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Movie review: 'The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)'

In the sequel, writer-director Tom Six treats the first 'Human Centipede' as a film, with a fan trying to re-create the titular horror.

October 07, 2011|By Mark Olsen, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Laurence R. Harvey portrays a disturbed loner in "The Human Centipede (First Sequence)."
Laurence R. Harvey portrays a disturbed loner in "The Human Centipede… (IFC Midnight )

The movie "The Human Centipede (First Sequence)" was an out-of-nowhere shocker, its story predicated on a single concept — a mad surgeon stitches human beings together anus to mouth to replicate a single organism — that implanted an image so simple, odd and disturbing it became a pop cultural meme.

Now, with "The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)" Dutch writer and director Tom Six has something to live up to, expectations to fulfill, subvert or just let down. He has apparently decided to do all of those things, all at once, prankishly raising a middle finger to those who liked his first film and then jabbing it directly into the eye of anyone still looking.

In the world of "Human Centipede II" the first film exists, as a movie, and so it is that the grotesquely bulbous Martin (Laurence R. Harvey), who works alone in a late-night parking garage and lives with his aging mother, becomes an obsessed fan. He begins blithely knocking out and capturing people — customers in the garage, a neighbor, a rental agent — to make his own crude amateur tribute.

One of his victims realizes Martin's intentions because he too has seen "The Human Centipede." Martin even lures actress Ashlynn Yennie, who appeared in the first film and here plays herself, to his grungy HQ on the premise she is auditioning for Quentin Tarantino. She gets the first position in Martin's new creation.

The worst thing in the first film was simply the very idea — the freakiest scene by far was the doctor's A/V presentation introducing his plan — while in the sequel Six seems intent on showing what he mostly implied the first time around.

Rather than the comparatively elegant restraint of the first film, here Six graphically overdoes everything, the intentional opposite of what came before. The movie is filmed in B&W, not color, Martin uses duct tape, not surgical gauze, and staples instead of sutures — we see gushes of blood and other bodily fluids. The action takes place in a dirty urban warehouse instead of a modernist country home.

One can suppose Six sees himself as some sort of low-budget shock-exploitation parallel of Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier, a self-conscious showman-provocateur who knows full well when he is playing with fire. Yet with none of von Trier's formal mastery or moral rigor, the best Six can muster is to turn the tables on the thirst for extreme outrage among horror fans.

At the conclusion of "Human Centipede," only one survivor remains, and here, Six takes a different route to essentially the same place, offering up a bleak image of a person horribly alone. With his new film, Six gives the final moments a slightly ambiguous spin, which, depending on interpretation, is either an "it's only a movie" cop-out repudiation of everything that has come prior or an utterly dispiriting confirmation of the depravity on display with an implicit promise for more. (What a choice.)

With this punkish response film, Six has in essence backed himself into a rhetorical corner, leaving as perhaps the only option for his next stunt something in which the filmmaker Tom Six winds up with his mouth surgically attached to his own anus. Except that with the preening, aggrandizing self-referentiality of "The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)" Six has more or less already contorted himself into The Human Ouroboros.

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