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The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)

December 15, 2011

This one probably needs no introduction. When Tom Six announced his intention to make a sequel to his notorious 2009 body horror film, The Human Centipede (First Sequence), he promised that the follow-up would contain “all the blood and shit” that was largely absent from the first film. Filmed in the UK, and made with a mostly British cast, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) not only fulfills the director’s promise, but also delivers what is essentially another elaborate joke lurking mischievously behind the facade of a gross horror flick. As documented here at length, the BBFC initially refused a certificate for the centi-sequel, citing what they felt was the excessive sexual violence and potentially illegal obscenity of the film, with the result that it couldn’t then be legally supplied anywhere in the UK (a de facto ban), before eventually relenting on this decision and granting it an 18 certificate following a substantial 2 minutes and 47 seconds of demanded cuts. It’s difficult to imagine that this tabloid-scandal sideshow did anything other than bestow free publicity on Six’s demented product but it is worth noting that the BBFC seems to have missed the crucial joke running throughout a film that, in all things, is hardly subtle. That joke being how ridiculous the notion is that someone would actually try to make their own human centipede after being inspired to do so by a horror film. Tom Six, in turn, was reportedly motivated to realize this idea after being repeatedly asked by journalists following the release of The Human Centipede if he feared his film may cause copycat behaviour amongst the viewing public, an idea so ludicrous he opted to parody it at length in his sequel. In doing so, he also quite deliberately chose to rebuke the horror fanboys and critics who pointed out the extent to which the first film was actually lacking in visceral shocks and gory imagery by stuffing the new movie with a truly inordinate amount of bizarre violence and explosive shit-shocks. Easily one of the single most absurd movies ever made, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) may work as a grotesque 90 minute prank, but it offers up very little in the way of a satisfying film experience.

This time around, things take a turn for the decidedly meta-fictional as we are introduced to Martin, a depraved weirdo who is obsessed with the film, The Human Centipede. Martin is a short, asthmatic, obese, bug-eyed, developmentally-disabled mute who works as a security guard in an underground car park. He’s a victim of child sexual abuse at the hands of his father and lives with his hateful and emotionally abusive mother. He also really, really fucking loves the Human Centipede movie and seems to spend all his free time watching it and occasionally wanking off with bits of sandpaper as he does so. Martin keeps a scrapbook of promo clippings and his own notes on the film, including the basic instructions for the surgical procedure involved in building a human centipede, and the film essentially opens with him immediately embarking on his plan of kidnapping victims from the secluded car park to make into a centipede of his own. Although this film is set in a universe which acknowledges the existence of The Human Centipede, it is nonetheless a nightmarish, fantasy Britain where most of the supporting characters are abusive, vicious and cruel. The rest are either crushingly stupid or just whimpering victims and even the threat of law enforcement is entirely absent. Martin wheezily busies himself collecting his victims (including the actress from the first film, Ashlynn Yennie, here playing herself) and striking back against his abusers before assembling his 12-person ‘pede in a thoroughly messy third act. Oddly, gathering a small warehouse full of naked captives and then stapling them together arse to mouth proves trickier than Martin had anticipated, and his warped scheme goes more than a little awry.

Martin Lomax: bachelor, hobbyist.

