Flower of Flesh and Blood, Guinea Pig and August Underground on DVD
The List’s guide to banned horror films, we watched them so you don’t have to
For this Hallowe’en special we step into the outer reaches of horror and examine some of the films that have been refused a certificate by the British Board of Film Classification. Of course it’s impossible to have a discussion on banned movies in the UK without mentioning Video Nasties, and if you want to learn more Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide (Nucleus Films) ●●●● is a comprehensive history (running at over eight hours over three discs) of the films themselves and the ensuing moral panic. Of course in these more enlightened times nearly all these films are legally available on DVD (though often with heavy cuts), except for 11 titles including the positively quaint The Werewolf and the Yeti (1975) ●●● which plays like a particularly cheap campy Hammer Horror – how it ended up on the banned list is utterly baffling.
The Japanese shocker Guinea Pig (1985) ●●●● was never even submitted to the BBFC, perhaps unsurprising as there’s no attempt at narrative, just a woman being tortured and eventually killed by three men. The second instalment in the same series, Flower of Flesh and Blood (1985) ●●●●, features a samurai slowly dissecting and dismembering a young woman in grisly detail. This is pure horror in its most extreme form. On a technical level the cinematography in both films is exquisite, and the special effects shockingly realistic but truly astounding. Even while the content disgusts the films are still visually intriguing and weirdly mesmerising – horrific, nasty and challenging but strangely artistic in their purity of vision.
Mikey (1992) ●● was a victim of circumstance, caught up in the furore surrounding the Jamie Bulger case due to its depiction of a young boy murdering his adoptive family. It’s always unnerving to see a child committing acts of violence but Mikey is a mediocre film, with the acting and production values of a TV movie.
Perhaps the most notorious film of recent years is August Underground (2001) ●●●. The simple premise is that two dumb hick serial killers videotape their exploits. It’s a grimy, hand-held catalogue of torture, murder and abuse that has been deliberately retrograded to look like a genuine snuff movie. It certainly accomplishes what the directors set out to achieve. It’s an ugly, uncomfortable film, an endurance test that pushes at the boundaries.
100 Tears (2007) ●● is a simple slasher film as two tabloid reporters track the Teardrop Killer, a gigantic homicidal clown with a huge cleaver. Painfully low budget, it almost makes up for its shortfalls with enthusiasm and the sheer volume of gruesome kills (the body count hits the 30s). It’s all so OTT it’s just a bit silly rather than offensive.
Japan’s Grotesque (2009) ●●● is the most recent film to be banned in the UK. A young man and woman are bundled into the back of a van, to wake up strapped to an operating table where an unnamed doctor proceeds to torture them for ‘sexual excitement’. Limbs, digits and appendages are defiled with scalpels, chainsaws, hammers and nails but what actually holds the film together is the love story between the two victims.
These films are illegal and while we wouldn’t want to encourage anyone to break the law in the age of the internet nothing is unobtainable. Whether they should be banned is another question entirely ...