it seems like sexual assault is the go-to. Chainsaw murder; torture; sexual assault; ghosts. These are your basic buttons to push for HORROR!
Which raises the question of whether or not these directors actually know any human beings. Because, aside from being horrible and traumatic, sexual assault is actually just very common. It is one of the more common horrible things that can happen to a person. So, done up horror-movie style with barbed wire or broken glass or, I don’t know, maybe a woodchipper: It actually just seems like the movie is insulting the real-life experiences of a substantial portion of the audience. “What happened to you was horrible! But maybe… NOT HORRIBLE ENOUGH?” Is how this comes across.
I know, I know: Horror is about exploiting primal fears and common worries. Just look at any Stephen King plot. (The car… that kills! The dog… that kills! The cell phone… that, surprisingly enough, also kills!) And starting a horror story with a common real-life scenario — we just moved into a new house, we’re lost in a strange town, I’m pretty sure we won’t get killed by a dude on this totally awesome camping trip, etcetera — is a nice way to ground the bizarre shit that happens later and make it more authentically scary.
But the thing is, sexual assault typically isn’t treated like a real-life scenario. It’s treated like some bizarre shit. And, as such, directors feel entitled to dress it up and make it as sadistic and gory as possible.
Chainsaw murder is pretty terrible, true, but if you are reading this, my guess is that you have never been murdered with a chainsaw. It’s unlikely that a movie is going to cheapen, sensationalize or trivialize your experience as a chainsaw murder victim. You have also probably never been sewn face-first to anyone else’s butt. You have probably never been eaten by a zombie. You probably have not been stalked by an evil little girl who lives in a well; you probably are not interviewing a super-genius cannibal psychiatrist; you do not have to worry that anyone is going to show up and Drag You To Hell. You can watch movies about any of these things, and enjoy the violence on an aesthetic level, because you know that you don’t have to take the feelings of zombie victims all that seriously. It’s monster makeup, Karo syrup, and food coloring. It’s not anyone’s real life.
But if you’ve been sexually assaulted, you don’t have to imagine how scary that might be. You don’t have to watch a movie to be confronted with the possibility. And you do have to take it seriously. Even if you haven’t been assaulted, it’s likely that you know someone who has. So to have this experience treated as a standard horror trope, on the level of scary ghosts and cannibal witch cults and human centipedes and other shit that just doesn’t actually happen… well, it’s irksome. Because, sure, everybody wants to see some extreme and unlikely and violent shit happen in a movie, now and again. Being shocked and scared is fun. But to have rape treated as something unlikely and bizarre, something we can enjoy based on the level of creative violence involved, isn’t actually saying that rape is “horrific.” It’s saying, on some level, that rape isn’t real.
And it is real. Lots of horrible things are real. For example, I just wrote well over 1,000 words about a sequel to The Human Centipede. Contemplate THAT, if you dare.