Monday, October 11, 2010


Remember when a pixel looked like a pixel, when this was the kind of video game parents were getting upset about? Now the parents who were playing this one are either up in arms about games like Dead Rising or more likely standing in line to get the latest edition for themselves.

(Images courtesy of Atari Age.)

Clearly it takes this Leatherface pretender a while to figure out that you can’t just brush the victim with the blade—you gotta rev it up to get the points! Otherwise they just stroll by you, perhaps getting a stinging whiff of burning gas but otherwise unharmed, and probably mocking you to boot! And Leatherface should not, will not be mocked!

And speaking of model parenting, this next one comes courtesy of pal Paul Brunick, who sends along a bit of video that might be of interest to the Horror Dads. These parents might not be great filmmakers—Mom’s framing gives away the punch line way too early, and her narration makes Harrison Ford as Deckard sound engaged and interested. But they do have an intriguing, if potentially controversial take on giving the kids too much of what they think they’re grooving on outside the awareness of Mom & Pop. Mom explains as the camera creeps closer to the door of the upstairs bedroom: Apparently little Joey and Johnny (the names have probably been changed because I have no idea what the real names of the hapless tykes are) stayed up late the previous night gorging on a movie that they were presumably told they were forbidden to see. Mom claims it was something called Texas Chainsaw Cheerleader Massacre, but a quick Google of that title comes up only with links to this video. (Personally, I think Mom was just making that title up—either that, or she and Dad have ever kinkier, more underground taste in horror than they’re letting on, allowing a tape like that to land so easily into the hands of such obviously fresh-scrubbed and innocent little Opies such as these.)

At any rate, Mom and Dad found out that the little fellas watched the movie, and then spent the rest of the deep, dark, threatening night huddled together in one bed under the sheets with the lights on. (This practice has been proven to ward off slobbering, flesh-mask-wearing psychos wielding gas-powered implements of murder, so the kids can’t be faulted here.) So they decided that they would use a little of the old Thy Cup Runneth Over strategy to derail the boys and their absorbent young minds from absorbing a whole lot more from Dad’s Special Video Cabinet—you know what they say about gory murder movies being the gateway drug to much more sickening, morally repugnant content, like out-of-wedlock huggin’ and smoochin’, or a mainline stash of Katherine Heigl comedies. As Mom brings the video camera to bear on the gently rising and falling topography of a twin bed jammed with two little boys under blankets who have probably only been asleep for about a half hour anyway, so shitless scared were they, Dad, decked out in a cheap rubber clown mask, revs up the petite Husqvarna and lets fly with a round of snarling and cackling that would indeed be plenty enough to wake the dead, let alone his own quivering spawn. It takes the boys about a millionth of a nanosecond to head for the ceiling when that saw starts howling—one of the boys is so desperate to get the fuck out of harm’s way that he pulls down the venetian blinds (where, if Mom and Dad had been thinking ahead, Jason could have been looming in wait outside) and falls onto the floor between the bed and the wall.

Now, if I’d pulled this stunt, I’d have had a lot of explaining to do. I’m not sure my daughters would be all that eager to speak to me, like, ever again. But then again, I’m not the parent of kids who feel like they have to hide out in order to watch a monster movie. I’m usually the one shoving these things at them, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Last night’s pre-Halloween warm-up with Tales from the Crypt (1972) held them spellbound, but after the screaming stopped and Sir Ralph Richardson had tossed the last second-tier British actor down the flue into Hell, my daughters felt free to voice their objections based on content (“Disgusting”) and pace (“Boring”). Oh, well, you can’t win ‘em all. Certainly my little ones aren’t likely, either now or even five years from now, to go scrounging through my video library in search of the most transgressive horror movie they know I wouldn’t approve of them watching in order to grab a sneak peek. My youngest won’t even walk near a certain pile of DVDs in my office because she knows what horrors are stacked within, and my oldest isn’t too enamored of the idea either. But if you’re a Mom or Dad and Texas Chainsaw Cheerleader Massacre (or whatever the title was of the movie these poor little punks watched) is in your house, and you don’t think it’s a good idea for the kids to be watching it, well, I can appreciate the humor of your creative solution while at the same time wondering if it wasn’t a bit of an overreaction. (I’m assuming here that the real transgression on these boys’ record is indeed the watching and not simply the staying-up-too-late part.)

