THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2
Dutch filmmaker Tom Six came onto the scene back in 2009 with his controversial, and perverse Horror film “The Human Centipede”. Audiences watched Dr Heiter (Dieter Laser), a mad scientist hell-bent on kidnapping a trio of tourists and surgically joining them from buttocks to mouth in order to form a human centipede. Now one’s typical responses are usually What type of person makes a film like this? or, They must be pretty sick and demented to write such a screenplay. Even I have to admit, that was probably my initial response and I’m a fan of the genre, so you can imagine what your regular theater goer would think. None the less, film is one of the most common art forms and I’m always open to the idea of watching anything and everything. I saw the original film a couple of years after it was released, and I thought it was a competently made film. Given the obscure and horrid subject matter and the challenge of bringing it to life, I don’t think you could ask for a lot more. Everything you need to know is in the title and In fact, majority of the original film was psychological and several of the most graphic scenes were only implied (not to say that’s still not disturbing). When Tom Six promised to return with a deeper darker sequel, fans of the original wondered what they were getting themselves into. Although with 2010’s “A Serbian Film” whom this reviewer couldn’t stomach, going beyond everything and anything we’ve ever seen, who knows how disturbing number two would actually be.
“The Human Centipede 2” joins up pretty well with its predecessor, as we are introduced to Martin (played by Laurence R. Harvey), undoubtedly the biggest fan of Dr Heiter’s previous work. Martin lives a mind-numbingly dull existence, consisting of working security in a car park, doing therapy sessions with Dr Sebring (Bill Hutchens), along with awkward dinners with Mother (Vivien Bridson), that are constantly interrupted by a noisy, violent and tattooed upstairs neighbor (played by Lee Harris). Martin sets out to turn his obsession into reality, replicating a 12 person centipede using what ever’s in his toolbox to get the job done. The film also stars Ashlynn Yennie, Kandace Caine, Emma Lock and Peter Blankenstein.
Firstly, your probably thinking Really Adam? You’ve seriously got a heading labelled “Good” for the plot I’ve just described to you? My answer is yes, yes I do. Anyone who knows me knows my take on film is that nothing can be all good, nor all bad. So you might ask how does a film that was banned in several countries possess any redeemable qualities? Well let’s find out. Let’s start with the cinematography and shot choices, which are executed as well as anything in the genre. Tom’s decision to shoot the entire film in Black and White really works. I read somewhere he wanted to do the original film the same way and then for whatever reason opted against it. Due to the content of the movie already being extremely graphic, the color wasn’t as necessary and it wouldn’t have fit the dark themes in the same manner. The harsh and bleak look of all the scenes and their complementary lighting, only helped to emphasize Martin’s loneliness and isolation. No color parallels no hope. The abuse he suffered as a boy, his mother’s treatment towards him and the general public’s disregard for his entire existence, are all evident through the style in which this was shot. The audio levels are solid, although in this case not so important taking into account the fact Martin doesn’t utter a word for 87 minutes, only laughs, cries and moans (yes disturbing, I know). The sound effects and the way in which they are used create a very unsettling feeling (your thinking, like I wasn’t unsettled already right? haha). There was a three or four note tune that was played several times throughout the movie, and it sounded like a shrill version of a kids nursery rhyme, it definitely struck a chord (pardon the pun).
Harvey’s performance is intense and creepy. It was his first time acting in a full length feature and he deserves a lot of praise for having the guts to take on such a daunting task. He’s reaping the benefits now though, going on to shoot The Human Centipede 3 along with a few other projects that are in the pipeline. Unlike the first film, we are immediately thrust into a day in the life of Martin. We see his fixation on the original film, which he watches countless times while at work. We pick up on his infatuation with the insect itself, as he shows true excitement when he gets a chance to feed his pet centipede. Lastly and most importantly we get some insight into his home life. He was horribly abused by his father (thankfully only implied), and his mother holds him responsible for allowing his dad to go to prison. Up to a certain point he is trying to go about his business and just wants to be left alone, but yeah that doesn’t happen (haha). Six is able to make you feel sorry for this pot-bellied loner, well at least up to a certain point so I commend him on that much. The violence is aggressive to say the least, but I did enjoy the first half of the film more than the second. The first 40 minutes takes the same path the first film did. Everything is much more psychological as we witness the build up to Martin’s despicable plan. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still nasty and pretty in your face, But you have to expect that. From what I could see all the effects were practical and very well executed. The most impressive impact kill comes about half way through (see link at end of review). It involves someone’s head being caved in with a tire-iron, its gruesome as hell and the aftermath is incredibly bold.
