I've noticed a sharp divide between horror and something else in film. I'm not sure what to call the something else---it certainly has horrific elements in it, but the sub-genre isn't entirely horror. In my opinion.
Back in 1931, when Todd Browning exposed the theater-going public to Freaks, the content of the motion-picture was considered so offensive and tasteless that it was banned in many venues. It wouldn't be truly re-discovered by the horror community until its re-issue in the sixties. And after thirty years it had lost something---it was still strange and depressing, but perhaps it had lost its ability to shock.
In the late sixties, with the Vietnam war coming into the living rooms of America, film makers would have to work harder to disturb jaded tastes. Shock is easy to affect, after all, compared to building suspense, character, and developing plot and theme. Shock is simply a matter of looking around the market place, seeing where the current lines are drawn, and then going a step further.
Hence, Texas Chain-Saw Massacre, Nightmare On Elmstreet, Friday the 13th, Last House on The Left, Halloween, etc. Now, I know some reading this list will shake their heads and say: "Those are classics!" However, I assure you at the time of their release, that across the film-going community they were often considered lacking of merit. They were evidence of the rot in society and the corruption of the teen audience they were often aimed at. Today many youthful audiences consider the above titles quaint.
In the last few years I've had the opportunity of watching films the current teen generation considers their own. Hostel, the Saw series, Cabin Fever, etc. Little more than snuff film. they are freed of the obligation their predecessors felt to pretend to be something other than a succession of violent images for a video game gobbling consumer. No longer do we have to worry about pacing or plot. Characterization is no longer an obstruction. This sub-genre of shock horror, this hearkening back to the sideshow is freed from any obligation or concern over consequence.
Which brings us to The Human Centipede.
The plot is simple. Two women traveling through Germany break down and seek a phone in the middle of a rainy night. They are drugged by a demented scientist who is intent on creating a human centipede--surgically joining three people by joining mouth to anus and cutting certain ligaments so the co-joined victims must crawl. What is his motivation? None is really given? What do we know about the characters? Next to nothing. Suspense? None.
And to be honest, The Human Centipede, as disturbing as it was, doesn't disturb me. No. What disturbs me is what comes next. With the door being kicked open a little more, with the bar being dropped a little further, with an audiences' collective sensibility being further numbed by an appalling succession of images---what's next? That's what scares me.
And considering this, you should be scared too. In fact, it's possible Human Centipede has already been surpassed as the most tasteless and morally bankrupt film of all time. There is currently a film available entitled A Serbian Film , wherein one of the characters is described as watching a film in which a man helps deliver an infant and then proceeds to rape the newborn. I haven't seen A Serbian Film, and I won't.
It's time to take account of who we are and what we want for ourselves and our children in society.