Although films of both the “Torture Porn” and “New Extremism” subgenres have been characterized as physically hard to watch, films of the “Hardcore Horror” subgenre push this characteristic to the extreme by purposely tackling taboo issues such as incest, bestiality, child abuse, and fecal consumption, and portray flawed protagonists that the audience cannot empathize with. Because Hardcore Horror films are typically confined to the Internet, and are largely spread by word of mouth, the appearance of such films in the mainstream film industry typically leads to cries of moral outrage and disgust on the part of censors and theater viewers. This essay examines Srdjan Spasojevic’s A Serbian Film (2010) and Tom Six’s The Human Centipede II (2011), and argues that these films evoke contradictory emotions among different audiences. To those unaccustomed to the Hardcore Horror subgenre, these films induce vivid sentiments of cinephobia, both in their edited and unedited forms. The subjects presented in these films are too taboo and controversial, even if the audience does not physically see these horrific actions being carried out. Conversely, the Hardcore Horror subgenre also has an extremely dedicated fan base of cinephiles, who yearn for the destruction of cinematic taboos, and seek out Hardcore Horror films in their purest and grittiest forms. In using A Serbian Film and The Human Centipede II as case studies in audience reception and censorship, this essay ultimately asserts that films within the Hardcore Horror subgenre are, and always will be too controversial for mainstream audiences.
Jennifer Drissel is a doctoral candidate in American Studies at Pennsylvania State University, where she is completing her dissertation on the rise of post-apocalyptic film and television in Post-9/11 America. Her broader research interests include American popular culture, contemporary history, the horror film genre, and paranormal studies.