Judge Gordon Sullivan warns this isn't to be confused with all those were-centipede movies.
Our reviews of The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (Region 2) (published November 21st, 2011) and The Human Centipede: The Complete Sequence (Blu-ray) (published November 13th, 2015) are also available.
Fantasy. Obsession. Execution.
Note: For those clicking on this review with little or no context, a "human centipede" is the idea that one could put people mouth-to-anus and feed the first person. Their feces would then go into the mouth of the next person in line, quite literally ad nauseum, keeping everyone alive in a truly horrible state. This film is not for kids or the squeamish, and the rest of this review is not recommended for those who don't want to deal with the concept
There was a moment (somewhere in the 1960s) when horror stopped being about encountering something scary (like a vampire or a wolf man) and became more about the unraveling of what was normal. Sure, vampire flicks still persisted, but most of the scariest movies since then have been about normal people whose lives are intruded upon by something horrific but ultimately human in some way—think The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or even Psycho. Combine this phenomena with the rise of realistic gore effects, and we have a race to the bottom. While some filmmakers have made it their mission to subject audiences to psychological horror, others have gone straight for the gore. Then a curious thing happened: going for the gore became an exercise in psychological horror. The more realistic and more outrageous the gore effects, the more horrifying the result. The first The Human Centipede was an almost jokey take on this phenomenon, but when fans were disappointed by the gore quotient filmmaker Tom Six returned with The Human Centipede 2. Be careful what you wish for.
Facts of the Case
Martin (Laurence Harvey, making his film debut) is a mentally ill man living with his mother. That would be bad enough, but he's obsessed with the movie The Human Centipede and dreams of making his own human centipede when he's working as a night watchman.
The first The Human Centipede was essentially a publicity stunt, a joke. In the era of Internet hype, independent filmmakers have to make a name for themselves and their films if they want to ever see their creations distributed. The horror genre is especially susceptible to this kind of gesture, and Tom Six decided that a "clever" and gross premise would get his film attention. It worked, and fans flocked to see a low-budget horror that promised a level of sickness rarely seen. In some ways, though, the film was just like every other publicity stunt flick in horror film history (like those of William Castle); it wasn't bad, but there's no way it could live up to the hype. A certain amount of backlash attended the film's release when fans realized that Six kept much of the more disturbing content implied by the title in the shadows.
The joke, however, is on us. With The Human Centipede 2, Six let his imagination run wild, offering a catalogue of horrors in gory detail. It gives fans everything they thought they wanted (and perhaps more), daring us to enjoy or run away from all the insanity the human mind can conjure.
I keep returning to the idea that The Human Centipede and its sequel are a joke. Although they're both horrifying movies, the comparison is spot on (assuming you like your humor dark). Both films, but especially the sequel, show the hand of their maker Tom Six throughout. We can feel him as we watch, just behind the scenes whispering, "You think that's horrible…just wait." The decision to shoot The Human Centipede 2 in black-and-white shows he's aware that he's making something terrible and goading the audience into watching. The critical distance afforded by the black-and-white allows the audience some measure of distance, a way to see the movie without becoming totally involved in its torture and bloodshed. By the end, it is possible to emerge broken but unbowed by the litany of horrors on display.
Also, for those who can stomach the nastiness, they'll find a magnificent performance from Laurence Harvey. Because he's an unknown actor, it's easy to imagine that Tom Six actually found a mentally challenged guy and convinced him to be in the film; Harvey is that good. He's willing to go places with his this character that could turn anyone's stomach, and it doesn't place him in the best light (especially when he gets naked).
The Human Centipede 2 (Blu-ray) is a worthy effort as well. The 1.78:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer is generally sharp, and the black-and-white contrast is well-maintained throughout. Black levels stay solid, and the only digital problems that crop up are occasional instances of aliasing. In fact, this transfer might be too good for the more squeamish viewers out there. The film doesn't feature a whole lot of dialogue, but the DTS-HD 5.1 track balances it well. It's not the most dynamic or involving track, but it preserves the filmmaker's apparent intentions well.
The film's first extra is a commentary with Tom Six. He's affable and has a lot to say about the film and the The Human Centipede phenomena. Pretty much everything you could want to know about the flick is given in these 90 minutes. We also get three featurettes. The first is an interview with Six, the second a set tour, and the third on the film's sound effects. These give us a solid idea of what happened behind the scenes of the flick. We also get a deleted scene and some promos/trailers
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Run away, screaming if necessary. There's very little socially redeeming about The Human Centipede 2. Either you'll hate it and it will only reinforce your hatred of humanity, or you'll enjoy it and have to question your own worth as a human being. Beyond the extreme content, the film's lack of dialogue might be a turn off to some. Watching Laurence Harvey drive around or watch the first film might get tiresome to some viewers.
As they say: you wanted it, you got it. Obviously if you enjoyed the first The Human Centipede then this film is a no-brainer. Even those who avoided the first film might find something worthwhile in the extremism of this film because it's willing to go places few films will dare. For everyone else, pretend you've never heard the words "human" and "centipede" in the same sentence. You'll thank me later.
Guilty, but that's the point.
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