Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Let's Get Leggy

The universe did not want me to watch this film.

Or at least, ‘the universe’ as defined by Netflix technology or my overly protective Blu Ray player. I was excited to see The Human Centipede 2 magically appear in my instant queue on the same day that Pet Sematary 2 (‘sup, Eddie Furlong!) did. But for whatever reason, my Blu Ray refused to acknowledge this pair of sequels’ slide into instant territory until several hours after the discovery. Sorry LG Player, a gal just can't resist.

Quick Plot: Meet Martin, an overweight slug of a mama's boy who oversees a dank parking lot, the perfect profession for a man who prefers to spend the majority of his time masturbating to Tom Six's 2009 film The Human Centipede and subsequently kidnapping annoying customers for a future project. See, in the universe of this movie, The Human Centipede is a work of fiction, one that just so happened to capture the fancy of our lead character. 

You know how girls that dug The Hunger Games now braid their hair and kids that really liked Fight Club started their own fight clubs? Well, man-children that loved The Human Centipede don't show their admiration by collecting insects (well, Martin does, but that's just a side hobby). The more devout fans take it one--or twelve--steps further and, you know, create their very OWN human centipede culled from prostitutes, drunk party girls, surly neighbors, pregnant women (yup, that happens), and, if you REALLY want to prove your worth, one of the stars from the original film.

Yes folks, that's Ashlynn Yenni, aka "C" or The Rear of Dr. Heiter's original experiment. Yenni plays herself en route to a bogus audition for a Quentin Tarantino production only to instead find herself starring in Martin's own private fantasy. Sure, Marilyn Burns had to deal with 120º heat and Gunnar Hanson's body odor, but poor Ashlynn has now had her face stuck in another person's rump, her tongue yanked out, and a funnel diet of dog food and laxatives. Give the girl a Saturn Award or SOMETHING.

I found the original Human Centipede to be an interesting avant garde comedy that never quite rose up to its ambitious aims. Whether it was meant to be humorous or just found the right tone within its audience reaction I don't really know, but Tom Six certainly got the joke the second time around. As icky and brutal as The Human Centipede 2 is, it never once asks or expects you to take it seriously as a horror film. That is not to say horrific things involving butts, digestion, and birth don't happen, but the idea that we're supposed to feel anything by them seems fairly ridiculous. Tom Six is trying to shock us, trying to amuse us, and, I think, hoping to make the ones that 'get it' laugh and the ones that don't lobby their senator for tighter bans on filmmaking. I don't think this a good film, but much like the equally weird Rubber, I respect that it was made.

There are three aspects of The Human Centipede 2 that I admire immensely:

1. The casting of its lead character

According to IMDB, Laurence R. Harvey has been in two films: The Human Centipede 2 and The Human Centipede 3 (eventually filming, I assume). That’s hard to believe, both because a) he’s actually great in the role and b) I wouldn’t put it past Six to force Mr. Harvey into a sort of Blair Witch-like alternate actor identity. Then again, the reason I’m so keen on Harvey’s casting is the very fact that he doesn’t look like he should ever be viewed on the big screen. 

I’m sure that in his Sunday church clothes, Laurence R. Harvey is a more than presentable man. But give the guy credit for putting in the kind of physically unreserved performance that would have desperate bachelorettes on a singles cruise hurling themselves overboard in the hopes that even the seaweediest merman  might provide refuge.

2. Monochrome madness

To call The Human Centipede 2 one of the grossest films in recent memory isn't any grand or controversial statement. I don't care how many episodes of Jackass you watched while eating Doritos: seeing ten people have their teeth and kneecaps knocked out, only to then suffer through a hand-me-down Number 2 special dog food dinner is, to be coy, not appetizing. Even before that, we get the joys of watching the intentionally off-putting Martin cough up phlegm, urinate blood, and wipe away snot the way some habitual tickers bite their nails. The one thing we did not need from a film like this was any real sense of realism, and thankfully--well, almost--Tom Six is kind enough to comply.