Mom, Dad, if the movie is under your roof, chances are you’re a horror fan who understands the particular pleasure of the genre when it’s doing its job well and the movie's presence is at your discretion. I would think, if this is true, that a smidgen more empathy might be in order for your curious little badgers when they go rooting around for scares in your video cabinet, or in your Blockbuster bag, or in your Netflix Instant Play queue. Otherwise, you’re teaching them a lesson based on your disapproval of their natural desire to test their own scare limits… by profoundly scaring the shit out of them yourselves? (If they smuggled it home themselves and you don’t approve, your solution seems even stranger.) I might instead use the “gotcha” moment, when you discovered that they had seen something you didn’t really want them to see, to ask them about the movie, whether they thought it was worth going through it for a sleepless night, whether they thought it was appropriate for them see or not, and what they actually thought of the movie. If it were me at that age, the answers would probably be yes, yes and some variant of “It was good!” And then, like my parents did, I might decide to either ground them from watching horror movies for a while (like my mom and did) or more likely try to institute some sort of honor-based approval system where they pass their ideas about what to watch through me first. Or maybe, if they’re old enough, maybe I just let them test those boundaries and see how things shake out—though I will admit testing boundaries with what was readily available for consumption in the pre-VCR days of the early to mid ‘70s was a whole different ball game than the easy-access media age we’re living in now. One thing remains the same, however—parental responsibility. I’m sure the neighbors, not to mention Children’s Services, probably had a word or two to say about firing up a smoking-hot, gas-burning woodcutting tool inside a closed-door environment, like an upstairs bedroom, as a parental guidance strategy. But to hell with them. All I’d have to do is look in my kid’s eye after he’s done shouting “What’s wrong with you?!” at me (as one of these little tykes actually does before the video cuts away) to know that as a dad, let alone a Horror Dad, that particular decision probably wasn’t one of my best.

And while we’re on the subject of innocence defiled (that was kinda the subject, wasn’t it?), here’s a brief story to show you what even the most jaded Horror Dad, one who is currently considering Who Can Kill a Child? and who recently advocated (on purely narrative and aesthetic terms, of course) in favor of actually killing one’s own child, is up against when it comes to preserving the innocence of my own daughters for as long as possible or desirable. My wife, two girls and I were strolling through that sanctuary of family values, the local (Burbank, CA) Target yesterday, and as we are usually wont to do we drifted first toward the DVD section, located as it is right off the north entrance to the store. After noting the bargains of the week (“Whoa! Kick-Ass on Blu-ray for only $16.99?! And there’s Splice for $22.99, and that’s the Blu-ray, DVD and a digital copy!”), I followed by youngest daughter over to the display rack that featured this week’s bargains and latest releases to the kiddie market. There she stood, poring over something mysterious called Fred—The Movie and Space Chimps 2, and even though I was already kinda bored-- Target does that to me-- I was glad for her that she has these interests that I find mysterious. (She’s the biggest Pokemon geek on the planet too-—how’s that for mysterious enough?)

But something was bugging me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what… until I looked up at the top shelf of the display. There, on the same rack that was 90% dedicated to the bright, flashy video boxes designed to attract potential customers my daughter’s age (8) and younger, was the top shelf on the same rack, one devoted to the new horror titles of the week. Fortunately my daughter is both too short to see the top shelf clearly from the close distance she was from the main display and also too narrowly focused on whatever it is at any given moment that demands 100% of her attention to have allowed her gaze to wander toward the less savory items hovering so very near above her head. Because if she wasn’t, she might very well have had occasion to ask, “Daddy, what’s The Human Centipede?”

