The Australian Classification Review Board (ACRB) has refused to classify The Human Centipede II: Full Sequence, the newest body-horror flick from Norwegian director Tom Six, meaning that the film will not be distributed in Australian cinemas. This won’t come as much of a surprise to those who are familiar with the concept behind both Full Sequence and its predecessor, The Human Centipede: First Sequence (2009). The story of a mad scientist, who kidnaps tourists before grotesquely sewing them together in order to create the eponymous ‘human centipede’, has done everything from mildly disgust to morally offend. Full Sequence was originally banned in the UK, but the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) relented and gave the film an 18 certificate after 32 cuts were made.
The ACRB’s refusal to allow the film to be screened in Australian cinemas has once again raised the age-old argument; how far is too far where horror movies are concerned? On one side are those who believe the censorship of films (even very violent ones) to be inherently wrong, ruining the original vision of the film makers. On the other side are those who think that cinema-goers should not be subjected to ridiculously high levels of extreme violence, and what has come to be known as torture porn.
Censorship has always been a hot issue in the film industry. The fight has broken out again and again, right from the days of the Hays Code, a list of rules set down in the thirties by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Most of these rules seem quaint and adorable now; for example, all criminals had to get their comeuppance, and if a man and woman were shown in bed together, one of them also had to be seen to keep one foot on the floor at all times. Then there was the banning of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange in the early seventies (the only case in cinematic history of a film being banned by its own director). The argument sprang up again in the eighties with the rise of the so-called video nasty, and again in the nineties with the advent of teen slasher movies such as the Scream series.
Now, with the number of extreme torture porn horror films massively on the rise (apart from Human Centipede, there has also been the Final Destination series, the Saw films, and a plethora of remakes of old video nasty classics such as Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave) we are not only faced with the problem of whether horror films really are going too far, but also with the question of whether it’s even possible for them to go any further without actually killing the actors for real. In the end, a classification board making the decision to ban a film is a pointless gesture; if an Australian wants to watch The Human Centipede II: Full Sequence in our modern age of internet and DVD, they will eventually find a way. Perhaps not censorship, but self-censorship, should be the order of the day. It is after all, the viewer’s decision to watch, or not to watch, and even the strongest advocates of censorship must admit that the days of actors lying in bed smiling wholesomely at each other with their feet glued to the floor are well and truly gone.