See, the black and white filming isn't just stylish: it's necessary. To pile on that amount of body gore in color would result in either the results being disgustingly unwatchable or just plain laughable. Films like Hobo With a Shotgun or its inspiration Street Trash succeeded with a candy color wheel approach, while the more realistic-minded Salo and A Serbian Film work with a muted palette that makes the few blatant images extremely powerful. Tom Six is not a director of restraint, nor has he proven a visual genius. Hence, keeping the bodily fluids--from just about every organ no less--covered in gray is vital.

Of course, then Six goes and tosses in splatters of brown at a key moment and I'm left thinking I should negate the previous two paragraphs...

3. Its structure as a sequel

Much like Paranormal Activity 2, I found myself enjoying the concept of The Human Centipede 2 far more than the actual film. Sequels are never easy goings, and while cinema of the 1980s generally followed a 'rinse & repeat' approach, there's been a refreshing trend here in the aughts (and now teens) to follow up a horror hit with a different sort of style. It would have been fairly easy for Tom Six to simply pick up where he left off, with one lone centipede middle trapped in a house alone until the arrival of say, Dr. Heiter's hinted about twin brother. Instead, The Human Centipede 2 tries something new, a meta take on what effect watching Tom Six's first film might have on an unstable mind. It's messy, pretentious, and incredibly self-serving sure, but at the same time, it's hard not to appreciate a filmmaker taking a chance when there were plenty of options not to.

Lessons Learned
You know what’s not that hard to do? Pulling out a human tongue in one piece. And here I struggle to get all that lobster meat out of the claw without major injury

One needn’t be cautious about kidnapping patterns in England. Apparently, one can swipe up to ten people in one location over the course of a week and still have time to pick up another would-be victim from a nearby airport before policemen even think to notice

A little duct tape and a single cro-bar go an awful long way in getting you what you want

Centipede (non-human kinds) bites really hurt

Well, there’s plenty of people who will rightfully hate The Human Centipede 2. Like its predecessor, it’s a messy, undisciplined film that’s about as pleasant a watch as Lucker the Necrophagous or your great aunt clipping her toenails. But then you have people out there like me--and hey! maybe you--who just can’t not seek out a film that tries so desperately to make you look away. If you found the first film to be an oddly enjoyable comedy (as I did) then I imagine you’ll get something similar out of the sequel. It’s frustrating and unpleasant and gross and not quite as smart as it wants to think it is, has more duct tape than dialogue, and that in itself is something that makes you think. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


  1. My first thought when I encountered HC2, with the conceit that the first one was "just a movie" within it's world, all I could think of was Blair Witch 2 (which WAS bad, but not nearly as bad as people make it out to be)

  2. The thing about Blair Witch 2 is that it TRIED. I haven't watched it in years, but I remember thinking "okay, this doesn't work, but I respect them for doing something different when it would have been SO EASY to just retread old territory." Same with HC2. It doesn't quite work, but hey: the ambition is admirable.

  3. Lawrence R. Harvey sort of looks like what would happen if Udo Kier took the Wonka factory tour and tried some of that experimental gum. Shamefully, I've not gotten around to seeing HC1 or 2. Just haven't felt the urge, I guess. I did like the fact that Mr. Harvey took the time to record a promo for the B-Movie Cast. I was about to say that he sounds nothing like his infamous character, but of course he doesn't. Who does? Can you imagine if horror movie stars acted the same way in real life as they do on the screen? Picture Gunnar Hansen or Kane Hodder hacking and slashing their way through crowds of convention-goers.

  4. YES! There IS a weird Udo Kierness going on! Funny because in the first film, the German doctor kind of made me imagine the love child of Kier and Lance Henrikson. Lance Henrikson, who similarly, from my understanding, does not appear in every single convention you've never heard of (unlike his acting career. Ba dom bomp!)

  5. This movie sucked even worse than the first one--at least the first one was mildly interesting...I gave this like 30 minutes before I just started fast-forwarding to see what kind of gore it would offer.

    Terrible, pointless movie. At least FOC was in color. :)

  6. Well, there was SOME color in HC2. It was admittedly nowhere as bright or pleasant as the sunny skies and wardrobe in FOC though. So once again we prove: I have no concept of good taste!

  7. Color=goodness. Remember that. Also, my shirtless dude was SO much better looking than the shirtless dude in HC2...

  8. I will not argue that. Point-Kangas.