Perversion and the “Human Centipede”

human centipede 2

The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)

dir. Tom Six

Release Date: Oct 07, 11

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The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) found the kind of press that money can’t buy when it received a ban in Britain (since rescinded, with around three minutes of cuts) for sadistic violence. Particularly in the U.S., to a select sect of filmgoers, extreme horror that involves people stapled ass-to-mouth has a mortifying appeal. Such films necessitate viewing, if only to take on the gauntlet of films such as Cannibal Holocaust, Salo and other such works of meticulously devised grotesquerie. A film with a title and high concept like Human Centipede carries with it a challenge,  a call to arms to push the breach of social decency.

Tom Six’s sequel has accomplished that, delivering on the promise of the unevenly paced first film with one of the most nihilistic horror movies of all time. The trouble with reviewing such a film as this one is that this description will be enough of a selling point for its target audience (desensitized 22-year-olds, as far as I can tell), and my only aim is to illustrate that Full Sequence is not only the worst film of 2011, but the worst in many years.

Watching Full Sequence, I was reminded of last year’s A Serbian Film, another infamously brutal film. At the time, I felt like the film’s narrative was vastly overshadowed by the level of brutality depicted. In retrospect, that film at least comes off as sufficiently articulated when put next to this one. Ostensibly, Full Sequence is about Martin (Lawrence R. Harvey), an obese, bug-eyed, sweaty psychopath who abducts strangers from the London parking garage in which he works. Taking virtually every human being he encounters hostage, he plans to live out his psychosexual fantasy of a 12-person human centipede, spurred on by his love for The Human Centipede.

The saddest truth, perhaps, is that Martin’s idol worship of Six’s first installment (a bit of hubris that would be amusing in a less unpleasant affair) means that Martin, like Six, only has so many ideas for what to actually do with a human centipede. Therefore, the film’s first hour engages in the cruelest show of wheel spinning imaginable, in which Martin continually watches the first movie (occasionally pleasuring himself to it with the aid of sandpaper) while amassing components for his creation. If this sounds impersonal, well, that’s about the full measure of esteem Six apparently has for humanity. The victims include a good number of women, an angry businessman and, memorably, a pregnant woman, whom Martin assaults in front of her child. (She comes into play late in the film, in a scene that actually manages to top Serbian‘s famed ‘newborn porn’ sequence in the unadulterated revulsion it elicits.)

Once the centipede is built, something far more unnerving becomes evident: This is the first movie, on steroids of perversion, with a coat of pseudo-artsy black and white photography for flavor. It’s strange to find oneself longing for the first film’s continual shots of kidnapped women trying to talk sense into a deranged scientist, when the alterior option is to watch a slobbering man-child cut their clothes off and repeatedly beat them unconcious. Then, when the centipede is finally realized, far too long into the film, Six raises the stakes by stealing a visual trick from Schindler’s List in order to execute what has to be the most orgiastic shit joke in filmic history.

The fetishization of brutality is nothing new, and part of the implicit purpose of horror is to show an audience something they’ve not seen. Cult cinema, even, has many roots in this desire. If this is the future of cult film, which a rapturous audience response at the screening I attended would possibly suggest, deal me out. There is nothing entertaining or purposeful about The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) outside of reviving the carnival geek show, indulging in the basest tactics possible for no larger gain than to freak out a small segment of the population for an hour and a half. But hey, Six isn’t all bad; he cut out a rape scene, because that would’ve involved taking things too far.