The Horror Movie As Gross-Out Joke

   There is something about horror, extreme horror, that plays a bit like a classic gross out joke. Oh, you know the kind, the baby in blender sorta jokes that kids tell each other on the bus ride home. The sorta jokes that you tell when an adult isn’t around because you know they won’t understand how funny it is, not knowing that some of those same adults made up these creepy dead baby jokes. Horror and humor are really close to one another. Really similar. Both are all about the delivery and the punchline. They just go in different directions because of the tone. Tell a joke about a clown standing in the middle of the street with a pie in his hand at mid-day and it’s funny, tell the same joke and it’s midnight and it suddenly becomes unnerving. There’s the rub. So, seeing how close these things are, it’s  no wonder that there are horror comedies that come out from time to time, mostly to poor reviews and reputations. Horror and humor are hard to do, especially when you mix the two. Ah, but the gross-out joke, well, that’s something a little different. A gross-out joke is quick and dirty, nasty and mean, and it is never going to be well received by the masses.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present The Human Centipede: Full Sequence, the ultimate gross-out joke.

   Now before you laugh at me, hear me out!

I have been avoiding watching Human Centipede 2 since it came out. As soon as people began seeing the film the reviews were all over the map but mostly were bad. And not JUST bad but horrible. Everything I read really worried me. I liked the first film all right, it wasn’t amazing, but it was a fun movie and was a lot funnier than disturbing, something I hadn’t expected. What I was reading about the sequel though reeked of pretention and absurdity and someone out to just top themselves. Little did I know that these reviews were accurate yet wrong.

So wrong.

What you have with HC2 is the horror film as absurdist gross out joke. This is a film that plays both as a joke and as a middle finger to people who were so appalled by the first film, a film that, truly and in the same way, Goodfellas plays as a comedy. There is a point in ‘realism’ and in realistic films where things become SO real, SO horrific that it becomes comedic. It isn’t funny to see Spider, the hapless go-for in Goodfellas, get shot and killed but the way it plays out IS funny in that world. It is funny because it is absurd. So too is HC2 funny because director Tom Six doesn’t take this nearly as seriously as his critics do. He is making films that are brutally tongue in cheek. Now, that isn’t to say that he’s a genius and auteur so much as he is a teller of dirty jokes, and honestly, pretty decent ones. The second film is his answer to critics who 1. thought his first film went too far and 2. to people who question what might happen if someone ‘sick’ were to take horror and extreme films too seriously. So plays HC2, as a ridiculous cautionary tale of a man so obsessed with the first film that he decided to make his own human centipede. The film is shot in black and white, is absolutely dripping with pathos and explanations as to WHY the man is how he is, and the film is far, far more disturbing in how the centipede comes together yet…it’s all so funny. It’s so over the top, so overly-‘real’ that you cannot help but laugh. And if you have doubts just wait until the climax of the film. This film plays the gross-out card so strongly that you realize he is playing it for comedy. The first film was so effective because it was pretty restrained, yet he still got lambasted for his over the top themes and ideas. So why not go all the way to ‘11’? Give the people what they want.

And that is the beauty of this film. This movie is ALL about the audience, and all about giving them what they wanted. They wanted a bizarre, disgusting film and so he gave it to them. And then he essentially flipped them off. And honestly, Six got what he wanted. Got such a reaction that the thing was haphazardly banned for a moment. He wanted to make a sensation and did. He made a movie so cinematic and ridiculous (and well made, he is an awfully competent director) that people really thought it was this abomination that would fog minds and stain the culture.

Yet…

It’s a joke.

The entire thing.

This film is meant as a lampoon of his original film. It plays in a way that is similar to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, a film that had nothing new to say so it said the same thing as a joke. And that is why I liked HC2. Because sure, he is still going to make a third film (though it’d be funnier if he were always working on it but never releasing it), but there never needed to be more than one. And he knew it. I would never claim HC2 is art but it is surely not the trash people purport it to be. It’s essentially one long, dirty joke that people will either have a taste for or not. This film does not re-define horror, does not endanger society, and i t surely doesn’t pee all over cinema. This is a movie, nothing more, nothing less, and the more weight people ascribe to it only serves to prove out the point of the film, that we get too darned uptight about movies. That sometimes a movie is just a movie, and doesn’t need to be more, do more, or say more.

   Sure, you don’t have to like the film, you don’t have to even see the film, but people need to get it into their heads that, well, it IS just a film after all. And one that isn’t medically accurate. It even says as much.

Art, the great Art that people will talk about for ages, is around us, all the time around us, and it isn’t for us to decide what will last the test of time and what will be Great and impactful to the people generations ahead of us, but let’s let them decide if this film is great Art, great Trash, or just a pretty fun movie. We have better things to worry about, like how the heck you can make a fifty person centipede. My mind boggles at that one.

…c…

(I write stuffs other than blogs. Honest! www.meepsheep.com)

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