The Human Centipede 2 [Full Sequence]

Certificate: 18
Running time: 88 mins
Director: Tom Six
Starring:  Laurence R. Harvey, Ashlynn Yennie, Maddi Black, Lee Nicholas Harris
Genre: Horror
Format: DVD
Country: Netherlands/UK/United States

It seemed at one point that the only way you’d be able to see The Human Centipede 2 [Full Sequence] in the UK would be to import the DVD from a country that has less of an oppressive stance on censorship.  Two minutes worth of trims later and the BBFC have climbed down from their position on the film and have granted Tom Six’s horror sequel an 18 certificate and Daily Mail readers a chance to scoff at the state of the country.

Before this review begins the first thing I’d like to point out is that I don’t care what other reviews and publications are focusing on.  The films I find repulsive are those that don’t treat cinema as an art form but are more interested in making money rather than telling a story.  The entire back catalogue of Michael Bay is infinitely more repulsive to me than the entire 71 minutes of Slaughtered Vomit Dolls on an eternal loop.  With that said let’s begin.

Martin (Harvey) is a disturbed loner who lives with his mother due to his learning difficulties and was sexually abused by his father when he was younger.  Working in a Car Park we encounter him not at the beginning but at the peak of his fixation.  He has slowly become more and more obsessed with Tom Six’s horror The Human Centipede [First Sequence] to the point were he’s unable to curb his desires, to pick up on the work of the fictional Dr. Heiter (Laser) and complete the experiment to create a full sequence…a twelve person centipede.

There was much speculation as to how Six was going to go about resetting the clock (so to speak) and introduce a sequence of events that would lead to the horror sequel that looked so impossible at the end of the first film.  Rather than, as many suspected, introduce a character who had worked alongside Heiter Six has taken a metatheatrical take on his own work.  Where traditional horrors like Halloween¸ Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street are more than content to simply ignore the causal logic of their previous ending and simply reintroduce their antagonist along with a full cast of fodder Six has changed speed and realm.  In The Human Centipede [Full Sequence] the worldin which the events of the first film occurred is a film. The narrative we have already seen before which makes The Human Centipede [First Sequence] little more than a film and the sequel (set in the real world) set in the reality the audience inhabit, the fear is more visceral, because it is no longer removed from the viewer.

  Few years pass without someone spouting their concerns about how horror films and violence video games can create violent behaviour in society.  Those old enough to remember the Jamie Bulger case and the defendant's affinity for the Child’s Play film will be aware of the two sides of the debate and those directors working in the genre see the referring to such cases as their worst nightmare.  As Six’s premise is one that’s so darkly far fetched he has not only openly embraced the notion of screen violence manipulating behaviour he has dedicated a film to it.  The acknowledgement of the first film as fiction in order to create a more real realm for the sequel is an interesting one.  As the audience we are aware of the first film, we are also aware of the perceived relationship between horror films and copy-cat violence, we understand that what makes The Human Centipede [First Sequence] scary is the medical knowledge that Dr. Heiter possesses and how easy it would be for him to stitch you into his creation.  We also know that what makes The Human Centipede [Full Sequence] scary is the knowledge that the first film is a film and that there may be individuals out there with the desire to recreate it. This in turn makes Full Sequence an instructional manual and Tom Six knows all of this too.

Shooting Full Sequence in black and white is an interesting idea, especially since Six has already established the fact that the first film is not real.  Black and white has historically been seen in film making as the psychological reality of the audience.  When colour was first brought into film making it was shunned by a lot of film makers as more theatrical, leaving it for the musicals and less “realistic” genres.  Though it might seem that shooting the film in black and white places a barrier between film and audience, it is a barrier that allows them to know that this too is just a film it has been theorised, even though  psychologically we are more willing to accept black and white as real.  Outside of the psychological it gives Tom Six the same kind of rope that Quentin Tarantino needed when filming Kill Bill and in particular 'The Bride's' fight with the Crazy 88.  The violence and gore can be a lot greater, constant and intense in black and white and not be penalised by the censors as it’s lacking the colour of blood and gore.

There’s a lot more to The Human Centipede [Full Sequence] than what most critics and media outlets are focusing on.  Quite a few seem to be rejoicing in the fact that it took less than £1,000 in it’s opening weekend at the Box Office as a moral victory but they’re not doing their jobs right.  Casting Laurence R. Harvey in the lead as a sexually abused adult with learning difficulties is an extremely interesting idea.  Tom Six came up with original premise of a human centipede as a joke answer to what to do with paedophiles and sex offenders.  When you consider that and the fact that a lot of offenders have been abused as children then you realise that there’s a greater social message to the film that what’s being allowed to penetrate the psyché of the cinema audience.  Harvey is actually very good in the role of Martin, more so when you consider that he was a complete unknown before Six cast him.  The decision to have him carry the entire film without him speaking a single word is also interesting, and also going unexamined.  His physicality is something that is interesting throughout the film, his stature and physique is underwhelming, his asthma undoes him on a couple of occasions but all the while there is a unnerving calmness to him that switches to controlled rage in the beat of a second, and this is geared towards one thing only, the construction of his own centipede.  The fixation with the film is well performed as it never comes across as forced yet it’s not without Six’s dark sense of humour, his masturbating with sand paper is unnecessary (narratively) but an example of the fun that Six likes to have and is reminiscent, in a way, of The Aristocrats and the need for those involved to out-gross one another. 

