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The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (2011)
Director: Tom Six

review by Niall Alexander

I didn't hate The Human Centipede. I certainly didn't adore it - its problems began at the start, with a dreadful cast, and only ended when its last act went right off the rails - but, for a number of reasons, I couldn't bring myself to truly despise it either, as I gather the vast majority of its viewers did. Perhaps it helped that I knew going in what The Human Centipede would be, and much as the thought of three innocent people being stitched together ass-to-mouth made me nauseous, I found that to be singularly the most appalling thing about the whole film: the sordid concept behind it.

It's not an entirely apt analogy, I know, but think of The Human Centipede as the Psycho of torture porn, in that the power of suggestion its most impactful moments depend upon proves much more persuasive than the explicit horror of actually seeing something, or seeing something staged. Odds are that the most ghastly events you remember taking place over the course of The Human Centipede - presuming you've had that very particular pleasure - didn't actually happen... at least, not on-camera.

A new trick..? No, assuredly. But for all its assorted faults, in an odd way, Tom Six's debauched debut was as ingenious as it was insidious. Its unspeakable premise alone brought about more abject distress than the entire stable of Saw movies could summon up in seven years, and however paper-thin he may have been, Dieter Laser's deeply discomfiting doctor must stand among the most memorable mad scientists cinema has seen this century.

Given his fate in the original film, the fact that the character doesn't factor into the sequel is as unsurprising as it is uninspiring, but that's just the first of a fire-sale of fuck-ups Tom Six strings together in this sickening sequel. Having said that, the first few minutes are pretty good and, for a scene or so, I dared to dream that The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) would inherit an amount of the restraint - yes, the restraint - which ultimately made Six's initial effort so unsettling. But no, evidently that's not what this depraved Dutchman is interested in now that some measure of success has freed his hands to make the movie he had apparently always intended to.

Instead, The Human Centipede II is an attention-seeking showcase of all the awful things we'd only had to imagine before. I can't even bring myself to describe the worst of these, so let this relatively tame exemplar suffice, wherein - in lieu of the childish little pictures Dr Heiter used to explain the procedure his 'patients' were to be put through in arguably the most effective scene of the original film - Six gives us full-on knife-in-arse action... and of course it's a rusty knife, wielded by a vile, sweaty psychopath intent of re-enacting the events of his personal favourite flick on a human centipede swollen to four times the length of the first.

That's what The Human Centipede II is, incidentally, or at least what it aspires to be: a meta-textual commentary on the sensation Six's last left in its wake of concentrated human waste, and other such substances. Which is to say, in story terms, it's sort of a Book Of Shadows to the original film's Blair Witch Project. But the returning writer and director of The Human Centipede II certainly means business, so let's not waste any time being benevolent: Book Of Shadows is practically a masterwork of moderation and natural narrative value next to this uninhibited filth.

I don't use those last words lightly either. But surely you'll have heard about some of the things this sequel's censors took exception to, and for once I'm glad they got their way. I do not relish reminding you of the unceremonious squishing of a miscarried baby, never mind the barbed wire-aided anal rape which sets the scene for said, so I'll say no more, except that The Human Centipede II would be a worse film still without these abrupt cuts, however carelessly implemented they are. Not that it has far to fall.

Perhaps the most telling departure this sleazy sequel makes from the first film is evident in Six's new and not-at-all-improved aesthetic. To begin with: for no real reason, it's in black and white, except on those occasions when there's faeces in the frame, which is lovingly rendered in yellow-brown. But wait, there's more! The Human Centipede II also substitutes the original's lurid clinical look for a grimy ill-light warehouse, meanwhile Dieter Laser's mad scientist is supplanted by a revolting, half-naked fat man, who uses corroded kitchen knives and a toolbox full of tarnished pliers in place of Dr Heiter's sterilised surgical equipment.

Wherever Six can up the ante somehow - which to his mind clearly means showing instead of telling, and a seemingly spiteful fixation on the sight (and the sound) of every terrible thing documented in this film when the implication, as in the original, would have proved markedly more powerful - whenever he can, he does, and of course that's to the detriment of the whole. Indeed, to the detriment of the whole's every component part, from presentation to performance.

You won't soon forget The Human Centipede II, if you sit through it, but be assured: you'll absolutely wish you could. It's perverse. It's reprehensible. I'd go so far as to say it's a hateful disgrace, with no redeeming qualities to speak of beyond the opening moments which, as it happens, are incorporated wholesale from the finale of the first film.

Would that The Human Centipede II meant an end to this suppurating sequence, such as it is. Alas, 'The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence)' is reportedly in pre-production, and slated for release sometime in 2013. I can wait.

The Human Centipede II

Laurence R. Harvey in Human Centipede 2

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