So earlier this week Empire magazine reported that the BBFC had banned the horror sequel Human Centipede 2 on the grounds that it was “sexually violent and potentially obscene”, I won’t go into details about why it was rejected but for those of you who are curious feel free to look here (Mum please don’t look!). Personally I breathed a sigh of relief at this news, I’ve been desperately hoping the BBFC would clamp down on extreme horror movies for a while. Before you write me off as a spoil sport and wimp I would like to argue my case as to why I have become disillusioned with the film ratings system in the last 10 years.
Until my mid twenties I was a big fan of horror movies, the Scream trilogy, Candyman, Halloween, Se7en, Blair Witch Project, Nightmare on Elm Street and The Shining were all on my scary movie list of must watch/must own yet I can remember when I realised that filmmakers were no longer going for chills and thrills but outright grotesque storylines, it was when I saw Hannibal. I had been genuinely excited to see it at the cinema having seen Silence of the Lambs however (those who are familiar with the dining scene towards the end) one scene in particular was so horrendous I left in hysterical tears and was unable to sleep that night. I won’t deny that this was a fairly extreme reaction to fiction however it seemed such an unnecessary representation for little entertainment value (in my opinion). In recent years the BBFC have also admitted that film ratings (15 and 18 certificates in particular) have been relaxed and greater levels of sex, violence, swearing and nudity are now permissible in lower categories than had been in the past. Maybe they believe we are becoming more accustomed to violent images, if so then I have even more reason to be concerned!
Probably not coincidentally the last few years have seen a rise in “torture porn” movies flooding the cinema with the such likes of the Hostel and Saw franchises and The Devil’s Rejects to name but a few. Whereas previously horror movies had centered on religious horror, ghostly presences or superhuman protagonists these days plots tend to centre on twisted or mentally dangerous individuals with a thirst for sadistic torture and killing simply because they believe there are moral grounds for it or worse, because they feel like it. I personally find these sorts of movies far more damaging and unpleasant.
Now I’m not going to fight for censorship, and I’m not even going to blame (all) horror movies for inciting violence in the real world (although I have to wonder about the mental state of some of the people who think up these movie plots). Instead I would challenge the BBFC to return to the old movie classifications (when a 15 rated movie didn’t have people being stabbed in the eye by a needle or 18 rated movie where people’s insides remained on the inside) and instead would encourage them to add a higher rating above the current 18 for those movies targeting a niche market of (and I’m going to generalise here) desensitized individuals who can sleep safe at night having watched some of the nastiness included in some of these movies. Perhaps an “E” for extreme cinema would be appropriate? I have no desire to confuse the artistic content of an 18 rated movie targeting an adult audience (such as American Beauty, Fight Club, American History X) with movies simply created to shock and disgust.
I admit I’m a sensitive individual and am getting more so with age. I used to tease my mum for only being able to watch Disney movies without having nightmares but at the rate the movie industry is going these days I might well be joining her!