Be Careful What You Wish For

September 6, 2010

When I embarked on this blog some two years ago now I had planned to write up a rant lamenting the terrible quality of scary/horror movies. That piece never came to fruition but the intention was to call for some truly challenging transgressive films to come along and enable the kind of paradigm shift in cinema shocks that such classics as Psycho, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc. had provided us with in the past. Really, I was just utterly bored and frustrated by all that bland, cookie-cutter, MTV-award-baiting, formulaic nonsense like the Final Destination franchise and the Saw franchise and all the other piss-weak, humdrum titles in between. Hollywood was churning out so much of that tripe that I was genuinely concerned that a young generation of cinema-goers were being deprived of proper horror films or any kind of film experience that could adequately shit them up. If the purpose of comedy movies is to make an audience laugh then we can infer that the purpose of horror movies is to disturb and horrify an audience and that simply wasn’t happening. I’ve since discovered that those films are out there. The French are currently making a lot them, the Japanese have pretty much always made them, and every now and then some mad European is working to deliver another eye-popping addition to the ongoing Grand Guignol.

Earlier this year I heard about The Human Centipede and it seemed to represent and promise everything I was lamenting the absence of. The teaser trailer was legitimately disturbing, the premise so outlandish and foul, that I found myself presented with a rare challenge in terms of whether or not I could sit through it. In the end, a successful appeal to my vanity was made when a friend nominated me to be the person most suitable and capable of satisfying the collectively appalled curiosity of others and actually watching it. I duly did so, and the result was my review here. The Human Centipede, it transpired, was actually a twisted dark comedy that sprang from a joke that the writer/director had shared with a friend concerning an appropriate punishment for paedophiles. It was funny, not nearly as grotesque or explicit as one would expect, and had a wonderfully entertaining central performance from Dieter Laser as the uber-nutty Dr. Josef Heiter. It was a success, however, in the sense that the very idea of it continues to freak people out. I have been conscientiously attempting to evangelize the film to anyone who will listen and I have been met with considerable resistance. People have looked me in the eye, nodded earnestly and said “yes, I am too scared to watch that film”. The mere idea of it has a far-reaching potency going beyond even the freaky teaser trailer or revealing screenshots. Ultimately though, on account of the dark chuckles, The Human Centipede didn’t quite deliver the mind-rape I was anticipating. An entirely different film did that.

As soon as I’d watched The Human Centipede and decided to start telling other people about it, another acquaintance of mine responded to my initial boasts by throwing an intriguing link at me, asking if I’d heard about a new flick called A Serbian Film. The film had just had its first screening at the SXSW festival in the US and even the writers at a site called Bloody Disgusting (“your #1 source for horror”) were declaring that it was perhaps the most brutal and shocking fim ever made. I started looking into it, unaware that I was more or less moving closer to the edge of a Nietzschean abyss and about to start gazing.

A Serbian Film is precisely the kind of sickening, fucked-up spectacle that I thought the world needed (though my certainty in that respect has been profoundly shaken). It is truly horrifying and categorically the most shocking film I have ever seen. I watched it about three days ago and I still feel like I’m floating limp and helpless in its wake, far too dazed to offer any kind of coherent or remotely useful analysis. The real events and stories that horrify me usually contain elements of mundane brutality and horrendous sexual violence. True atrocity, by its very nature, does not involve malevolent supernatural entities or ingeniously skilled, anonymous killers systematically stalking and murdering gangs of teenagers in small towns. It involves men locking their own children in basements and raping them for years; it involves civilian massacres and rape as a weapon of war being perpetrated in an unrelenting display of mad cruelty. I wondered what kind of film, in this day and age, could come along and reflect that kind of authentic repugnance. A Serbian Film answered my question.

(A review of A Serbian Film will follow but the above post is an extended introduction that I felt was necessary.)



  1. Lookin’ forward to it. The review, that is. Not the movie.

  2. Thought I could get it done in a day but it’s proving trickier than I anticipated.

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