Monday 31 October 2011



It was certainly a surprise when this reality-warping sequel was thrown out by the BBFC. Given that the first film was essentially a silly though undeniably grotesque black comedy in which a mad scientist does unspeakable things to passers-by who won't be missed, I imagine we all expected the sequel to be more of the same: gory and grisly but harmless, "100% medically accurate" shenanigans by an overacting maniac with a scalpel. Er, no. Demented auteur Tom Six has upped the ante on everything - sex, gore, violence, death, rape, swearing - and the BBFC suddenly went absolutely mental to the extent of refusing it a certificate. Now, after a little over two and a half minutes of repulsive depravity have been removed, the year's most eagerly awaited sequel (with the possible exception of Transformers 3) finally makes it to the screen. Have the work's messages and subtexts about imitable screen violence been compromised?

Not really. To be honest I don't think The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) has really very much to say beyond its surface story, in which an obese loner's obsession with the first movie leads him to create his own human centipede: abducting people from the car park where he's employed as an attendant, bringing them together in a warehouse and stitching them together the way it was done in the film. Martin is incredibly put-upon: he's a victim of child abuse, his mother hates him, he's hideously overweight, asthmatic, on medication, alarmingly unhygienic, and possibly mentally disabled. (He has no actual dialogue.) The only thing that keeps him going is pleasuring himself while watching The Human Centipede, and his dream of creating his own.

Like his own creation Dr Heiter, writer-director-lunatic Tom Six has had one genuinely brilliant idea and has run with it. In the eyes of the BBFC at least, he has perhaps run too far: the first film was undeniably gross, but harmless and funny; however the second has a more sexual and violent nature to it. Heiter wanted to create a human centipede because he could; Martin wants to create a human centipede so he can have sex with it. And where Heiter's had a mere three people stitched together, Martin wants twelve: one giant 48-legged creation with one mutual intestinal tract. The intestinal tract, of course, was the centrepiece of the horror in the first one: that moment when the front of the centipede can't hold it in any longer, and while it's patently obvious what happens from the face of the central person, it's not actually depicted. The Human Centipede II is a far more explicit film and the depiction of "forced defecation" was one of the issues the BBFC had with it.

Snipped it may be, but it's still there. The same can't be said of the infamous sandpaper masturbation (which now is only alluded to), the barbed wire rape (considerably reduced, with no sight of the barbed wire) and the casual death of a newborn baby (deleted completely). And in all honesty I cannot mourn the loss. The newborn scene would have been a cheap and nasty moment of sub-Troma bad taste calculated entirely to offend and alienate in an otherwise merely revolting horror film. In the same way, I've always felt that rape, a genuine real-life horror for far too many people, doesn't sit well in what is otherwise an absurd and unreal fantasy.

However, as a monstrous and deranged vision of utter horror, The Human Centipede II is a flat-out winner. The black and white photography actually makes everything more disturbing and distressing, where colour would possibly have made it too realistic and explicit. There's only one near-subliminal spurt of colour (hint: it's brown). You don't really want to mention The Human Centipede II in the same breath, or even on the same continent, as Psycho, but monochrome makes the sheer amount of blood and gore more bearable by giving it the look and feel of a clammy, dreadful nightmare: a genuinely revolting and thoroughly unhinged hallucination. It's one of the most unapologetically vile and off-putting movies for quite a few years and kudos to Tom Six for conjuring up a sequel that does indeed make the original look like The Care Bears Go To Fluffyland. Where on Earth can he possibly take the saga now, as we're promised the third episode in two years' time? 3D?

While it's certainly refreshing every so often to have a film that's so deranged and upsetting that the BBFC feel the need to step in, in these lenient times, I could honestly have stood for a little less depravity and a little more of the deadpan black humour of the first movie. For all the gore and grue, The Human Centipede II isn't fun in the same absurdist way; rather it's fun in the sense of absolute overkill, and a few genuine laughs would not have gone amiss. I like the overkill, I like the madness, I like the sense of Martin's joy at his screaming creation. In places it's quite a beautiful film to look at, it achieves what it sets out to do, and I don't believe it's compromised by the BBFC's trims. Worth seeing, but don't eat.


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