Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Can Films Make You Evil?

This week the BBCF (British Board of Film Classification) ruled, in its infinite wisdom, not to give an age rating to Dutch director Tom Six's latest exercise in bad taste, Human Centipede 2. It is only the fourth film never to have been granted a nationwide release. It was so "rotten" the BBFC said that

"No amount of cuts would allow them to give it a certificate".

It is unlikely that Disney will be banging down the director's door to option the film as it tells the tale of deranged sexual predator who creates a twelve person human centipede by kidnapping his victims and sewing them mouth to anus. He gets his kicks when the centipede defecates and its faeces are forced into the mouth of the victim behind them. If that wasn't bad enough he rapes the woman at the rear of the centipede with barbed wire wrapped around his penis. It stars Dame Judy Dench as "Centipede Segment 3" Patrick Stewart as "The Doctor" and Adam Sandler as "Martin the Rapist". Probably.

In an e-mail to Empire magazine Six argued that adults should be given freedom of choice and that the ban was draconian and tantamount to censorship.

"Apparently I made a horrific horror film, but shouldn't a good horror film be horrific? It is all fictional. Not real. It is all make-believe. It is art. If people can't handle or don't like my movies they just don't watch them."

The BBFC argued that the film could inflict psychological harm on viewers and could potentially be in breach of the Obscene Publications Act, nanny state legislation put in place after the "video nasty" controversy in the 80's where moral guardians such as Mary Whitehouse believed that watching The Evil Dead would turn you into a brain eating zombie within half an hour.

The ban left me wondering whether a simple film, a fictional product performed by actors, has the power to subvert the minds of adults to such a dangerous degree that they would be mentally scarred or lead to them commit criminal acts?

There is some evidence of art influencing life.

Quentin Tarantino's Natural Born Killers has been linked to a number of " copycat" murders most notably those committed by the couple Sarah Edmonson and Benjamin Darrus who shot two victims after taking LSD and watching the film several times.

Deranged puppet horror Child's Play has been cited in the case of Martin Bryant, Australia's worst ever serial killer who murdered 35 people who is said was obsessed by the film and influenced by Chucky' murderous rampages. It has also mentioned to be influential in the sadistic murder of two year old Jamie Bulger by pre-teen killers Robert Thompson and Jon Venables although this seems to be more of a hysterical media join-the-dots exercise by the UK press.

Scorcese's Taxi Driver blurred the boundaries between fantasy and reality for mentally imbalanced John Hinckley Jr. After becoming obsessed with movie and assuming Robert DeNiro was talking to him directly, in 1981 he attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan in an effort to impress Jodie Foster. Ahh...what Foster wouldn't do for delusional murdering stalker these days to get her career out of the toilet.

Director of Child's Play Tom Holland has argued that horror movies can only influence violent or anti-social behaviour if the viewers are

"unbalanced to begin with".

It would be a reckless libertarian fool who would argue against protecting impressionable children from extreme images of sex and violence so as not to screw up their developement but adults surely are balanced enough to realise the difference between fantasy and reality?

I say release the film, give it an 18 certificate and deny it the oxygen of publicity. Those who seek to copy what they have seen in movies are obviously mentally ill and are just as likely to start murderous ramapages by listening to the voice in their heads as they are by copying extreme films, no matter how crass.

Now, does anyone know where I can buy a good sewing kit?


  1. Your mention of the 1980s video nasties reminded me of the fact that banned films during my childhood were passed around like contraband at school. Now that technology has moved on, it will be easily passed around and maybe seen by more than if it had been released at the cinema.

  2. As they say Steve, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

    I, like you remember trawling the video stores with my mates watching every horror film I could get my hands on. I don't remember the video store owners being very stringent about checking our ages back then.

    There was the illicit thrill of seeing an 18 film and the obvious excitement at seeing gore or grisly deaths. Of course I was aware these were films so didn't go about murdering anyone or ending up in an asylum.

    Films that stuck with me in particular were the Puppet Master (what is it with scary puppets?) the Nightmare on Elm Street series (the whole dream thing is a great premise) and a scene in Friday 13th Part 2 where a guy is making out with a girl on a bed and Jason rams a sword through the mattress and through his chest.

    I had to check under the bed before going to sleep for about a month after that.