Fantastic Fest 2011: ‘Human Centipede 2’ a numbing, ineffectual parade of depravity

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Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence

Written and directed by Tom Six

2011, Netherlands/UK

It’s probably worth mentioning that I was not a fan of The Human Centipede. I thought the film underwhelming, poorly directed and largely undeserving of the cult status bestowed on it by some. Like Paramount’s Paranormal Activity (the first film distributed by a major studio to use crowd-sourcing) the hype machine was in full effect, building up excitement far before anyone had ever even seen the movie. The same can be said for Full Sequence.

This time around the “100% medically INaccurate” (the film’s protagonist administers blows to the head like they were Lunestra) depravity is carried out by a portly, bug-eyed man named Martin. Martin works in a parking garage endlessly watching The Human Centipede, dreaming of the day he too can assemble his own arthropod. Outside of that, Martin’s life sucks. His mother hates him. The therapist helping him work the abuse suffered at the hands of his father seems to share his obsession with the derriere, but unfortunately it’s Martin’s he’s after. The only bright patch in Martin’s life is his abiding love for First Sequence.

Not content to let the concept do the work this time around, Six pulls out all the stops with a laundry list of atrocities including projectile feces, a newborn being crushed to death under a gas pedal, and a masturbation scene that’s rough to say the least. Pandering to his base and likely leaving behind a few fans of the original along the way, he promised that Part 2 would be way sicker, and it is. The screening came complete with an ambulance and a pair of bored-looking paramedics. At one point a woman was escorted out and assisted by the paramedics, whose presence reeked of a publicity stunt.

But what does all this excess buy the filmmaker? The extreme violence on parade has the effect of rendering everything on screen into something altogether more mundane. Sure, it’s gross, but the gore doesn’t really have the same effect when there’s nothing else to draw the audience in. By comparison, the festival held its annual 100 Best Kills event the other night and, like Full Sequence, the pure magnitude and absurdity of the carnage eventually has a numbing effect. Instead I find the filmmaker in me wandering onto more technical details, like “I wonder what they made their fake diarrhea from?” or “What’s the set decorum for scene that depicts barbed-wire clad anal rape?” Something tells me the actress at the tail end wasn’t afforded the same considerations that Monica Bellucci was in Irreversible, a film I do think earns its right to be graphic.

Two things I can say that work well for the film are the cinematography and Martin himself. Say what you will, the movie is well-crafted, at least by indie horror standards. Presented almost entirely in monochrome (Six does “artistically” break away from the convention at one point); I have to agree with the director that the bloodshed does look beautiful in black and white. The other thing working for the film is Martin. With no lines, the film relies on the actor’s creepy giggles and oddly striking features to convince the audience of Martin as a monster capable of stapling a dozen people together ass-to-mouth. Laurence R. Harvey’s performance probably wont garner the same acclaim that Dieter Laser received in the first film but I’d argue that Martin is the more wholly unique creation. Acting in the first film was spotty at best and Dieter as Doctor Heiter had the big showy tendencies typical of a lot of theater actors. Harvey, on the other hand, actually seems like a normal guy in person. In the Q & A, he was soft-spoken and polite. I imagine I could probably sit and carry on a conversation with him without constantly checking for escape routes.

Sadly, that’s where the compliments end. I won’t elevate the movie by pondering the possibility that perhaps the sequel is an indictment of horror fans or those who thought the previous film didn’t have enough oomph. I don’t think he’s challenging our resolve in some sort of meta way. If the first was marked by restraint, most likely due to budgetary restrictions, then the second film is characterized by excess. The vague sense of the satire and black comedy, intentional or otherwise are gone, and all that remains is a steaming pile of shit.

To think it took a sequel to help me appreciate the original, if only ever so slightly more. Well played Mr. Six. Well played.

Scott Colquitt

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FantsticFest runs from September 22nd – 29th – visit their official website.

 

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