Fantastic Fest 2011: HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2: FULL SEQUENCE Review
HC2 opens on our hero, Martin, watching the tail end (pun intended) of the first film while sitting at his desk at his menial job in a parking garage. It is obvious that he's seen the film before, and it very soon becomes obvious that he is obsessed with it. What follows is a 90 minute exercise in the classic stalk and slash formula, with Martin using his position as the eye in the sky to acquire victims for his fantasy, a real life Human Centipede with twelve victims, rather than the paltry three that Dr. Heiter managed to come up with in the first film.
The character of Martin, played by Lawrence Harvey, is not particularly deep, but he is a person with a past, and a person with an intellectual handicap. Martin is also a character who does not have a single line of dialogue in the entire film, and say what you want, it takes a bit of talent to pull off a performance like this without being able to express yourself verbally. We're given a bit of backstory on Martin, mainly that he was abused as a child by his father and that he is mentally deficient, but that's about it. He lives with the horror-movie-cliched overbearing mother, who constantly puts him down and goes so far as to attempt infanticide to end both of their suffering. She fails, and he redoubles his efforts to make his dream a reality.
In his effort to create his dark fantasy, Martin rents a warehouse space in which to work. It quickly becomes a dumping spot for his still-living victims. Lawrence Harvey is actually required to do a bit of acting in this film, his character's arc is brief, but notable. He attempts to appropriate the owner of the warehouse space for his experiment, but accidentally kills him in the process. Martin feels sadness in the owner's death, though whether the sadness is for the taking of a life or for the loss of a link in his chain is debatable. His ability to feel remorse fades quickly, and as things begin to go wrong/right, he expresses less emotion, and deadens to everything except for his goal.
HC2 is a reflexive exercise for Tom Six. The film uses its antecedent in a novel way that makes for a clever premise brought to nauseating life by a director who understands his audience. In that regard, The Human Centipede 2 is a success. It understands what the viewer craves and it delivers. The problem the is that once the film begins delivering on its promises, the viewer realizes that they aren't as hearty as they'd hoped. We are repeatedly disgusted and repulsed by Martin, who seems to have no moral compass, though as a survivor of sexual abuse, we are expected to feel some sympathy for him. It's a slippery slope, and one that has a very steep peak, on which the vast majority of people will fall decidedly one way or the other.
I found a lot to like about The Human Centipede 2, mostly in its self-awareness and its regard for its audience. I find it very interesting that while the film was shot entirely in the UK, that country's residents will not be able to see it anytime in the foreseeable future. The reason is the greatest of ironies, it seemingly violates the Video Nasty legislation, which is designed to protect viewers from films that could be harmful to their psyches, which is exactly what the film is about. I hesitate to give Mr. Six full credit for that, he seems to be on a mission to offend and disgust, and a successful one. My reading of the film may be more meta than the average viewer, however, the irony in the film's recent struggles to gain a rating in the UK was not lost on me one bit.
In terms of its technical merits, Tom Six seems to have set the bar lower for his follow-up, which seems an odd choice. The decision to shoot the film in black and white seems contrary to the film's desire to show more this time around. There is something visceral about the sight of red blood on screen. It sends shivers down the spine and gives even the stoutest of horrorphiles chills. In lieu of red blood, Six gives us shit splatters on the camera lens, a hack move if I ever saw one, but I'll be damned if it didn't get a rise out of the crowd. Six's technical decisions are a bit puzzling, though not entirely off base. The decision to shoot in monochrome also focuses more of the film's energy on Martin and his nefarious quest, and less on visual flash. I'm of two minds about it.
Like it or not, The Human Centipede 2 delivers on its promises to give the viewer what they missed the first time around. Tom Six promises more of the same, perhaps even further exaggerated, the third time around. The question now becomes, were we correct in asking for more viscera, or will it be too much of a good thing? HC2's technical merits aside, Tom Six is a showman of a very high caliber, he knows how to create a spectacle and get you to pay for it. The choice is yours, did you really want this?
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