Ashlynn Yennie (Jenny aka the tail of the centipede in the first film) is a welcome return for fans but also helps to reinforce the fact that the first film was a film and this is reality.  Yennie (playing herself) unwittingly travels to London to audition for Tarantino only to find herself in an all too familiar scenario only this time with more to do.  Vivien Bridson (as Martin’s mother) adds another dimension to the character of Martin, she’s resentful of her son for having her husband sent to prison and hateful towards him for the slothful individual he has grown up to become.  It’s not just the case that Martin was sexually abused by his father but it’s obvious that his mother didn’t care enough to protect him and now hates him for sending her husband away.  The rest of the cast are made up of unknown names and to be honest most of them will stay that way.  Lucas Hansen (Ian) manages to stumble dramatically through his lines with the most unconvincing cockney accent since Dick Van Dyke, thankfully it’s not long before he’s bound and gagged.  The rest of the cast are given just enough to establish them as human beings before they’re whisked away to Martin’s “lab” for further medical examination.  Bill Hutchens is striking as the sexually abusive Dr. Sebring who just-so happens to be Martin’s family GP but even this character is handicapped by the underdevelopment of the supporting characters.

The script is hampered by the fact that the film is really underwritten.  Six has established Martin’s fascination by making the first film, we know more about his mind that we think (or we do if we’ve watch the first film) yet everything plays second fiddle to the horror.  This is a shame as the psychological aspect and the social commentary are both interesting and deserved to be explored.  The pacing of the film is strong though, where we couldn’t wait to see the centipede in the first film (which Six delivered promptly) the audience is shown more of the horrifying construction process and on occasion it can be an extremely difficult watch.  The most difficult being the removal of the victims teeth as it’s a sensation the entire audience can relate to.  It’s also not without a twist of humour that’s surely going to become the signature of Tom Six in future films outside of the world of centipedes.

The issues the censors had with the film was the sexual gratification that Martin was receiving from his work, something that wasn’t present in the first film, and is one of the reasons it’s been compared to Koji Shiraishi’s GrotesqueThough the comparisons are in some way understandable and inevitable they don’t stand up to scrutiny as Martin is a lot more human and weak as opposed to the Doctor in Grotesque (Shigeo Osako) giving the film a more accessible and humane feel than the torture porn Asian offering.  Like Grotesque and A Serbian Film there are a couple of moments in The Human Centipede [Full Sequence] that cross a line and take the audience into the realm of the uncomfortable one in particular during “the Getaway” which won’t be spoilt but lacks Six’s humour and just feels out of character and out of place in the proceedings.

The Human Centipede [Full Sequence] has done what all great films do and what no run-of-the-mill Hollywood super-budget special-effects-riddled-cynical-money-makers could only ever dream to achieve, it has sparked debate.  Whether it’s on the message boards of IMDB, Twitch or between friends, it has become a divisive piece of modern culture.  It is not a great film, few films are and even fewer from the horror genre.  What it is though is a horror film, and as a horror film it has an obligation to its audience to be scary or horrifying, to present uncomfortable scenarios in an unflinching way that will test the steel of the audiences nerves and stomach, and it does that wonderfully.  Yes there are serious problems with the script but all horror films have a tendency to under-develop the characters about to be butchered.  The most interesting thing about The Human Centipede [Full Sequence] is the reoccurring notion of abuse, and its cyclical nature and the greater ramifications for us as a society coupled with the idea of media related violence.  Few films have ever even hinted at this let alone allowed the notions to bubble beneath the surface of their narrative and for this it’s worth watching Full Sequence and making an informed opinion of your own rather than trust the hysterical clucking hens than have been heralding the end of civilisation because a film got a certificate.  A raw and unflinching horror that defies the codes and conventions of the genre to create it’s own kind of monster.


psynno said...

Fantastic breakdown of the film. I've had enough of recent so-called horror for the sheer lack of imagination and overuse of cliches in films like HOSTEL etc. Surely these films are sicker and more obscene than anything Tom Six has ever done. I'm a great admirer of the first one and agree it works effectively as a suspense medical horror. Part 2 dwells on the effects of abuse, it is peculiar and detailed, and not many will enjoy witnessing the misery of this existence portrayed; it seems to exist in a hopeless, remote world, reminiscent of Eraserhead in some ways. You're spot on when you praise it for daring to horrify us - what's the last horror film you remember that really disturbed you? I agree, problems are down to underwritten characters. But the main performance was sensational and completely believable. I think the director shows some great judgment. he allows the scenes to be harrowing without trying to disguise the sheer absurtdity and nightmarishness of REAL violence and murder. Isn't this how it should be portrayed? Do we need films like Hostel or Saw which seem to be conditioning modern audiences into ACCEPTING horror and death through a hateful sanitised pop promo style of filmmaking? I really liked the first part and found it challenging and involving. this one was not as successful, but I am really looking forward to seeing what Tom Six's next film will be.

John Baxter said...

Thanks very much, you've hit the nail right on the head with that one. I'm looking forward to THC3 and he's also making a horror about conpulsive masturbation so that should be interesting to say the very least.

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