I stared up in disbelief, then looked down at my daughter, who was still awash in imaginings of what Fred-The Movie might be like, and realized that what was there before me was nothing if not a grandly absurd photo op. So I pulled out my phone and snapped a shot of my daughter standing in the Target DVD section with several copies of The Human Centipede (DVD and Blu-ray!) looming over her yet still beyond her notice. And almost immediately after I had taken that first shot and was preparing to get a close-up of the DVDs of Tom Six’s “100% Medically Accurate” horror curio, I was approached by a Target staffer, identifiable as much by her bright red colors as the almost universal expression of bovine indifference typical of the average Target employee, who muttered to me a message which I mistook to be something about “Sorry to interrupt you, but I need to…” restock this aisle or something like that. When I asked her to repeat herself she said, “Sorry to interrupt your photography, but we don’t allow picture-taking inside the store.” Before I even knew I was going to say anything, I’d already started in: "Well, I'm usually not in the habit of snapping photos in Target, not that I had any idea there was a policy against it, but let me ask you,” I said pointing to the rack in question, “do you think putting these movies so close together is slightly inappropriate?" The Target cyborg stared at the rack for a few seconds, quite likely not even registering the juxtaposition of “Nickelodeon” and “New Horror!” and just as likely completely unaware of the existence, let alone the content, of The Human Centipede, before she literally shrugged, reiterated again "No photos," and walked away.

Wow. I mean, really, I’m as much for free enterprise as the next guy, and I’ve always held big chains like Blockbuster in contempt whenever they perform some sort of preemptive surgery on the product they deem acceptable to promote and sell in order to assuage their guilt at the altar of family values. (You can get as many copies of Feast 3 as you want, but just try finding an unexpurgated copy of Lust, Caution.) So my point would never be that The Human Centipede is inappropriate to sell at Target. Far from it. Sell all the copies of The Human Centipede you can con your low-income customers into buying. It’s the American way! But for Christ’s sake, how about a little common sense when it comes to displaying the product, some awareness of what that product even is, not to mention some sensitivity to the fact that parents, those uncomfortable with exposing their kids to the image of two distraught women and a man surgically attached anus-to-mouth-to-anus-to mouth, might not dig the spectacle of their young ones perusing the DVD package. And, yep, Dr. Heiter’s curious creation is plainly visible right there on the back cover, boys and girls. I’m pretty confident in my ability to creatively field questions from my daughters about just what a human centipede might be, but I’d appreciate the hell out of it if Target weren’t increasing the opportunity for me to be asked in the first place. Why, it’s almost enough to make me pine for the good old days when the only centipedes most parents were worried about threatened only their kids’ attention spans and perhaps their long-term visual acuity, centipedes that looked like this:

Yeah, but then I remember that most movies, horror movies or not, were probably worse in 1983 than they are now. With the vast amount of sophisticated media at our (and our children’s) fingertips, it simply requires more vigilance to try and conduct your kids’ exposure to the kinds of films and other media you find personally appropriate. It’d be nice to think that these big corporations, like Target and WalMart and Kmart, actually cared about the things they say they care about. But the truth is, if it doesn’t have an NC-17 rating stamped on it to draw the ire of right-wing parent groups like flies, why, then it must be okay, right? So, hell, put it out there on the shelves! Nobody gives a ripe cramp. Our reliable customers will be on to the next new grotesquerie soon enough, and nobody’ll even remember that weird millipede picture or whatever it is. And as a parent if one slips by you on occasion, while I’d give out points for creativity to Ma and Pa Chainsaw, there’s just gotta be a better way to make your point than firing up the ol’ diesel-powered tree ripper and causing your kid to shit himself on camera all for the glory of a viral videotape.

