Why ‘The Human Centipede II’ (2011) is a vastly inferior film to the original.

6 Apr

The Human Centipede II posterI am a huge fan of Tom Six’s The Human Centipede. Easily the most talked-about horror film of 2010, though perhaps more for the subject matter than the actual movie itself, its concept gained infamy as it spread through the internet like wildfire. But upon my declaration of love for that film, I’m usually greeted with uproar – “that film is disgusting!“; “you absolute weirdo!” and “I thought you said you didn’t like torture porn?” are the typical responses.I remain a staunch defender of the original, however; it was a gorgeously shot, artful horror movie that was teeth-grindingly tense. The only crude element was the idea, which Six got around by making an elegant movie, that held punches and was never gratuitous.

The sequel, however, grabbed any notions of subtlety and catapulted them to oblivion; The Human Centipede II is torture porn, torture porn, torture porn! Everyone knows the story by now – a creepy dude abducts a few unsuspecting people, knocks them out, sews them together ass-to-mouth and observes their suffering. He is inspired by the mad scientist from the first one, and watches the movie on repeat throughout the day (sometimes enjoying it a little too much, if you know what I mean). Working in a car park, he captures around twelve unsuspecting people, ties them up, brings them to a warehouse, strips them down and… You can guess the rest.

With quadruple the number of victims, The Human Centipede II certainly ups the ante from the original. But that’s all it does, and unfortunately it’s at the cost of virtually all the factors, including any style, tension and exuberant cinematography demonstrated by the first Human Centipede. There is a tendency among genre movies of this kind (Saw, Hostel etc.) to outdo one another; it’s as if there’s some kind of hushed competition among these film-makers to determine who exactly can make audiences retch the most. What does Tom Six bring to the table with his latest offering? Pregnant women. Pregnant women at the front of the damn centipede.

One twelfth of the biology experiment from Hell.

One twelfth of the biology experiment from Hell.

It’s shocking for shock’s sake alone, and everything just feels so arbitrary. There are people whose heads get bludgeoned to an unrecognisable pulp, the neck of which still squirting blood, as if there was any head left. Children are involved, sexual abuse abounds, severe depression haunts Martin’s mother and he even masturbates on screen. The Human Centipede II is the kind of film where most of the actors spend the majority of their time writhing about naked on the concrete floor of some empty warehouse, thinking of their loved ones and just waiting for their death.

There’s no rhyme or reason to the killings – at least Jigsaw from Saw alleges that the unfortunate souls he imprisons are morally corrupt in some way. Martin, on the other hand, abducts an aggressive white couple, a charming black couple, the asshole who lives upstairs, a friendly businessman, a pair of drunk women and a creepy guy with a foot in the child pornography industry. This blending of the good with the bad makes it impossible to understand the madman’s motive; yes he is inspired by the first one (so much so, he keeps a scrapbook) but is that all there is? The first film hinted at Six being a talented, clever director, being able to transcend disgusting ideas by making a well-crafted film, devoid of scatological absurdities.

But that’s all we’re given here, and the result is boring as hell. Of all things, I hadn’t expected to be bored by this movie, but so much of it is taken up by Martin capturing unsuspecting lab rats, leaving them at the pseudo-laboratory, going back home to bed, and repeating the cycle the following day. He utilises the same method of abduction (shooting them, before promptly bashing their heads in with a crowbar) each time, and it just gets so repetitive. This is eighty-eight minutes of duck-taped people wriggling about the floor, and it’s really, really dull. The black and white is a small mercy, in that we can’t see any colours of the various bodily fluids (until they hit ‘the camera’, which infuriates me because it’s so bloody tacky), but ultimately it only adds to the monotony.

The star of the show. Creepier than Dieter Laser? Infinitely.

The star of the show. Creepier than Dieter Laser? Infinitely.

Another thing that many people appreciated about the first Human Centipede was the alleged ‘medical accuracy’; now I don’t claim to know anything about medicine, but I do know that its sequel is unrealistic to the point of just being silly. Forget the ludicrous concept for a second – people survive having their heads repeatedly bashed in, and losing impossible amounts of blood. I simply do not believe that Martin’s employers couldn’t have noticed that strangers were disappearing en masse from their car park and not realised he was the one working the cameras. It just makes no sense, and while the first one was bananas, at least it was somewhat plausible.

If any praise is to be given to this movie, it must be directed towards Laurence R. Harvey, who plays Martin, purely because he is one of the most unsettling antagonists I’ve ever seen in a film. Without being outwardly horrifying, it’s obvious from his appearance that vast quantities of screws are loose; years of psychological and sexual abuse have resulted in a morbidly obese, balding midget who regularly soils himself and masturbates to human centipedes, all the while being covered in a thin layer of sweat which I could practically smell. He genuinely resembles an insect, with those bug-eyes, which is an interesting comparison given the film’s preoccupation with centipedes.

The first Human Centipede was shot beautifully, and featured an elegance to the simplicity of the storytelling, which was at odds with the screechy, blunt, unashamedly unsubtle standards of ‘modern’ horror movies. The Human Centipede II, on the other hand, is the exact opposite: loud, obtuse and entirely unnecessary. I wish it’d just sprout wings and fly away…

Simon says: a nonsensically gratuitous drag, and very disappointing for that reason. 

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