Contributor; London
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The BBFC has made the now rare decision to reject new Japanese horror Grotesque (reviewed here only a couple of weeks back) for an 18 certificate classification. Although local councils still have the power to overrule BBFC decisions on what can be shown theatrically, it means widespread distribution is almost impossible, and video distribution illegal and liable for prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act. The film was due a DVD release by 4 Digital Asia, who’ve previously brought the likes of Tokyo Gore Police to the UK and clearly didn’t expect this decision given the marketing activity that's already kicked off.

BBFC director David Cooke has stated: ''Unlike other recent 'torture'-themed horror works, such as the Saw and Hostel series, Grotesque features minimal narrative or character development and presents the audience with little more than an unrelenting and escalating scenario of humiliation, brutality and sadism. The chief pleasure on offer seems to be in the spectacle of sadism (including sexual sadism) for its own sake… Rejecting a work outright is a serious matter and the board considered whether the issue could be dealt with through cuts. However, given the unacceptable content featured throughout cutting the work is not a viable option in this case and the work is therefore refused a classification.''

The issue here (as aired in the comments section of Onderhound’s review) seems to be intent and overall scenario, rather than specific instances of violence, towards which the board has been increasingly lenient in recent years. Whilst I’m not in favour of film censorship for the most part, I have to question the artistic integrity of this effort. Or rather I would, if only I could see it…

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RakuAugust 19, 2009 5:22 PM

Martyrs passed without any much worse can it be compared to that?.....I'll watch this and see.

Re-reading it I see that it's based on minimal narrative and lack of character development......I don't get the bbfc sometimes.

SonaBoyAugust 19, 2009 5:45 PM

This film is now guaranteed success and longevity that it may not even deserve, because there's barely anything underground horror fans love to counter more than an ill-advised moral crusade.

WillbyAugust 19, 2009 7:54 PM

Why does cheap crap like SAW make it into theatre, but this doesn't? If you ban this ban, all the other crap as well!

CaterpillarAugust 19, 2009 9:35 PM

The reason for the refusal of classification is most likely the sexual content. There is graphic fingering of the female captive's vagina and a forced orgasm that squirts all over the place. Then the male captive is jerked off by the tormentor onto the female captive's stomach. Sorry to be so blunt but maybe now people can understand why the BBFC acted the way they did. Unlike films like SAW and HOSTEL, this really is torture porn.

marcelbAugust 19, 2009 9:45 PM

I would put Mr. Cooke's quote on the cover as a recommendation.

"Unlike other recent ‘torture’-themed horror works, such as the Saw and Hostel series, Grotesque features minimal narrative or character development and presents the audience with little more than an unrelenting and escalating scenario of humiliation, brutality and sadism. The chief pleasure on offer seems to be in the spectacle of sadism (including sexual sadism) for its own sake…"

brettyoungAugust 20, 2009 12:20 AM

I thought something was fishy after the release date had been pushed back from August to September. It appears the ghost of Mary Whitehouse still looms large. I have to agree with Raku; the BBFC are a strange bunch. Nevermind. Hopefully, it'll get a region 1 release and thanks to globalisation and free trade laws I can import it and watch it in the comfort of my own home without feeling I've violated the high moral code of this Great British society.

axleuAugust 20, 2009 8:35 AM

David Cooke is a moron, censorship should be the first thing to be censored. Great publicity for the movie, though... Too bad that the BBFC nazis don't know the existence of Internet and piracy.

James DennisAugust 20, 2009 10:10 AM

To ChevalierAguila's point the crucial thing seems to be that if it is a piece of junk, why can't we make the call on whether to see it or not, and then duly slam it (in reviews, blogs etc) for being a morally bankrupt artistically wretched thing (if it is). But there seems to be some secondary judgement going on over what constitutes 'art' or not, in addition to their public views on 'content'.

Bench2020August 20, 2009 2:42 PM

I agree that we should be able to make our own decision as to whether we watch it or not - I don't appreciate being told what I can and can't watch - and as a principle I'm against this kind of censorship.

But in this case, while I absolutely don't think it should have been banned, it doesn't seem like people are going to be realistically missing a whole lot if what I've heard is true. The torture porn genre seems to me to generally be the most redundant form of film, often devoid of any point or intelligence (I appreciate there are exceptions however). I love horor films, I just don't get films like 'Grotesque'. Again, I need to see it to have an opinion of it (which is now difficult but far from impossible), but its not the kidn of thing I'm really going to hunt for. I don't see the point.

And I do understand the BBFC's point about there being no narrative or character development. They didn't ban it BECAUSE it had no narrative or character development, but rather because without it, the violence has little chance of being anything other than gratuitous. I think violence can be seen as acceptable if it is saying something, or if it has a point. But without even the most basic narrative structure or attempt at character development through that violence, people might see it as extreme violence solely for entertainment purposes, and that's the kind of thing that will scare the BBFC. I don't agree with their decision, but I understand where why they've chosen to make it. Empathy, rather than sympathy.

Also, credit where it's due, the BBFC has become much more open-minded and progressive in the last few years, compared to it's extreme stance taken on violence and pornography in the 80s and earlier, and I think it has handled this progress well, changing its attitude slowly, allowing the moral public time to adapt to the changing face of acceptability in film. It's been a while since the Daily Mail waas been able to bait the public into a censorous frenzy, despite its recent efforts with Antichrist, and I think the BBFC's actions have a lot to do with this.

ChevalierAguilaAugust 20, 2009 8:41 PM

As others already said, this is just going to give free publicity to the movie.

jo3yAugust 20, 2009 11:30 PM

great publicity. now i've heard of this film.

if it came out as an 18, im sure i and many others would never have and it wouldve sunk into oblivion and '5 DVDs for a quid' hell or whatever promotion retailers have on these days.

edeteinAugust 21, 2009 4:44 PM

I wonder how this film compares with the 2007 Korean film "The Butcher." It sounds similar in directorial approach and ambition but the set up is somewhat different.