Okay let’s get to it, now everyone wants me to explain why you shouldn’t watch the film right? In no particular order I’ll discuss a few of the nit picky things first. Martin spends a fair chunk of his day coughing profusely, followed by constant use of his puffer. I thought they were alluding to a sickness of some sort, and not just the fact he had asthma. It was a particular focus throughout the film, so I was hoping it might have amounted to something more. Maybe he wanted to do this “experiment” before he died or something, who knows. Most of the acting was impressive but Vivien Bridson didn’t rise to the occasion when she was supposed to be scared of Martin. Her other scenes were fine, but that one came off as rather melodramatic and forced. Originally, I thought Martin’s lack of medical knowledge, other than what he had taken in from countless viewings of the first film, would be a problem. Then I realized that he was approaching it from a DIY point of view. He knew nothing about how to surgically attach anything, so you can imagine the result when he gets his hands on various tools and tries to build the sucker. If they were going with the same setup of using medical supplies then its got holes galore in it, but in this case I suppose the alternative still works.
There are a couple of minor continuity issues I would have liked to seen fixed. Such as the abrupt editing, during what would have been a garage owners death, who then consequently becomes part of the pede. On top of that most, if not all of the characters are fiercely knocked out at one point or another yet all wake up far too quickly. I mean granted I’ve never been hit with a tool and knocked out, but I’d imagine it takes a little while longer to recover. Martin’s careful selection of potential parts starts out reasonable enough (as reasonable as you can get of course). He finds a pretty horrible low life couple, a pedophile and his buddy, as well as a hooker and the oaf of a neighbor he lives below. Sadly the film takes a turn for the worse (is that possible haha??), when he selects a few people who haven’t done anything wrong (an issue I had with Billy Pon’s “Circus Of The Dead”). The revenge approach goes out the window when you put innocent people in those kind of situations. I guess this isn’t a revenge film so everyone is fair game, but still. Coupled with some unnecessary sick fetishes and harsh treatment, along with an extra brutal and bleak 15 minute finale, it all goes a bit haywire and too far for the average horror audience. I’m also somewhat against what it’s trying to say about the Horror community and people who enjoy it or watch a lot of films in the genre. My intake of this kind of stuff (meaning regular gore based horror) is relatively heavy. Although I do watch other kinds of films in between my binges, I watch a lot of horror and yet I’m perfectly sane and healthy. To link these kinds of films to the reason why psychotic people exist, and or act out their sick fantasies just isn’t fair. It’s a very small percentage of the population that are unhinged and yeah if you are struggling with personal problems or sensitive issues you’re probably best to steer clear of anything involving violence or sexually confrontational stuff.
The Human Centipede 2 like its counterpart, is a competently made Horror film. The first half is psychological and voyeuristic in nature, reminiscent of a film like “Bad Boy Bubby”. The second half goes deep into the sick and depraved and never backs out or apologizes for it, so don’t say you weren’t warned. I admire the shooting style, enjoyed the score and saw an impressive lead performance from a newcomer in Laurence Harvey. On the other side of the coin I saw some plot holes/ continuity issues, a change in direction towards selecting the victims and some pretty sick stuff that I could take or leave. I have no choice but to leave my thoughts firmly on the fence when it comes to this one, I mean it is what it is, I’ll probably still watch number three (haha). I think it’s wrong to say it’s a poor film but at the same time it’s definitely not a good one. These types of films make for an interesting critique because it depends if you can separate yourself from it all. I just want to close with a quote from director Tom Six, that bothered me. I have no problems with people making anything they see fit but don’t try to justify it to save face. He says “I try to create original films, why write stories that are done a hundred thousand times? Create something new, push boundaries, why else bother?”. First of all, new doesn’t always mean good, and surely there comes a point when you can push the boundaries too far and produce stuff will all be better for not seeing. Also Tom don’t be a hard ass. Why else bother? The most common reason is to entertain. Hollywood rarely make anything original, but they still manage to entertain an that’s key. Yes film is an art-form. Yeah this is an original film, but don’t say your making art or entertainment because you’re not. Call this exactly what it is, it’s shock value. It’s a film made for shock value and you should be able to own that, not justify why you wrote it. In that sense, it delivers exactly what you set out to do but absolutely nothing more.
My rating for “The Human Centipede 2” is 5/10