Back in 2010, the original Human Centipede was a cult film for the morally depraved, and a reluctant must-watch for those who, like me, got tired of reading all the Facebook statuses alluding to the ‘horrors’ their friends had supposedly seen, resulting from the film’s unique premise of stitching three naked, kidnapped people together on their knees, mouth-to-anus, so that they share the same digestive system. If you haven’t heard that before, you may need several moments to let that sink in.
I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the sequel until I saw its poster and the tagline, “100% medically inaccurate.” That seemed to me like a big middle finger at the idea of cinematic veracity, the notion that a film has to be plausible to be worth a watch. Now that’s a movie I’m willing to get behind (so long as no one else is behind me, surgically.) And following the furore over the BBFC’s banning and subsequent unbanning of the film, curiosity got the better of me. And then did terrible things to the cat.
The plot is mostly concerned with Martin Lomax (Lawrence R. Harvey), a night-shift car park attendant, who is hopelessly obsessed with the mythos of the original film and dreams of the construction of a twelve-person centipede of his own. Gone is the clinical aesthetic of the original movie with the unhinged Dr Heiter, and in its place we have a mentally disabled mute who orchestrates an orgy of blood, nudity, muffled screams and, of course, faeces. Where the first film blazed a new path for the subgenre of body-horror, this sequel is just self-glorifying torture porn of the worst kind, following the already exhausted blueprint for protracted close-ups of mutilation, defecation, sexual abuse… ad infinitum.
Its insatiable desire to offend is both pitiful and laughable. “Look at me! Look at me!” it shouts, and then when you eventually do, it realises its own inadequacies and doesn’t know what to do next, so throws in some sandpaper-assisted masturbation for no known reason. It all seems very childish; though it does shock in parts (particularly a scene I’ll simply entitle ‘barbed wire rape’, which has disturbed my sleeping patterns ever since), surely horror films should strive for more than this? It fundamentally lacks any sense of drama, pacing, or emotional depth. Even the directorial decision to shoot in black and white angers me with its gratuitous sense of artful pre-eminence. Congratulations, Tom Six, your Palme d’Or is in the post.
The only redeeming feature I could find (or perhaps I was desperately trying to focus on something other than the next inevitable scene of ligament-cutting and anus-slicing) was all the dark oozing, reminiscent of Hitchcock’s use of chocolate sauce in the infamous shower scene of Psycho, which brings to mind a fleeting tie between the psychopathic mood of Norman Bates and Martin Lomax: both share parental issues and instincts towards senseless cruelty. But to make this shaky comparison is to give credence to a film that has no real point, even if it parodies popular culture with its ever-so egotistical metanarrative and shameless name-dropping of directors like Quentin Tarantino. When you add it all up, Human Centipede 2 is not just morally vacuous and ridiculously slapstick, but it is also one-dimensional and dull. That’s perhaps its biggest crime. With torture sequences failing to compensate for his lack of storytelling finesse, Tom Six’s creation is void of true art and a relentless waste of time. It’s not so much an exploitation of cinema as an exploitation of audience.