Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I'm Getting Too Old For This Shit

In contemplating watching writer/director Tom Six's instantly notorious The Human Centipede (now available on VOD), I had to confess to myself that I just didn't feel motivated to check it out. For years, I felt obligated as a fan to see every horror movie that was released - even more so if a movie was rumored to be a boundary-pushing example of the genre. My trips to the video store back in the '80s were all about renting intestine-slinging Italian cannibal gut-munchers like Cannibal Holocaust (1980) or Make Them Die Slowly (1981). If it was "Banned in 31 Countries," I was on it. I wanted to see the most offending footage that filmmakers had to offer.

These days, as I approach middle-age (or maybe I'm already there) my appetite for the extreme isn't what it used to be. The idea of watching The Human Centipede feels like committing to a burdensome chore rather than welcoming the opportunity to enjoy some potentially taboo-smashing entertainment and I have to wonder why that is. Why am I watching Stuart Gordon's Dolls (1987) for the umpteenth time when The Human Centipede is readily available? Maybe it's just that given the limited time I have to watch films on my own - when my wife and son are otherwise occupied - I don't want to waste time watching something I feel I'm not likely to enjoy. After all, life is too short.

When I was a teenager, the appeal of extreme horror lay - at least partly - in that there was some bragging rights to be found in watching films that were past the comfort zone of my family, friends or classmates. On an adolescent level, it seemed cool to be hip to films that grossed other people out. Some of these films were well-made in their own right but more often they weren't and the only point in watching them was to be able to say that I did and hope that someone would be impressed. As a teen, unless you're lucky enough to be well-adjusted and happy with yourself, I think you're always doing things to push people away but at the same time trying very hard to make them notice you.

If I were fifteen again, I know I'd be chomping at the bit to see The Human Centipede but I'm pretty far from fifteen. I feel like The Human Centipede is a movie that unless you feel as if you're getting away with something you shouldn't be by watching it or reveling in exposing some unwitting soul to it (or both), it just isn't much fun. Adding to my reluctance is that I've heard from a number of people that the movie, ultimately, is much tamer than one would expect. If I'm going to take the time to watch a movie where someone has their mouth sewn to someone else's ass, it better be the absolute last word on the subject. I don't want to watch The Human Centipede and then find out that a more extreme version of it was made six months later in Korea or something.

I might watch The Human Centipede eventually if the time presents itself and I'm in the right mood (what mood that would be, I don't know) but I have a feeling I won't. Had the distributor offered a kitschy VHS release like was recently offered for Ti West's House of the Devil (2009), however, that shit might've been enough to sucker me in. Selecting The Human Centipede on my VOD menu just doesn't feel right. It's too banal. To my mind, The Human Centipede is a movie that needs to be found in a mom and pop video store in an oversized box with a garish illustrated cover. You know, something along these lines:

Even on VHS and with appropriately sick cover art, I still might have never watched The Human Centipede but hey, at least I would've felt pretty cool about loaning it out.


Wings1295 said...

THANK YOU for this post.

I have a few movies gathering virtual dust in my Netflix queue, suffering this same fate. I just don't want to waste my time on them, when I could waste it on something else.

I think you are right to say it may have something to do with age. As we get older, we know what is what, at least somewhat. We don't feel the need to do something merely to be part of the group the 'cool kids' are in.

I am really not sure I will ever hit play on this one. And I may use this as the impetus to go and boot some other similar sitting flicks right outta my queue.

You aren't alone, dude.

Jeff Allard said...

Good to know, Wings! I guess once you get older, keeping up with sick cinema stops being the all-consuming priority that it used to be!

Will Errickson said...

Hafta chime in here and say "Ditto!" When this stuff gets offered on on-demand cable, how am I supposed to feel all transgressive and shit watching it?! I'm also surprised by the number of people I know who have been talking about HUMAN CENTIPEDE; certainly not the type of people to wax nostalgic over I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, VIDEODROME, or NEKROMANTIK, I daresay. What's an old gorehound to do?

the jaded viewer said...

I know how you feel. I swear I only watched the most extreme flicks back in my 20s just to say I had seen something nobody else had seen.

But I did go see The Human Centipede...and in a theater with Tom Six and the cast.

It's not an over the edge movie by any means but its visual WTF eye candy. At times boring, and at times funny.

Maybe my review will change your mind.


L. Rob Hubb said...

Add another 'Thank You' for this post... having heard so much about this over the past couple of months, it seems that, at heart, it's the '2 girls - 1 cup' scenario played out with a lot of artifice around it to give it some meaning.

Only the Europeans....

As to 'extreme' - how extreme can one be when you can practically watch autopsies on network tv during the dinner hour via CSI or BONES, and the abstract idea of 'snuff' is practically blase, with movies, tv shows, and the internet having co-opted the idea without going all the way?

How do you shock the unshockable?
Maybe by bringing back some genuine human emotion... but I don't think it's to be found in something called THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE.

Bob Ignizio said...

I know where you're coming from. I think I kind of regressed a little bit when I saw this was playing at an actual midnight screening in Cleveland. If you can't have it in a garish big box VHS, that's not a bad alternative. I'm definitely glad I did see this one in that kind of setting. I'm also glad I finally got over the same kind of feelings you are describing and watched 'Martyrs', another movie where I heard so much about how "extreme" it was. Wish more people had focused on the fact that it was actually good. I think that's the problem. Too many times movies get hyped for how far they push the boundaries or how sick they are or whatever, when it should be about whether the movie is actually good or not.

Jeff Allard said...

Will, that's the thing - it doesn't feel transgressive to watch this stuff anymore and that really sucks the fun out of it. It used to be that you'd only know about these movies if you read mags like Deep Red or GoreZone. Now, Entertainment Weekly reports on the likes of Human Centipede!

Jaded, thanks for the link to your review. I'll check it out!

Rob, it is hard to be extreme now that the whole culture has gone in that direction. My wife watches 24 and she told me how the latest episode had Jack Bauer blowtorching a man to death (!) and then gutting him post-mortem to retrieve a swallowed SIM card (!!). That kind of stuff used to be beyond the pale even in R-rated movies now it's on regular TV - how crazy is that?

And Bob, I do think that that tone of discussion when it comes to films like this tends to turn me off. Maybe I shouldn't pay so much attention to it and just watch the films for myself.

Jose Cruz said...

I feel kinda bad for not offering anything deep to say... other than that if I had been drinking milk it would've come spurting out of my nose when I saw the poster for The Human Centipede and read the title of your post.

I'm so immature. =)

But honestly, I can at least relate to one thing you said in your write up. The part about teens pushing people away when also trying to garner attention really struck me. I feel that's very true, even with me at times. Truly insightful, Mr. Allard. Keep up the fantastic work.

Jeff Allard said...

Thanks Joe!

Timmy Crabcakes said...

Somehow I've managed to avoid being exposed to much of anything about this movie except for the name and a couple of the posters.
To my ears it sounds like a good-old 'mad scientist and his monster' story...

Timmy Crabcakes said...

Ok, I went and read up a bit on this thing... and... hmmm... ok... yeah... I'm not sure I wanna see that.