The Human Centipede II is finally getting a release this week after 32 compulsory cuts were made to it by the BBFC, the original edit deemed too depraved to see the light of day.
What’s left isn’t the mindless splatter-porn that many outraged papers would have you believe but a ridiculously over the top comedy. A disgusting, depraved and sometimes quite hard to watch comedy but a comedy nonetheless. It’s all too easy to imagine writer/director Tom Six sitting cross-legged and giggling like a mad court jester, ocassionally punctuating his maniacal laughter with a bladder on a stick.
Martin (Laurence R. Harvey) is a parking attendant who’s developed a worrying obsession with the first film in which three people were sewn ass-to-mouth in a human daisy chain by an insane scientist. He watches it on a continuous loop in his cramped cabin and has built up a scrapbook of all his favourite parts. We learn of his childhood abuse at home at the hands of his father and his habitual verbal assaults by his mother. The Human Centipede seems to be his only outlet.
While most fans would be content with maybe a poster or some themed wallpaper, Martin decides to reenact Dr Hieter’s vision by making his own human centipede, spurred on by the film’s claims to be “100% medically accurate”.
Martin begins collecting victims, shooting them in the parking lot and dragging them to a warehouse. While the first film was clean, sterile and used appropriately precise surgical instruments, Human Centipede 2 takes place in a squalid warehouse and Martin uses objects he’s found in a tool box and the contents of a kitchen drawer.
The film is consistently, almost gloriously over the top. Martin’s an obese, balding, wheezing pervert, a handclapping, giggling psycho, a toad crossed with a Hellraiser Cenobite; his mother is a shrieking harridan, disgusted at her son’s behaviour; his psychiatrist is a sex offender with a beard you could lose a mobile disco in.
Six ramps up the excess to such a degree that the only appropriate reaction is laughter. Oh sure it’s disgusting – a scene in which Martin feeds his centipede laxatives with predictably messy results is horrible, as are the numerous maimings and mutilations but it’s so extreme that it’s impossible to take seriously.
While torture porn should be condemned, Human Centipede II isn’t artless. It’s filmed in black and white – was this a conscious decision by Six to appease the censors or a comment on the so-called worthiness of the medium? Either way, disgusting as some scenes are, they’re played with some restraint – many events take place off screen and it’s not a film which revels in explicit detail.
In places, it’s actually very funny. The massively overacted melodrama , the grand guignol sensibilites can actually be very entertaining. Martin’s mother in particular is a source of frequent laughs as she gets some of the film’s best lines.
As a reaction to critics of the first film, it certainly works and it’s an overt challenge to see just how far the boundaries of bad taste can be pushed. Unfortunately it’s far too long. It makes its point early on – that life is not art, that it’s only a movie, but after about 45 minutes, it starts to become tiresome. There’s only so much you can take before the sound of a dozen people weeping starts to grate.
Much like the first film which had a good idea that ultimately went nowhere, Human Centipede II runs out of steam at the halfway point. There’s a persistent feeling that it was crafted merely to bait sensitive critics and it is at heart merely a sick joke that should be taken with a quarry load of salt. Ha ha ha Tom Six, ha ha ha.