Courtesy of director Adam Rehmeier, I was recently able to watch, in private, his film THE BUNNY GAME, which was banned in the autumn by the BBFC. This was going to be my review, but it turned into somewhat of a rant against what the BBFC practices. Consider this a precursor to my incoming thoughts on Rehmeier's controversial film.
In October of last year, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) reversed their decision to ban THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II (FULL SEQUENCE) and allowed Tom Six's controversial body horror to be released with an 18 certificate, albeit with 32 separate cuts, amounting to almost three minutes. The following week, the BBFC announced on their official website that board members David Cooke, Sir Quentin Thomas, Alison Hastings and Gerard Lemos had decided that a film by the name of THE BUNNY GAME was in breach of the Video Recordings Act and was refused classification, meaning that it is illegal to supply the film anywhere in the UK.
While I am a strong believer in the certification of films, I am completely against censorship. I am of the opinion that once you are an adult, you should be able to watch whatever you wish, be it A SERBIAN FILM uncut – the way the film-makers intended their work to be seen – or BAMBI. What has always bugged me is how the aforementioned decision-makers are able to bring the gavel down and claim that a film, or certain scenes, are potentially “harmful.” When a film is labelled as such, it means that the BBFC considers the work to have the power to actually be dangerous to viewers, either as a source for sexual arousal and stimulation, or by thinking that it would be possible for scenes to influence audiences in such a way that they would want to recreate more violent content. So, where are all the horrifying reports from countries where the movies that have been banned or butchered over here have been released in their entirety? To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever actually devised a plan to make their own human centipede.
I've seen amateur footage of the charred corpses of American soldiers dragged through the streets by Iraqi insurgents on the six o'clock news. We live in the information age. Anyone who truly is a bearer of dark and disturbing fantasies can explore them with the click of a button. If I was so inclined, I could open up Google and within 30 seconds find a video from the Middle East of someone having their head hacked off with a machete.
A movie isn't going to push someone over the edge, much less “harm” the mind of a murderer. Like the tagline of Wes Craven's LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, it's only a movie. If someone has destructive tendencies, has that duplicate chromosome or whatever it may be – just has it in them to commit cold-blooded murder – a viewing of MURDER SET PIECES isn't going to affect them. It's all hypothetical nonsense. You could die from smoking cigarettes and you could die from drinking alcohol, yet you can't drive a couple of miles without rolling past a store that sells both. If there is a chance that someone could turn violent from watching a banned horror movie, or indeed find one sexually gratifying, I wager it's a hell of a lot smaller than the risk associated with lighting up or hitting the bottle.
And let's not forget that the regulating body of hardcore pornography in the UK is the BBFC.
Have the Presidential Team and director Cooke passed extensive psychotic and biological tests based on the endless amount of research into those who have committed violent acts? I highly doubt it. So why is it that they have the ability to ban films and restrict what the whole of the UK is legally allowed to watch?
How many curious teenagers waited until they were 18 before they experienced the likes of MILFHunters.com? (I've no idea if that's a real website, by the way.) In the '80s, kids could get hold of barely watchable fourth, fifth and sixth-hand video tapes of banned movies. In fact, many of those who did are the top genre film-makers in the UK today. In 2012, we can hop online and import films that have been refused classification in the UK in just a couple of minutes with absolute ease.
The Video Recordings Act is outdated and seriously flawed. "It's been outdated for years, in fact. Look at the Video Nasties Act. Look at THE EXORCIST and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (which Kubrick himself withdrew from release). Time changes everything. How long will it be until THE BUNNY GAME, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (2011) and A SERBIAN FILM are re-released uncut? It's inevitable, but I don't want to have to wait X amount of years for that to happen. Not only is it an inconvenience, but it damages the vision of the film-makers who strive to entertain us. It's unnecessary.
I'm far from ignorant to the fact that the board have a job to do and have to follow strict guidelines, but, ultimately, it all boils down to opinion. I know a member of the BBFC whom I met at a film festival in London back in 2010. It was a horror festival. He's not only a huge fan of cinema in general, but he loves his horror. He isn't a decision-maker, but his views are forwarded to them. As a critic, I am fully aware that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Opinions can be influential, that's exactly why people read this website, but when it comes down to something as trivial – in the grand scheme of things – as movies and television, opinions shouldn't be able to be enforced in such a way as to restrict what we are allowed to go out and buy.
There are many interesting things to be said about the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), as a viewing of THIS FILM HAS NOT YET BEEN RATED will tell you, yet at least in the States, as long as you're of age, the ratings board isn't the be all and end all of your movie-watching ability, and stores across the country are legally allowed to stock the shelves with Unrated editions of the latest genre films.
It isn't every week that the decision-makers refuse to classify a movie. It's not even every month, but over the last couple of years it's become more and more frequent and it's something I find incredibly annoying. Generally, I am a supporter of the BBFC. When it comes to slapping ratings on theatrical and home entertainment releases, they can continue to do the good job that they're doing, but the buck should stop at 18.
What are your views on censorship?
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