But now, if somebody gave me the address of that smarmy Target clerk, I bet I could put all kinds of kinks into her morning constitutional… And of course I would refrain from taking any pictures.


(My thanks to Ross Ruediger for reminding me both of The Human Centipede video game and also that I still do have a sense of humor. Much appreciated at this late hour, my friend.)



Ross Ruediger said...

Dennis -

You ~gotta~ play a few games of this:

Dennis Cozzalio said...

I remember that one, Ross! Pretty funny! In a perfect world, THAT would have been the movie!

Jeff Allard said...

I saw The Human Centipede on the shelves of Best Buy the other day and it made me think of how accessible even the most outrageous stuff is these days. Human Centipede is the kind of movie that once would've been impossible to get a hold of - something that you'd have to go to a convention to get a fifth generation dub on VHS. Now it's out there for everyone to buy in slick packaging and with a glowing recommendation from Entertainment Weekly on it. The allure of movies like this used to be that they were truly underground items - forbidden fruit. Now it's practically mainstream. Where's the fun in that?

Peter Nellhaus said...

With the recent controversy regarding political candidates supported by donations the company, I'm shocked that you even shopped at Target.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Peter, believe me I've thought about that. But it's a lot easier for me to find alternatives to Domino's and Carl's Jr. because of the political leanings of their owners and board members than it is to find replacements for Target, WalMart or KMart, (at least around here), all of which have have histories of questionable politics or business practices. All this recent garbage has had me keeping my eye out more than usual, that's for sure. But I tell ya, these bastards know they have us over a barrel when it comes time for buying clothes for the kids and other things like that, so until I learn to sew...

"The allure of movies like this used to be that they were truly underground items - forbidden fruit. Now it's practically mainstream. Where's the fun in that?"

Jeff, I couldn't agree more. And these chainsaw boys, whatever movie they were forbidden from watching was probably as easy to get hold of as going down to the local Best Buy, or easier. (I made a lot of hay about the movie probably already being in the house, maybe rented by the parents-- I don't know that, but it seems within the realm of possibility.) I know times are different and though my dad would probably endorse (at least theoretically) this kind of lesson, I also know that anything my dad was interested in when I was a kid got an automatic pass from me just on principle. He would have never trafficked in the kind of movie I would have been interested enough in to smuggle into my room and watch under the covers.

We Horror Dads look at things a bit differently just by nature, but I still think it's an odd offshoot of our culture of convenience that kids don't have to put in a little sweat and legwork to get hold of some of these treasures. I grew up in a time when home video still wasn't an option, in a town that was at least 100 miles away from any first-run movies and even further from revival cinema of any sort, so when I finally started catching up with some of my holy grails, I usually felt like I was being rewarded for enduring an imposed system of delayed gratification.

Oh, and by the way, I used to sleep in a shoe box in the middle of the road, and all us kids, all 15 of us, had to make the eight-hour walk to school in the driving snow every day, and we had to get up at 10:00 at night, half an hour before we went to bed, in order to to do it! Kids these days!

Alonzo Mosley (FBI) said...

On the way back home from dinner Friday night, my wife and I (plus little C.C.) stopped by Target so I could run in and buy a copy of "Beauty and the Beast" while it was still on sale (My first BluRay! But we won't be getting the player until Christmas).

Anyway, I passed the new movie display and saw "The Human Centipede" up top, and suppresed a little shudder before advancing to acquire the musical stylings of Jerry Orbach.

Never mind little C.C.; I'm glad my WIFE wasn't there so I wouldn't have to explain the film to her. She stays away from horror films althogether, so I can only imagine what kind of nightmares just hearing the plot would giver her.

jim emerson said...

We used to DREAM of a shoebox in the middle of the road! We BEGGED for such luxury accommodations!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Bet a typical breakfast for you was a lump of cold poison too, huh, Jim? Yep, just like me. Only mine was mixed with gravel.

Bryce Wilson said...

I can more or less guarentee that Fred The Movie will be much more harmful then Human Centipede.

