When the first descriptions of Tom Six’s The Human Centipede: First Sequence started making their way through the ether, there was a lot of nervous giggling: a horror movie where the bad guy stitches a trio of unwitting hostages together, ass-to-mouth? And it’s supposedly “100% Medically Accurate”? This sounded like exploitative garbage at best, a complete waste of time (and a borderline Troma film) at worst. But then a funny thing happened: Human Centipede turned out to be pretty damn good. Great, even. Could The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence possibly be as good? Turns out, it’s an irrelevant question, as Centipede 2 is absolutely nothing like Six’s original film…and has a completely different agenda. Read on for my full review, after the jump…
Some of you will undoubtedly take issue with the statement in the above intro, the one where I call The Human Centipede a “great film”. That’s more than fair: I’ll happily admit that Tom Six’s ass-to-mouth masterpiece isn’t for all tastes (no pun intended)(that I know of—hey-OH), and I’ll even allow that most reasonable people would run screaming from the flick. The premise itself was disturbing, the acting was spotty, the claims of “100% medical accuracy” were absurd—really, I get it if you didn’t go for it.
That said, I wouldn’t agree. I’m on the other side of the fence, the side that consider Six’s original Human Centipede to be a great body-horror film. While The Human Centipede does feature an exploitative premise, and while the acting was a little weak in spots, and even though the film is completely ridiculous from time to time…I quite enjoyed it. I thought it was darkly comic, beautifully shot, and—when you get right down to it—the best possible film that could have been made from that ludicrous premise. Read that sentence very carefully before you fire off an ill-advised counter-argument.
But while I suspect that roughly half of the first Human Centipede’s audience would tell you that Six made a “great film”, I’m absolutely certain that the vast majority of film geeks, horror fans, and Human Centipede enthusiasts will reject The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence wholeheartedly: if you’re looking for more of the same, you will be greatly disappointed.
Here, finally, is the film that so many people thought they wanted the first Human Centipede to be (more on that in a moment). Here, finally, is Six’s response to all the people who thought the first Human Centipede “wasn’t horrific enough”…and his response to those that thought it was “too funny”. Here, finally, is a film that you can start plugging into conversations about the “most morally reprehensible movie ever made” besides, say, Irreversible or Martyrs.
Awhile back, details of the Centipede 2 plot leaked online, and there was some talk as to whether or not the description (which came from the UK Film Board, which reportedly—and now, surely– banned the film in England) we were provided with was the real deal. That description indicated that the new “bad guy” introduced in Centipede 2 would “masturbate with a portion of sandpaper” and “rape the tail-end of the twelve-person Centipede with a length of barbed wire wrapped around his penis”. Perhaps surprisingly, some thought that these descriptions might not be for real. Some thought that this was just a clever bit of viral marketing for Six’s latest opus. These people are going to be surprised.
The Human Centipede 2’s villain—Martin—does, in fact, masturbate with a portion of sandpaper (which we see graphically, no detail spared). He does, in fact, rape the “tail-end” of the Centipede with a length of barbed wire wrapped around his junk (quite enthusiastically, for the record). This, my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure that some of you are here for the online equivalent of rubber-necking an accident (you just wanna know how ugly it gets), and for those people, I’ll offer a list of horrible sights that you might see in The Human Centipede 2. But before we get to that, let’s talk a little bit about the film’s plot (as it were).
Some people are going to tell you that The Human Centipede 2 “has no plot”. This is the laziest, stupidest, and cheapest bit of criticism one can level at a film besides “you gotta turn your brain off at the door”: every film has a plot, some are just more complicated (or simplistic) than others. It’s true that Centipede 2’s plot is a bit on the thin side, but don’t be fooled: just because there’s not a lot of “story” unfolding here doesn’t mean that a lot isn’t being said.
On a surface level, the film’s about Martin, a mentally-handicapped (handicapable?) man living with his mother, who hates him unreservedly. Martin’s a security guard, owns a pet centipede, sees a psychiatrist for the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his father, and is a raging fan of Tom Six’s The Human Centipede.
That’s right: Six went meta for Centipede 2 (in case you hadn’t heard). See, the film begins with Martin watching the last scene of the first Centipede (Six would later say in the post-screening Q&A that all three Centipede films—yes, there’ll be another one—would follow one another, end-to-end, much like a Human Centipede). He’s huddled into his little security guard cubicle inside a parking garage, staring longingly at his laptop as the film wraps onscreen. Soon enough, he spots a couple inside the garage…and he kills them. Then he kills a few more people. And a few more. He’s working up to twelve.
