A Review of The Human Centipede 2

I reviewed part one and hated it. Part two is being reviewed for continuity’s sake.

I made no secret about my hatred for the first one. But the thing is, it has stayed with me long after I was done with it. I certainly recall images and scenes from that film better than I can recall, say, anything from my recently reviewed At Long Last Love. 

I guess that means the film accomplished SOMETHING. But it was not something that needed to be accomplished. Director Tom Six never wanted to create a film that explores human depravity, but merely create a thrill ride that people could brag about sitting through to their friends over a few beers. And now he has crafted a sequel, on the theory that those braggarts are starting to realize that they’ve been conned out of a movie.

The film, which is entirely in black in white (in some half-hearted attempt to lessen the “gross” factor) is about a disturbed man named Martin (Laurence R Harvey) who looks like the result of a cross-breed between Peter Lorre and Oswald Cobblepot. He works in a parking garage and watches the first film constantly. He even keeps a notebook, detailing the procedure.  During the last half of the film, Martin sets out to create his own creature by combining twelve people, and puts one of the stars from the first film (Ashlynn Yennie) as the front piece.

I am going to say something that I never thought I would say, but the first half of the film, before the mayhem is unleashed, is actually quite effective – far more so than any moment in the original Human Centipede. Of course, this fact makes me angrier that the film ends up where it does, but I must acknowledge what Mr. Six has done correctly.

The first half is basically about the impish Martin dealing with a bad home life in a city that resembles post apocalyptic squalor reminds me of David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Lynch had the same sort of ideas, and used the same sort of grotesque images, that Six does in the first half of the film.There is little dialogue, and there is little meaning to connect the people with each other. We are seeing the world through the eyes of a very disturbed man, who (and this would be the point of an art film) may have the most sane reaction of any character.

It is revealed in the film that Martin was sexually abused by his father, and that his mother blames him. Martin still has nightmares about the encounter. Other characters verbally berate him, and refer to him as a midget. Even his shrink hates him. In this little world that the film introduces to us, Martin’s obsession with The Human Centipede seems rational. Certainly, to a man who has had no connections in his life to anyone, dreaming of physically connecting people in the most dramatic way possible can fill that void.

Six even subconsciously disturbs the audience. There is a no score, but a Lynchian obsession with white noise. The dialogue is stilted, and Martin’s little squeals of delight are the stuff of nightmares. Watch the scene with the baby in the car park early in the film. It works on its own without the titillation of gore.

This is skilled filmmaking, one that could have led to a really memorable horror film. But that was not Six’s intention. He was not like the surrealist who would line his pocket with stones to protect himself from his audiences. He is alike a carnival huckster inviting people in to the freak show.

The last half of the film is what most care about, and it is everything that you expect – and worse. I could describe the amateurish surgery Martin performs with a staple gun, the scenes in which he knocks out people’s teeth with a hammer (which just reminded me of Oldboy, and made me wonder why I was not watching it), the scene with the laxative to test the “organism” (and the results, which Six desperately wants us all to see), the pulling out of tongues with pliers, the ending (which involves an actual centipede being used as a suppository) or the twist.

But I won’t, because none of this MEANS anything. It was not the violence that I objected to. Any subject, in the right hands, can be used to good ends. What I did mind was that Six seemed to be using these moments for their own sake. “Look,” he says to the audience. “I’m having a tongue removed graphically with pliers.” He’s trying to be as disgusting as possible. I mean, if that is what you are looking for, I guess he succeeds. The last half of the film is one of the most blatant exercises in bad taste that I have seen in quite some time.

I know that’s why people flocked to the first film, but is that all that people want? My favorite horror films, even the B-grade fare, is that they actually have something to say about the fears of man.  Six insists he has nothing to say about those themes. What makes this film even more frustrating is that, judging by the first half, he is lying. I wish he would stop reveling in this franchise (according to IMDB, a second sequel is on the way) and actually create something truly shocking – a halfway decent film.

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