Being a sequel must be at once dreadfully appealing and insurmountably difficult. After all, you’re forced into a position of having to somehow achieve, if not surpass, the level of quality of your forebear, while also retaining an audience, perhaps even acquiring a new one along the way. The task must also be especially daunting for you being in the horror genre, a category whose fortunes with your kind seem dependent more on the necessity of maintaining a franchise rather than adequately expanding on it, often with dismal results. And yet, your status as a meta-sequel – not actually continuing the events depicted in the first film, but rather reducing it to the film-within-a-film – allows you some measure of freedom; you needn’t follow any of the precedents of style or substance.
The Human Centipede (First Sequence), your predecessor, became one of those rare occurrences in cinema: reviled for its depravity, celebrated for its originality. Not that it was original in its execution; sure, the harebrained notion of surgically connecting three people anus-to-mouth by some gaunt, crypto-fascist surgeon was so utterly disgusting that many were repulsed by it without seeing more than the trailer, thus depriving them of the subtle joy it provided (and I’ll explain this joy shortly). Its selling point of being “100% medically accurate” reeks of the schlocky exploitation gore fests of the ‘70s, while Dieter Laser’s grim and comically creepy performance takes the mad scientist archetype made famous by the likes of Vincent Price and Bela Lugosi to extremes, along with the typical female victims with whom we sympathize despite our annoyance at their utter naivety, were all tropes of the horror genre for decades. And yet (here’s that subtle joy I just mentioned), the film was a success by virtue of the fact that it was actually something audiences hadn’t seen before, which is an increasingly arduous task in this day and age. As well, we ultimately didn’t see much in the way of blood and gore, thus giving the film a far more psychological and – dare I say – tasteful outlook.
But you, The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)… it’s as if you decided to simply say, “Fuck taste! We’re cranking the amps to 11 this time!” Distancing yourself from any claims of medical accuracy, you are in so many ways the polar opposite of your forebear, and in being so are as gory and wretched a film as so many critics and viewers thought the (First Sequence) was… and what perhaps is even more horrifying than the imagery you depict is the absolute glee with which you revel in it. Critics have been quick to pan you not only for your grotesqueness but also for your director, Tom Six, ironically stating that he either must hate his audience to wish to sicken them so or must be making a statement on the fans who enjoyed the first film and decided to sate them by giving them “more, more, more” by telling a story of the über-fan – an overweight, buggy-eyed, mute named Martin – whose obsession with the first film was so great that he didn’t heed the usual warnings of “don’t try this at home.” Can it not be so simple an explanation as the latter, to use the very fans as a jumping off point for you, the sequel, without making some grandiose metaphorical observation about morality or perversion? I say, “Yes, it can be and is that simple.” You seem to say the same and do so with a wink and a smile.
Your first half hour is almost a psyche out to the audience: barely showing much violence, relegating it to the loud thud off camera, suggestive dialogue and facial expressions, and the obligatory screams of pain. Hitchcock would be proud if not for the slaughter that is soon to follow when we see the final blow of the crowbar to what was once a human skull but has now been reduced to a pulpy mass of bloody flesh, hair, and bone. Then you pull all the stops to make the audience wretch and writhe like the 12 victims that comprise your human centipede. Close-ups of tendons being cut with scissors, teeth being pulled out with hammers, lips stapled to buttocks, oodles of splattering feces hitting the camera… it’s all rather putrid and vile, your unflinching resolve to show the audience everything the first film didn’t. And yet, again, you present this cornucopia of carnage with all the delight of an orphan boy experiencing his first Christmas (a statement that describes the elated look on Martin’s face at the sound of the first laxative-induced fart). The almost orgasmic satisfaction Martin exhibits at the realization of his own nightmarish vision, complete with him brushing each victim’s hair with a girlie mirror (perhaps your director’s callout to his promise that the first film would seem like My Little Pony when compared to you?). It’s sickening, yes, but at its heart, it’s a level of violence and gore so over-the-top, so ridiculous, and so unrealistic that it elicits as much laughter as it does revulsion. It’s akin to what South Park did in its formative years before it became familiar and passé.
Instead of offering us character archetypes we’ve all come to know and love in horror films, you’ve given us a smorgasbord of caricatures that, if not for the intensity and zeal with which the actors portray them, would not be nearly as simultaneously creepy and cartoonish. From the bald bearded psychiatrist whose words belie his own sexual deviance to the foul-mouthed tattooed neighbor living above our hero/villain (with a tattoo on his neck and head that looks suspiciously like a steely centipede, further proving that subtlety is not even part of your modus operandi) to the overbearing and hateful mother whose shrewish demeanor – along with virtually every character in the film, victim or not – makes her horrible fate all the more welcome; there’s a sense of having met these characters before in other films, albeit less pronounced and perhaps more realistically. But kudos must especially go to your star, Laurence R. Harvey in the role of Martin; rarely has a lack of actual acting talent churned out a performance so genuine as to make the character at once despicable and hilarious.
In conclusion, I have to say that I can’t recommend you to most moviegoers. Let’s face it; you’re the type of cinema that fits into a very particular niche that doesn’t include a good 95% (give or take… it is my unsubstantiated and rough estimate) of the general populace. Thankfully, my fiancé and I and the crowd we viewed the film with were part of that niche, laughing and cringing at the same time and enjoying every second of your visual and conceptual perversity. Where your progenitor was reminiscent of the medical/scientific creature features of the ‘50s and ‘60s, you’re more reserved for fans of the exploitation horror and grindhouse films of decades past. You’re for the Maniacs and the Driller Killers. Finally… thank you for the disgustingly good time!