That this film is one long mocking howl is clear from the promotional tagline (“100% medically inaccurate”), the dialogue, the characterization, and the entire plot. The main character, Martin, is played by newcomer Laurence R Harvey. He’s quite literally an odd ball in that he’s almost physically spherical, resembling, as one critic put it, “an egg with limbs”, and he’s a far cry from the elongated reptilian charisma of Dieter Laser’s brilliant Josef Heiter, a choice Six states was quite intentional. Martin’s entire presence reinforces the implausibility of the proceedings as he’s shown to be so hindered by his own physique as to struggle to retrieve an object he’s dropped on the floor yet the film has him repeatedly attack, successfully subdue, and capture twelve able-bodied adults. In fact, one of the flaws of The Human Centipede II is that, for much of the film, Martin does little else. He is fantastically creepy and repugnant, however, from his bug-eyed snickering to the vile manner in which he often places his fingers into his mouth to moisten them. All the more remarkable considering this is achieved without any make-up effects beyond a thick pair of spectacles. Amidst the deranged trappings of this film, Harvey’s performance effectively captures both the comedic and horror elements therein and credit is due for his sincere approach to such an unusual role. The other actors, however, are given little to do other than deliver silly, over-the-top lines and then squirm and scream as they’re stapled to each other’s arses. A dubious psychiatrist with a preposterous beard at one point remarks, whilst receiving a blowjob from a prostitute, “I’d rather fuck that retarded boy, but this’ll have to do”. Later, Ashlynn Yennie (playing herself) enthusiastically recycles trivia and factoids from The Human Centipede regarding its purported medical accuracy and the rigors of filming extensive scenes on all fours, illustrating the tone of the humour therein. It’s a relentless combination of tasteless, sick jokes and the knowing, self-aware parody of the meta-fiction and this is what The Human Centipede II is ultimately about. The wee freak making his arse-to-mouth monster in a grotty warehouse is a base distraction, the flimsy excuse for the grander scheme which is essentially a prank response to how the first movie was received by the public. Tom Six is having a good laugh at everyone, from the appalled hand-wringing critics to the gore-hungry splatter fanboys with the result that the extended gag largely overshadows the actual film.

Centipede-cinema. Bringing people together.

By the time we reach the shit-spattered, scat-munching climax of The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), the film is hovering uncertainly in some limbo between Pasolini’s Salò and the gross-out comedy of American Pie 3. There are depictions of gruesome suffering, but there are also goofy farting noises and the deliberate artifice of faecal matter staining the screen and, again, there is the pervading sense that this content doesn’t really matter anyway because the very idea of the film is a piss-take. The Human Centipede II contains disgusting and extreme imagery but it is presented in such a deliberately over-the-top fashion, and is so patently ridiculous, that it is difficult to be truly shocked or revolted. The more likely response upon viewing it would be one of bemused resignation to the bizarre spectacle. That said, the only copy that seems to be currently available is a censored version with glaringly obvious cuts corresponding to the scenes that most upset the British censors. It’s quite woeful censorship that significantly disrupts the flow of the action onscreen and which seems to prove that the paternalistic pipsqueaks of the BBFC don’t respond well to darkly humorous challenges.

Tom Six once started a joke that started the whole world grimacing. His joke became a bona fide cultural phenomenon immortalized from popular sitcom parodies to Halloween costumes and so he returned to extend that joke via a meta-fictional sequel. The result is equal parts blithe and contemptuous, and darkly amusing to see, but The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is not a rewarding film experience by any means. Whether audiences can accept Six’s follow-up as a clever piece of cultural commentary or simply take the demented film at face value and remain appalled may hinge on their reaction to self-conscious humour and parody. In other words, it might all depend on their gag reflex.

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4 comments

  1. Funny, well-written, descriptive post! Makes me want to go see the move and now understanding the underlying parody of the film, makes it seem less brutal. So….there will be a third?


  2. Thank you, Kitty.
    Yeah, The Human Centipede films are not intended to be as brutal and fucked up as the horrible premise suggests, they’re actually just gross comedy-horror flicks, as writer-director Tom Six has openly admitted in numerous interviews (he comes across as a very amiable and laid-back guy).

    He has also said that he is planning a third film and, once completed, all three can be linked together (“like a centipede”) and watched back-to-back to form one 4-and-a-half hour film. *MINOR SPOILER* The second film opens with the closing shots of the first film and pans out to reveal it being watched on a laptop computer by the main character of the sequel so presumably he’s going to do something similar with the third and final film. He has once again promised to go further with his fucked-up ideas but has also suggested that he will go in a very different direction, whatever that may mean.
    I’ll be watching and keeping everyone updated, whether they like it or not.


  3. Holy shit. hahahaha…

    I’ve submitted to the fact that I will never see either of these movies. You nailed it a while back when you said I’ve basically turned my back on the shock-for-fun genre. What’s great is that I don’t have to watch them anymore, I’ll just read your reviews.


  4. You know when the completed trilogy is available as a Blu-Ray boxed set, I’m probably going to send it to you, Jeck-El.



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