Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (2011) Film Review
The Human Centipede is a good example of how a film can crossover into mass-consciousness without actually having been seen by that many viewers. For most, the very idea is more than enough; its repulsive concept can't be erased once comprehended, let alone seen, making a movie purely concerned with ass-to-mouth suffering an off-putting proposition.
So it was to Dutch madman Tom Six's dubious credit that his approach was to document his story of a mad surgeon's experiment with clinical precision, bitingly cynical humor and unfashionable restraint in terms of dwelling upon the violence and gory details. Whatever you think of his First Sequence, it would be churlish to deny the fearless genius with which Six followed his idea through to fruition. So it's especially disappointing that for his inevitable sequel, the writer/director has thought a little too hard about what everyone thinks of his calling card.
Martin is a mute security guard living in a pokey flat with his intrusive elderly mother, his depressing existence only enlivened by an obsessive love for the cult horror film The Human Centipede. Compiling a scrapbook of its stars and his favorite scenes, and masturbating to the film as he watches it repeatedly in his office, Martin becomes infatuated with the notion of creating his own centipede, and sets about collecting victims from members of the public who frequent the subterranean parking garage where he works. Domestic dysfunction threatens to tip Martin even more over the edge into insanity, while his plans to incorporate the first film's actress Ashlynn Yennie into his chain could see him biting off more than he can chew.
Six's original was notable for giving us one of the best baddies of the past few years in the form of Dieter Lasser's maniacal doctor, presiding over his Frankenstein-style plot with tangible glee and the conviction of the truly insane. This sequel has similarly patchy supporting performances, but also another memorable villain courtesy of British unknown Laurence R Harvey. The vertically-challenged, bug-eyed and swollen-bellied Martin is instantly intriguing, whether lazing about in his underwear or skulking around in his schoolboy-style work uniform.
Scenes where we see the cogs turning behind his eyes draw us in, while his immature upset at some of his victims prematurely expiring is absurdly sad and amusing given that he's obviously more concerned with the impediment to his centipede than with their wellbeing. It's a brave and effective move for Six to make him non-speaking; this partially solves his undeniable deficiency as a writer and makes the character's actions and motivations all the more compelling, giving the film an almost silent-movie theatricality that's entirely in keeping with its monochrome styling.
It's also a shrewd move for Six to locate the action in Britain; he seems to suggest our dark ages mentality deserves a character like Martin and a film like this. There won't be many UK residents who can't relate to the film's post-production black and white presentation - the shots of stifling English domestic and urban squalor give the action an appropriately desolate backdrop, and the admirable aesthetic automatically makes the film appear more artful and interesting than it actually is.
However, attempts to add atmospheric details betray the paltry budget - CGI rain and obvious tinting only make Six's direction look more amateurish - while the nursery-rhyme tinkling and bassy rumblings of the soundtrack are overly familiar ploys to generate a contrived creepiness that never really convince.
The biggest disappointment is that the self-referencing meta-literary concept - a foolhardy way for Six to address and engage with his critics and audience - is squandered through the director's apparent self-satisfaction. Many were disgusted by the original's boast of being '100 per cent Medically Accurate', ridiculously fearing it may inspire copycat experiments in reality, so it's a move of self-reflexive lunacy and bravado to subvert this into his '100 per cent Medically Inaccurate' sequel and incorporate people's criticisms into the fabric of his new story. It's never developed into anything meaningful though, coming across as the childish retort to being told that you've been bad. Six's meta-sequel seems calibrated to make those torture porn devotees let down by the relatively gore-lite original choke on their popcorn, while really giving his naysayers something to shake their heads and wag their fingers over.
In doing so he aligns himself with the likes of Tobe Hooper and Sam Raimi, who operated on similar prerogatives with their overblown sequels to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Evil Dead. These films' censorship history is also echoed in the manner in which the BBFC have risen to Six's bait, their disapproval immediately giving this sequel a mass-market allure it would never have otherwise attained.
Unfortunately, the minutes of cuts they've insisted upon are damaging to the film's desired effect and raison d'etre. The uncensored version is no doubt strong enough to elicit a response that might make the experience a little more worthwhile for its target audience but this scissor-ravaged hack-job makes an already incoherent movie even more ineffectual and neuters it of its schoolyard appeal.
There are several knowing flourishes that keep the viewer hopeful Six might be able to deliver on his promise, especially during moments of blackest gallows humour that come across like Monty Python adapting the Marquis De Sade. Martin's mum is a gleefully trashy hate figure imbued with suitable venom, while his visiting psychiatrist makes for the most entertainingly awful shrink since Dylan Baker slithered across our screens in Happiness. There's a nice variety to the victims, but Six fails to do much with them, while his technique of depicting their sloppy DIY surgery in extreme close-up only keeps them at a distance as people we might care about.
Sickened titters will be raised by the predictable deployment of baked beans, while the film's inevitable use of colour takes place with a delirious set-piece that's every bit as disgusting as you may have dreaded, even in censored form. Another nice touch involves Martin's pet centipede, clearly meant to mirror our anti-hero in its glass case and predatory aggression, which in turn could be argued to make Martin reflect Six himself, orchestrating the whole sorry business with the skill and finesse of a blind man in a butcher shop.
It's impossible to believe that someone as dim-witted and physically weak as Martin could conceive of and pull off such intricate crimes, leaving the only sensible interpretation being the age-old cop-out of the whole thing being in his imagination. It's a deeply unsatisfactory narrative gimmick, made even more confusing by the annoyingly ambiguous ending.
Sadly, neither Six's ideas nor their execution are enough to make the climactic orgy of suffering anything other than boring and unbelievable. Full Sequence may be as interesting as the original in terms of its unexpected approach but it's nowhere near as engaging. It's a perfect example of why audiences - and horror fans in particular - should be careful what they wish for - it's an all-you-can-stomach buffet of abject suffering and scatological fetishisation, but it's also a bit of a one-trick pony, and its one joke is at the audience's expense.
It is tempting but futile to look for meaning where there so patently isn't any - this is the sort of film that wallows in its pointlessness, making it hard to criticise. It is what it is and it knows it. But for most level-headed viewers, that endurance-test sensibility won't make for entertainment.Reviewed on: 23 Nov 2011
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