“Maybe he’s connecting the pain that a centipede inflicts with the pain inflicted on him through use of psychological and sexual abuse by his father.“
There was a point whereby I openly admitted that I would never watch this film. I knew about the sandpaper and the staple-gun, so I felt that there is a line you draw and you say no. But, people talk about it and it becomes a bit of an apple-on-the-knowledge-tree. I couldn’t judge it until I saw it and I couldn’t truly believe the horror unless I sat through it. Then Flickering Myth, a site I write for put up a request for a contributor to review it. It didn’t cost me a penny and might be a fun night. I was fearful about what I would see but, with friends, we watched. My god, what a disappointment. It could’ve been an obvious-fear-story … it could’ve been a direct sequel to the previous instalment. In many ways, it should’ve been. Seriously, I could create a better story myself. It was an example – and you need this once in a while – of a film I don’t like and what I believe cinema is not about. Maybe I knew this from the outset, but it’s good to sometimes clarify your position on cinema.’
Detached Progression (Human Centipede II)
As hinted at before, the open-ended finale of The Human Centipede (First Sequence)gave the impression of some-sort of scope for a sequel. Tom Six, creatively, detaches the film completely from a continuing narrative in The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) by constructing a story that depicts a character, Martin (Laurence R. Harvey), who is obsessed with the first film. At this stage, it is worth noting that I viewed the UK-version released on Blu-Ray. In that regard, key-scenes are omitted: the death of a baby and a rape using barbed-wire were two of the 32 cuts the BBFC made to the film.
From the very first few minutes, we are in a different world. Unlike the European flavour of the prior film, THC2 is set primarily in a car park and a council-flat. The tone therefore shifts to become almost an attempt at realism, shot in a pseudo-intelligent black-and-white palette. The complete switch from the rural context of the previous film is switched to an urban, London environment – but an urban world that has very few people within it, except for those who Martin comes into contact with. Tom Six has claimed that this huge change in tone is due to the films perspective – the first film presented from the perspective of Dr. Hieter, and the second in Martin’s dingy and dirty world.
So Bad it’s Bad
It truly is a train-wreck of a film. Conversations that it is the ‘worst-film’ of all-time are not without reason – but it is not due to the violence and horror that is presented. It seems as if Tom Six completely lost what people enjoyed about the first film. He almost mocks any type of critical-analysis of the first film as a character attempts to deconstruct the obsession Martin has with the film. This, by its attempt at psycho-analysis almost asks viewers to take the film more seriously than mere horror. Conversations, by actors of a low-standard, discuss child-abuse, psychology and the mental illness Martin has. To make matters worse, Martin is virtually mute – only relying on strange laughter, his crying and guttural noises to indicate whatever is going on in his mind.
We have no sympathy or understanding towards his victims as they are purely portrayed as victims and nothing more. You imagine the girls in the previous film – and the humanisation of the two as they prepare for a night-out, then get lost and walk to the house, etc. In THC2, victims appear and are kidnapped. For example, in one sequence a prostitute is kidnapped and, mid-kidnapping, the scene cuts to him placing the body in the van (Another cut scene maybe?) so that the only element of interest – How did he kidnap her? – is completely negated for a scene of him driving a van. The film became an experience simply to sit through – I didn’t know who the people really were; I didn’t care about what they were doing; I did not feel any element of tension as to what this man was ‘capable’ of. We understand he is horrible – to the point that when we hear a baby crying in one kidnapping, it’s not surprising. Of course the introduction of an infant in such a film was inevitable. The cuts scenes I am aware of would only add to the unnecessary, irrelevant scenes of torture and pain Martin creates.
On a personal note, I watched both films as a double-viewing alongside my brother. Following the screening, he noted how it almost came across as simply ‘attention-seeking’. I couldn’t put it better myself. As an example of this, the only element of colour follows a sequence as he injects each part of the human centipede with laxative and consequently, we see faeces burst through the staple-gunned mouth-to-anus and on the screen. Coloured brown. No rhyme or reason – simply grotesque for the sake of horror.
Shock-Value or Worse?
You could easily blame the cheap ‘shock-value’ as the core problem of the film but this isn’t the main area of concern. The problem lies in how the film virtually has no context of a world that Martin lives within; it has no characterisation to Martin as he has mental-issues and doesn’t talk. As the world and characters are so empty and silent it limits any type of bigger scope for Tom Six to work within. The positive reviews (and there are a few from Bloody Disgusting and New York Post) seem to highlight how THC2 is a response to the criticism of the first film. [SPOILERS] The ambiguous ending of THC2 gives the impression that maybe Martin himself imagined the events of the entire film – is there a hint of an idea that horror films are what you make of them? Opposed to the argument that horror-films are an excuse or scape-goat for the ills in society.
I’m not keen on adhering to that perspective as the film does not set-up anything to imply that this theory is justified; Tom Six could’ve tacked on the ending as an after-thought. The fact remains that Martins job is surveillance as a car park attendant. He observes on monitors the everyday life of other people – so it is worth noting how Tom Six himself worked for Endemol and on TV productions including Big Brother. The pleasure to be found in obsessing and, even eroticising, people and characters who potentially have a weakness, naivety or misplaced-arrogance in their own appearance on screen connects well with Tom Six himself – and leads itself well into an argument regarding the depiction of ‘normal’ people that reality TV can often celebrate. The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is misplaced arrogance and celebrates a type of filmmaking that lacks any artistic credibility whatsoever; much like reality TV itself.