Review: ‘The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)’

“The Human Centipede II works overtime to 'out-gross' the original, in an obvious attempt to out-gross the original.”

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

I think it’s safe to call The Human Centipede one of the most powerful movies of the last ten years, if by “powerful” you’ll allow me to mean “forcefully visceral.” Tom Six’s simplistic horror film boasted a concept so unique and perverse that even describing it to somebody can ruin their day. Put simply (get your barf bag ready), the film told the story of a disturbed retired surgeon who kidnaps three individuals and surgically attaches them all together, from mouth to anus, and keeps them as a household pet. In an age when every kind of violence seems to have grown monotonous thanks to decades of increasingly emotionally detached ultraviolent horror films, the uniqueness of this form of torture leads many potential audience members to instinctively try to wrap their heads around the horrifying concept rather than accept it as routine. The result is a unique empathy for the victims in an otherwise unremarkable but thoroughly competent B-Movie, and a marketing campaign based, for better or worse, on the picture’s “geek show” mentality rather than its actual quality.

It was possible that Tom Six lucked into The Human Centipede, and that the film’s positive qualities had more to do with its potent concept than any actual intelligence, but the original film did little to confirm or deny that theory with its workmanlike construction. The sequel, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), throws it out entirely. It will be easy for many viewers and critics to write the film off as the depraved carnival sideshow that the original movie barely managed to avoid. Certainly The Human Centipede II is more despicable, disgusting, sadistic and borderline unwatchable than the original film, but to deny that it is a work of intelligence is to become blinded by the mores of conventional taste. It is not a great work of art, but a work of art it most certainly is.

The straightforward plot of The Human Centipede II tells the story of Martin, played by eerie newcomer Laurence R. Harvey, who, as we immediately learn, loves The Human Centipede, the movie, way too much. The Human Centipede II takes place in the “real” world, wherethe original film is nothing more than a horror film, and where only a truly disturbed individual could possibly take it seriously. In this regard Tom Six simultaneously undermines the first movie’s potency and, perhaps egomaniacally, conversely exalts it as the kind of film that could actually have a powerfully, psychologically altering effect on a viewer of at least some stripe. Martin is that disturbed individual. His existence is one of utter humiliation and constant emotional, physical and, at least as a child, sexual abuse.

Six conveys the real world setting of The Human Centipede II on one level with the blunt cinematic device of black and white, admittedly luscious photography. But on a more significant level he contrasts the world of The Human Centipede II with the first film by portraying “reality” as a place where genuine evil thrives in every physical corner and in the recesses of practically every mind, as opposed to the otherwise playful “reality” of the original Human Centipede, conveyed by that film’s rather silly and overtly clichéd prologue. The pervasiveness of cruelty in the reality of this film is ironically its only source of levity: the film is so absurdly mean spirited that it often proves, well, absurd. And that is clearly the intention.

Over the course of this sequel, Martin kidnaps and brutalizes visitors to the parking garage where he works and drags their bound, still living bodies to a warehouse until he has enough captives to make a human centipede that would put the original to shame. The first Human Centipede proudly displayed a tagline that claimed the film was “100% Medically Accurate,” and Six seems to enjoy accusing himself of false advertising. Martin discovers to even his own horror that merely performing the surgical procedures from the first film can be deadly, at least to somebody without any medical experience, and that the perverse thrills he received from the fictional depiction of the human centipede’s bodily functions, in “real life,” make even as twisted a creature as he is vomit.

You might vomit too. The Human Centipede II seems to have taken the grotesque reputation of the first film as a sort of challenge, and works overtime to “out-gross” the original, in an obvious attempt to out-gross the original. (Enjoy that sentence. I certainly did.) Certain mutilations and one particularly tasteless sequence with a fleeing captive push the limits of good taste so far that they utterly shatter, and you’ll be forgiven if watching The Human Centipede II in its entirety proves impossible for you. It means you have a heart. But if you’re not so overpowered by your gag reflex that you cough up your intellect along with your lunch, you’ll find in The Human Centipede II a film with interesting ideas about the relationship between genuine evil and the comic book supervillainy, depraved though it may be, found in many of the most shocking horror movies to date. It may not come to any meaningful conclusions about that relationship, but it addresses the subject in a manner uncommon to the horror genre, at the very least, through pointed and arguably contemptible imagery that you won’t be able to shake, no matter how hard you try.

If you decide to watch The Human Centipede II, I wish you the best of luck. There are rewards to be found, but truly unseemly punishments on your way there.