Movie Review: "The Human Centipede Part II: Full Sequence"
Published: Friday, October 14, 2011
Updated: Friday, October 14, 2011 10:10
I can't help but think that reviewing "The Human Centipede II: Full Sequence" is nothing more than an exercise in futility. You know if you want to see this film; and unless bold, gross-out, unexplainably explicit horror films are your taste, you need to skip this one. Let's get to the obvious (if you haven't been living under a rock, and thus were at some point told of and disgusted by the concept of the first film) – "Centipede II" concerns a deranged man who attempts to "surgically" connect 12 people from mouth-to-anus, creating one digestion system and one ‘human centipede'. While the first film (likely thanks to a shoestring budget) relied on classic horror film tropes – hiding things in shadows, cutting away from the more scatological moments, and employing a mad scientist as the villain – the new one is presented instead as a response to the ‘torture porn' genre so constantly debated by film critics.
Much like recent "successes" like "A Serbian Film", it aims not to shock with story or with concept (as the original did) but rather with a succession of increasingly violent and horrific visuals. If you're an average moviegoer, you'll be scarred for life. If you're the target audience, you'll find it to be a classic. If you see as many horror films as I have (and, as I, if you remain unconvinced that depictions of violence alone without context are a suitable subject for cinema), then I think you'll just be bored.
Not to say director Tom Six didn't try to instill a theme into this "Full Sequence", it's just that he failed. Replacing the mad doctor as the films villain is mentally challenged shut-in Martin, an obsessive fan of the first film. He never speaks, but yet somehow his character is still inconsistent (sometimes he's meant to be a horrifying mute, sometimes he laughs hysterically at others suffering, but never once was I able to find him to be a convincing killer.) Somewhere here there could be a subtext about the effect of horror films on horror fans, but Six seems more interested in shameless self promotion (through Martin's viewings, we see the credits for the first "Centipede" six times over the course of "Part II") and in his cruel orgy of violence (the entire last half of the film takes place in a warehouse with no dialogue and constant escalating acts of violence, as if to make my point about the disappearing subtext) than in any themes he halfheartedly presents in the opening act of the film.
Six tries to steal from all the classic shock films in creating his Frankenstein's monster, Martin – the mommy issues from "Psycho", a soundtrack of white noise that recalls "Eraserhead", acts of torture lifted directly from Pasolini's "Salo" – yet it never meshes. Six emerges as the empty-headed shock provocateur so many accuse Gaspar Noe of being. But he never once thinks about his story, his characters, or even plausible believability as long as he does his shocks (which consist of, but is hardly limited to: the snipping of tendons, teeth knocked out by a hammer, unspeakable violence against newborn babies…. You can just see Six ditching his shot list for a list of taboos to break instead) leaving you to wonder such things as: how is this parking attendant killing people night after night without losing his job? How are these captives lying around for days without wiggling free from the tape that binds them? How come the pregnant hostage, hands free, doesn't untie her fellow captors?
Six develops a cop-out ending that allows him to skirt all these questions; under the guise of making the film a study of the psyche of a horror fan. But it's all-empty: we know horror fans like violence. We know in today's culture that the more brutal it is, the higher the box office receipts will be. He isn't saying anything even remotely new, much less something intellectual. I have nothing against the use of violence in films – Eli Roth's "torture" films, often credited with starting this "craze", are brilliant character pieces, for example. But Six is nothing more than a child, gleefully grossing out everyone around him with nothing more than a succession of ludicrous make-up work.
That's what Six doesn't realize – he can kill all the people he wants in all the most horrific ways he can think of, but unless he develops a character first, it's no more affecting to an audience than a fake YouTube snuff film. This is a movie for the midnight crowds who come out to holler at some ‘cutting-edge' blood effects and who can ignore any semblance of filmmaking craft (Martin captures no less than ten people in the same unimaginative manner, which becomes so boring I can only hope Six was sabotaging his own films pace for the sake of making a comment on the interchangeable nature of horror films. But I doubt it.) I cannot in good conscience assign a rating to this film: while it bored me to tears, it will certainly please enthusiasts of the goresploitation crowd. If you loved "Hobo With a Shotgun", then this movie is probably for you. But like "Hobo", which burned an entire bus of children to death in its first half, "Human Centipede" has only one tool – gross out violence. It'll excite some crowds, and disgust most, but to those familiar with shock cinema (and not won over by it); it remains a bore.