For horror lovers, flicks can never go too far
Published: Sunday, October 30, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 14:11
"Welcome to the 7 p.m. screening of the ‘The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence),'" a staffer calls out over a packed house. "If you have to vomit or feel you're about to lose your bodily functions, bathrooms are behind me. There's a man and a woman's bathroom. Don't crowd up; we can all wait."
The Royale Theater in Mesa is the only place in town where Dutch director Tom Six's "The Human Centipede II" has played, and each screening has been prompted by a similarly crude introduction.
"The Human Centipede II" has been called obscene, grotesque sadist torture porn, yet presale tickets sold fast and every screening within the first week sold out.
"It's outsider cinema," Justin Edwards, a 19-year horror super fan who works at The Royale, explained.
"You can't approach it like a normal film. It's not a foreign film but it's completely foreign to people around here."
The original film, 2009's "The Human Centipede (First Sequence)," follows a mad German scientist whose ultimate creation is a three-person crawling monster that he sews together, butt to mouth. Spectators and critics were horrified.
Fans couldn't stop talking about it.
Part two of a trilogy, "The Human Centipede II" takes the original idea to a whole other level. The film within a film follows a lonely and deranged man who loves the original "The Centipede" movie so much he decides to try it for himself with 12 victims.
Daring patrons have come in groups to experience the film together and, according to Edwards, everyone seems to come out of the sequel satisfied.
"No one's been disappointed. It's crazy how warm the reception to it has been," he said.
A warm reception? It's a surprising response for a film that displays graphic violence and perverse sex crimes. Characters are shown experiencing sheer anguish and despair.
Surely, there is a line that horror movies just shouldn't cross.
The overwhelming answer appears to be no. Censors not included, of course.
We'll spare you the details, but a quick internet search might shed some light as to why "The Human Centipede" was originally banned in the UK. It was later screened after producers made 32 cuts that total 2 minutes and 37 seconds.
Even the version screened at The Royale is edited, but not quite as severe as the British version. To the surprise of no one, the ban only helped heighten the risqué factor to the film; it was marketing gold.
Edwards said The Royale hardly had to promote the film.
"We didn't even get confirmation that we were going to get it until a week before," he said. IFC Films even delivered it to them under a code name, for security reasons.
Andrea Beesley-Brown, best known as the Midnight Movie Mamacita who runs The Royale, liked the first "Centipede," but hadn't seen the sequel before the delivery.
"I know all about the ‘torture porn' genre, but it's not my favorite type of movie," she said. "Being a feminist, it's frustrating seeing predominantly women being tortured and subjected, objectified sexually repeatedly."
Beesley-Brown has never seen any of the "Saw" movies, but still thinks it's ridiculous for any movie in this day and age to be banned because of violence.
"It doesn't mean they shouldn't be made, I just won't be watching them," she said.
There is clearly an audience for torture porn and exploitation, and the proof is in the ticket sales. The "Saw" franchise grossed $862,568,912 worldwide over 7 films.
"The Human Centipede" saw a limited release and made the most money in DVD sales. The sequel was released on even fewer screens, but has blown the original out of the water in terms of expectations.
"The name itself causes a buzz. You want to prove to yourself that you can go through it," Beesley-Brown said.
It's a ‘chicken mentality' that brings so many large groups to the theater, she said. Beesley-Brown believes there's nothing like seeing a movie in a theater because you feed on the audience's hysteria.
"It's like discovering a gross gold mine; you don't want to keep it to yourself," Edwards added.
Obviously, people are going to have different sensibilities when it comes to film, but does putting exploitation and torture under the umbrella of horror films make it okay? And are these films even scary?
Oliver Porter, a 27-year-old ASU alum and videographer, believes a lot of horror movie scares are cheap thrills.
"There's only so many times the music can swell before something pops out at you," he said. "So why not cut someone's head off?"
As a nonbiased horror fan, Oliver is just about as desensitized as one can be. He will watch anything once.
"[‘The Human Centipede' director] Tom Six hasn't invented the wheel. There have been movies in the ‘60s and ‘70s that I think were way more disturbing than ‘Human Centipede,'" he said.
He cites movies such as "Salò" from 1975 and "I Spit On Your Grave" from 1978 as being far more offensive.
The shock value of sexual violence and bodily harm are a great way to catch viewers' attention, and Oliver said there is no line to cross when it comes to film. It's all fair play.
"It's just a movie," he said. "It's made for entertainment. It's just people standing around with cameras and microphones. It's not real."
Oliver likes the uproar movies such as "The Human Centipede" can cause. He said if a movie can make him feel ill or uncomfortable, it's worth watching.
"There is still an underground cult following that will watch anything they can get their hands on," he said.