Anyway, this guy's schtick get's old pretty fast, but I always thought he did a good job on the TCM videogame:

I mean, that's a great Chop Top

Jason Bellamy said...

Entertaining post. The no-photo policy at Target is so curious that it gives me the strange urge to bring a camera into the store every time I go there to start snapping away.

Maybe one day I'll even bring a tripod.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Just from this trailer, I might have to agree with Bryce. I'm still planning to go through life without watching Tom Six's dubious achievement.

Ross Ruediger said...

Dennis -

Thanks for the shout out, which was, of course, completely unnecessary.

For whatever it's worth, I've come to the conclusion that I'm actually rather fond of "The Human Centipede" in a strange sort of way. It's certainly not going down as a favorite, but it's reputation has led to it being somewhat misunderstood. I reviewed it last week here if anyone cares to take a look.

Robert H. said...

Having been exposed to FRED-THE MOVIE, it might be kinder to her psyche if she'd glimpsed HUMAN CENTIPEDE -- this, coming from someone who HATES HC.

Willingly giving your kid FRED-THE MOVIE borders on child abuse, IMO.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

After all the exposure to Fred- The Movie here, I still have to say that I have only the vaguest notion of what it is! Rest assured, my youngest knew what it was and was scoping out the box, but I think she knew I wasn't going to buy it for her and consequently never even asked!

I will also say, my curiosity is getting the better of me re The Human Centipede, but I have taken no steps toward seeing it as yet. I will read your review though, Ross! Thanks for the heads up!

Jason: What could possibly be behind such a policy? What, they don't want to give away their exclusive marketing strategy of juxtaposing cuddly kiddie fare with grueling horror movies? Let me know when you go-- I'll bring my old 35mm SLR too and see how long it takes us to land in jail!

Chris Stangl said...

Item from the Kalamazoo Gazette with some further (barely) background on that classic America's Funniest Home Videos winner that first appeared in 1996.

Now I don't know if you're a big AFV buff, but it is interesting that 15 years after the tape was made, it is still pulling in massive prizes. As with all AFV superhits, this one's been subject to a lot of fake/not-fake scrutiny (e.g. — if it's the next morning, why is it dark outside?), but as per the article, the story hasn't changed. The Beverwyk family still recalls the film as "The Texas Chainsaw Cheerleader Massacre." Anyway, after way too much consideration, I come down on the side of possibly fudged backstory, real prank, but after a decade and a half of contemplation, it just occurred to me that the most amazing part of the prank is that that's a real, live chainsaw. What is wrong with you?!

Robert H. said...


HUMAN CENTIPEDE is basically taking the concept of 2 GIRLS, 1 CUP and exploiting the anticipation of THAT action... and not following through or even expanding on that concept.

It's a great cinematic carny trick... but it ain't a great movie.

Greg said...

Dennis, you don't have to shop at Target or Walmart or any retail outlet. We don't, and not for political reasons, for our freaking wallet! Thrift stores have everything you need, they really do. Let the folks who can afford it or don't mind wasting their income shop at Walmart or Target (hey, they're big employers and keep the economy rolling) and the parents of four kids, strapped for every penny, can shop at the thrift.

Now (hold on a second, I have to dismount from my high horse... ahhh, there we go) as to the picture taking crap, I've never understood that. I've worked at many corporate entities (Blockbuster, TCBY Yogurt, etc) and they never allowed photography because of lawsuits. When you work for them and ask what that means you're not given an answer, just a "No pictures, okay?!" I originally thought it was some kind of weird "our competitors will steal our display ideas" but apparently it's something the lawyers came up with. Maybe someone else knows why. I thinks it's ridiculous and no non-profit I have ever worked at has the same policy.

Even at the National Archives, where photography is not allowed because even the lowest light from an lcd screen can damage the fragile Charters of Freedom, once you get to our museum store, take all the pictures you want!