Dr. Heiter? Total underachiever.
Martin’s rampage inside the parking garage is broken up by scenes at his home, where Martin’s mother is actively praying for both his and her death. She’s hired a doctor that comes and visits her son, and the doctor makes his first appearance sitting on the couch, staring salaciously at Martin’s posterior (yeah, you read that right). We are made to understand that Martin has been abused for some time—by his mother, by his deceased father, by his neighbors, by his doctor. Martin never speaks during the movie (though he does make a few interesting noises), but actor Laurence Harvey conveys an enormous amount with his Buscemi-by-way-of-ping-pong-ball eyes.
For whatever reason, Martin’s sought solace in Tom Six’s Human Centipede. He watches the film constantly, he keeps an enormous scrapbook stocked with photos of the actors who appeared in the first film (not to mention diagrams on how to create his own Centipede), he masturbates at work while fantasizing about making Tom Six’s film a reality. The majority of the film’s first half revolves around Martin being abused, killing a dozen people, and luring actress Ashlynne Yennie (playing herself) to England to become part of Martin’s all-new, all-singing, all-dancing, twelve-person Centipede (In a hilarious bit of monkey business, Six has Martin luring Yennie to the UK by promising her a role in Tarantino’s next film).
The second half of the film deals with Martin actually building his Centipede: he’s got a warehouse all to himself, twelve people, a suitcase full of rusty tools, and what seems like a whole bunch of privacy (no one ever “drops by” to see what all that screaming’s about). It’s here that Six unleashes Centipede 2’s most horrific sequences, and—throughout it all—you can almost hear him cackling behind the camera, “They thought the first one was funny? Let’s see them laugh at this!”
Believe it or not, some people complained that the first Human Centipede wasn’t “dark” enough, that it didn’t see its premise through to its most graphic conclusion. For anyone who made that argument, there is The Human Centipede 2, which features—among other things—a baby being born inside a car and immediately crushed against a gas pedal by its mother’s foot, the aforementioned graphic rape sequence, the most brutal tooth-destruction scene ever caught on camera (OldBoy who?), knee-tendons being slashed willy-nilly, and the creative application of a staplegun. The first Centipede didn’t show us how the Centipede was created (not onscreen, not during the “surgery”), but Centipede 2 will give you all of that and more.
And that, my friends, is the reason that The Human Centipede 2 exists. It’s not that it “doesn’t have a plot” or that it “has no point”: it’s that the point of the whole thing is to rub your face in the graphic violence that some people claimed they wanted in the first Centipede. It challenges the fans of the first film to stick up for it while giving the people who complained about the first film’s lack of gore precisely what they thought they wanted (and gives them so much of it, they couldn’t possibly walk away pleased).
Now, I don’t know if Tom Six is clever enough to have responded to critics of the first film by giving them exactly what they claimed they wanted (it’s entirely possible that he simply tried to outdo himself here), but—judging by the quality of the first film—I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Tom Six has delivered something truly disturbing here, something completely amoral, something that people are going to talk about for a long time. I can’t tell you that The Human Centipede 2 is a “good” movie, but I will begrudgingly admit that it does pull a fast one on its established fanbase…and its detractors.
A few other notes: Laurence Harvey is absolutely terrifying as Martin, and I fully expect to see him making the horror convention rounds for a very long time after the release of this film; I can’t imagine that the MPAA will allow this film to hit theaters in its current state—if ever there was a film that demanded the NC-17 rating, it’s The Human Centipede 2; the film is, in fact, shot entirely in black-and-white, though it does feature some small amount of color (What appears in color? Here’s a hint: it’s brown); the early portions of the film set inside Martin’s home have a heavy Lynchian vibe to them, right down to the drone on the soundtrack. Also: though I saw no walkouts during this world premiere, I did see a woman being led from the theater by some helpful person, and heard later that she’d needed “medical attention”.
I’d slap a letter grade on this thing if I thought it’d make a difference, but really…it defies simple grading. Could be an F, could be a D, could be an A: it all depends on what you’re looking for in The Human Centipede 2 (that said, if you’re eager to see a barbed-wire-wrapped schwantz raping a bleeding, twelve-person rimjob-train, you’ll probably be thrilled).
Fantastic Fest 2011 is off to a sickening start, folks. Stay tuned for more somewhat-exclusive interview with Tom Six (and Laurence Harvey, who I’m not looking forward to being in the same room with) early next month—October 2nd, to be precise. In the meantime, sound off with your thoughts on The Human Centipede 2 below if you were at the premiere tonight: happy? Freaked out? Disgusted? Aroused? Let us know, folks!