The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence Review
The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence is not a direct sequel to The Human Centipede: First Sequence although both were written and directed by the Dutch director Tom Six. It deals with the adventures of Martin (Harvey), a decidedly odd security guard who is obsessed with the first film to the point of insanity. He decides that he will set out to make his own centipede despite not having the surgical capabilities to do it in the same manner as the original film's Dr Heisler. This involves the use of a lot of gaffer tape and a staple-gun. In between gory scenes of makeshift surgery and hitting people on the head, there's a kind of attempt at psychological justification as we see Martin's relationship with his dead father and his awful mother and a therapist who seems almost as strange as his patient. Oh, and there's a real centipede too.
In reviewing this film, I was reminded of something that was said to me many years ago at an independent cinema in Sheffield. The late night film that Friday night was Larry Cohen's It Lives Again and I was looking at the poster when someone came to stand next to me. "Load of rubbish," he said. "Sequel to the load of rubbish we had last week." I really can't improve upon this as a description of Tom Six's work. From the evidence I have thus far seen - I have to admit to not having viewed either Gays or Honeyz - he has virtually no talent whatsoever beyond an ability to put the camera in roughly the right place and marshal his special effects in the most offensive way possible. The original film had a certain camp value which made it just about watchable and it soft-pedalled the more unpleasant aspects. This sequel revels in pain, squalor and sadism and you can't even laugh at the terrible acting or the dire screenplay because the people on screen are being humiliated.
Since I dislike the notion of censorship to things which don't actually break the law - and Human Centipede 2, disgusting as it may be, is pure fantasy - I can't defend the BBFC's decision to cut the film; although a couple of minutes less of Tom Six's nonsense is, by and large, welcome. Indeed, I think that any potential risk of copycat behaviour in Martin's obsessive linking of violence and sexual arousal is mitigated by the fact that he's plainly such a hideous and pantomimishly unsympathetic character. A sequence involving a heavily pregnant woman's prematurely curtailed getaway was considered too much and has been edited down but the whole sequence is ridiculously over the top and surely not much more offensive in itself than scenes in Peter Jackson's Braindead. On the whole though, while censorship is regrettable, I'm far more concerned about the kind of corporate censorship which is currently preventing us from seeing the full version of The Devils; a situation which has nothing to do with the BBFC. Artistic merit should always be a defence of course and I would be willing to defend many "offensive" films on that basis - The House on the Edge of the Park is a recent example which I think deserved a fairer hearing. But Human Centipede 2 offers little for a potential defender to hold on to, except perhaps the meta-textual cleverness of a director commenting on his own work.
It would have helped if we had some way of getting inside Martin's head but the decision to make him a mute and grotesque presence means that we remain thoroughly distanced throughout and he remains simply a pathetic sadist. On the other hand, we don't have any connection to his victims either since they are given little screen time and, when we do get to see them, they are often unpleasant anyway. So we're left obstinately isolated outside the film which gives too much time to think about the film's obvious limitations and the gloating emphasis on graphic violence. By the end, even the most rabid lover of the sadistic horror sub-genre will surely feel as if they've been overstuffed. The rest of us are likely to simply feel sickened and neither enlightened nor entertained.
Eureka's Blu Ray of The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence presents the UK theatrical version of the film which is cut by just under three minutes. If you're someone for whom this is a deal breaker then read no further.
The Blu Ray is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is in monochrome throughout except for a brief spurt of brown during an explosive scene of defecation. The transfer is excellent with a nice thin layer of grain and a superb level of detail throughout. Contrast is perfect and the shadow detail is particularly pleasing. The stereo surround soundtrack is very effective in places with the music immersing you in the sheer unpleasantness of the film.
There are a few extras. "Behind the Scenes" runs for nine minutes and shows us some of the special effects, including the prosthetic bottoms with dummies attached for the actors to suck on, and some of Tom Six's, er, energetic directorial techniques. For some reason this is also in black and white. A deleted scene comes next and turns out to be 22 seconds of Martin barking at a dog in a car. We also get to see behind the scenes at a foley session which demonstrates the movie magic behind the sound of Martin penetrating the unfortunate lady at the end of the centipede. Finally, there's a thankfully brief interview with Tom Six who can best be described as a man not noticeably troubled by self doubt. I was trying to concentrate on this but got distracted by trying to work out whether Mr Six has a beard or just can't shave properly.
I can give Tom Six credit for trying to do something different and there's no doubt that Human Centipede 2 is a distinctive and unusual film in some respects. But ultimately it seems to me such a nihilistic exercise in extreme violence that my revulsion got in the way of any other emotions. There's a place for extreme cinema, and it's an extremely valuable thing at its best, but not when its done with such cloddish obviousness as this is. Eureka's Blu Ray offers a good presentation of the film but the fact that its cut will mean that some may want to look elsewhere.