The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)
Dir: Tom Six
Tom Six, you dick. I don’t know who (besides me) saw The Human Centipede (First Sequence) and decided that they needed to come back for a second round. Horror movie enthusiasts? Masochists? I wasn’t sure even I wanted to come back at first, until I saw that poster with the 12-person centipede and the tagline “100% medically inaccurate.” That seemed to me like a big middle finger at the idea of cinematic veracity, the idea that a movie has to be plausible to be worth a watch. That’s a movie I want to get behind (and then have someone else behind me, surgically). Either way, the Dutch writer/director wants to punish you for your curiosity.
If you’ve been following my reviews for Spectrum Culture (there will be a quiz at my funeral), I dug the first Human Centipede, a film that’s become more meme than movie. I know lots of people who have heard of the premise, but few who have seen it. To allude to Patton Oswalt, when you hear that title, there’s an entire movie that plays in your head. For some, just hearing the idea of creating a living Frankenstein by surgically attaching people ass to mouth (and cutting their patellae so they have to crawl on their knees) is all they need. Those people would do best to stay away from the sequel, lest it drive them to choke to death on their own vomit.
In classic horror sequel fashion (or maybe I’m just thinking of Evil Dead 2), shit goes out the window. Gone are the trio of vacationers. Gone is the towering, Nazi-like mad scientist of a villain. Gone is the clinical aesthetic of the first film. Instead, Tom Six goes meta, sort of a self ass-to-mouth in cinematic form, focusing on a fat, bug-eyed British moleman of a parking garage security guard who watches The Human Centipede (First Sequence) obsessively and decides to make his own Human Centipede. He’s ambitious, too – he’s going to put together one made out of 12 people who we never, ever get to know outside of their basic types: arguing boyfriend and girlfriend, businessman, bully of a neighbor, pregnant lady (yeah) and others.
Said moleman, middle-aged Martin (Laurence R. Harvey), never speaks. The polar opposite of the first film’s insanely calculated Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser), Martin is quite possibly retarded, but definitely ill. A child of sexual abuse, he still lives at home with his shrieking mother, a woman who harasses the neighbor just in the hopes that he’ll murder them both. All Martin does is get shrieked at in his horrible mum’s flat, watch The Human Centipede over and over at work, plan his real-life tribute, knock out people in the garage and drag them into his big empty studio space. It’s like Six made a movie based on what people assume horror movie obsessives are like. Well, it’s not like that. It’s exactly that.
Then, just as you start getting all self-congratulatory for getting all that anal-gazing satire, the film focuses its sights on You, The Viewer. Like the first one, The Human Centipede 2 is about provoking an audience reaction, but a different one. The meat of First Sequence was all about watching the Human Centipede in action, crawling around at Dr. Heiter’s demand like a trained canine. We were forced to imagine ourselves in that situation, and hence the shudders and stomach-churning ensues. Once the Centipede happens in the sequel, it’s all about grossing out the audience – and really grossing them out, delivering some of the most disgusting acts ever put to film.
You know what? Six nails it. With Martin’s crude DIY approach to surgery. With his ensuing surgical fuckups. With everything that sprays on the camera (and I do mean everything). With the disregard for life at all stages. With the way he gleefully acts as ringleader to his long line of disfigured humanity (of course he puts them all together, why wouldn’t he?). With the cuts and the crushes and the splatters. It’s disgusting and darkly hilarious. It even makes Martin himself throw up at one point. Either you puke or you laugh. I laughed, because it’s a fucking movie and I can’t avoid imagining a person behind the cameras willing all of this to happen.
Six shot the whole thing in black and white, and it looks amazing, especially compared to the lack of flair he displayed shooting the first one in color. It gives the film a security camera aesthetic, while making everything dark and grimy and creepy. It’s amazing how a film can be aesthetically pleasing and textually repulsive at the same time. Plus, all the dark oozing made me think about how Hitchcock used Bosco syrup in the shower scene of Psycho, which draws some superficial parallels between Norman Bates and our very own Martin Lomax: mommy issues, senseless cruelty, mental issues, etc. That’s enough to write a term paper that will get you kicked out of your Media Studies grad program.
For a slick, well-produced piece of cinema (or whatever word you want to put in the place of “cinema”), The Human Centipede 2 feels so fucking punk rock. Six doesn’t give a fuck about verisimilitude, creating a world where a mother is casually trying to kill her son isn’t the story of the movie, where there isn’t a single character to root for, where the film turns on its own audience, where detectives haven’t thought to check out the security tapes of the parking garage people keep disappearing from, where there isn’t even a police presence to speak of. In fact, Martin is the closest thing to an authority figure in the world of the movie, arresting and subsequently punishing people around him for the crime of simply being there.
Nobody’s going to love this movie. If it wasn’t the gonzo extremity that does it, it’s the total (intentional) lack of payoff in its ending – easily the biggest FUCK YOU to an audience that I’ve seen since Funny Games. The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence is the film version of that time Fat Mike did his Cokie the Clown shtick at SXSW, gave out free tequila, made everyone feel terrible with some devastating personal anecdotes and then revealed he’d pissed in the bottle.
by Danny Djeljosevic