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Quick, what do Schindler’s List, Sin City, Eraserhead, and Human Centipede 2 all have in common? If you said they are all in black-and-white that would be only half right – dig deeper, could it be all the central characters are influenced by their surroundings? …actually that’s bullshit isn’t it? That’s one of those things movie reviewers throw in reviews to make them look smart. Of COURSE the central character is influenced by their surroundings, what character in the history of ANY story isn’t?
See what I did there? That was self-referential writing, akin to Hunter S. Thompson’s Gonzo-style journalism and any media that “breaks the fourth wall” – a stage term referring to the ‘wall’ at the front of the stage we the audience peer through and when a character acknowledges us – remember that silly exchange between Edward Norton and Brad Pitt in Fight Club – “Think of anything yet?”- “I still can’t think of anything”- “Ah, flashback humor.” – Brad Pitt breaks the fourth wall there and acknowledges it is a movie, or in Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (you know what parts I am talking about). So what am I getting at with all this? Well, when done correctly, as in Tom Six’s Human Centipede 2, the technique adds another layer of twisted reality.
Human Centipede 2 starts with the end of the first installment, just like many solid sequels in the horror world – Halloween 2 and Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 for example– so we finally get to see the fate of our middle segment of our centipede, the lovely Ashley C. Williams – how in the world will she escape with her lips sewn to a dead man’s rectum and a corpse sewn to hers – a perfect “Oh Henry” ending, the suspense is killing me, the credits roll. Wait, what?!
We zoom out and see that we were watching Human Centipede IN the movie Human Centipede 2. Misdirection!
Martin is an overweight, bulgy-eyed, socially awkward man stuck in his own world. Two things make Martin happy – his pet centipede, and the movie Human Centipede- as made evident by both his penchant for watching the film on loop at his job as well as a scrapbook of the movie he carries around with him at all times. Somewhat unorthodox to extreme cinema, where we see a large metamorphosis of the central character, Human Centipede 2 starts in the last leg of Martin’s metamorphosis into a beautiful butterfly – the first 10 minutes have him assaulting and collecting people for his project – and what a project that is…fuck a 3-person human centipede, Martin is committed to creating a 12-person one! Does everything go to plan for Martin? Of course…I mean…what could go wrong when a man with NO medical experience short of consistent viewings of a (“100% Medically Accurate”) movie decides to sew the lips of 11 people to 12 asses to form an amalgamation of pain and suffering?
Let’s break the film down:
First off…the Oscar goes to…Laurence Harvey. Summoning the spirit of Jack Nance (RIP), Laurence conveys all of Martin’s twisted emotions with nothing but his facial expressions. He does not speak a word in the film – except when he is sleeping and dreaming of his father raping him (“Your crying makes my dick hard!”). Silent, yet incredibly effective, Laurence’s facial expressions and reactions help establish Martin as one of the best modern horror movie protagonists as of late.
Human Centipede 2 is all about opposites: the first Human Centipede film was very psychological – you didn’t see a lot of the actual atrocities, sans the finished project, leaving your imagination to fill in the horrible details, whereas with this installment, you see EVERYTHING. The first movie had a sterile feeling to it, it was ‘neat’ if I may say – it was shot with still-cams which conveyed order to all the chaos, sure the Doctor was insane, but he was a man with a vision…and he wore gloves. Human Centipede 2 is shot almost entirely with hand-held cams, adding…well chaos to all the chaos; it’s black-and-white, it’s dirty, it’s grimy…and Martin doesn’t wear gloves – physically and figuratively. Even the “villains” in both movies are total opposites – the Doctor appeared as a strong and focused man, whereas Martin comes off as a bumbling, asthmatic child at times – though it’s obvious Martin looks at the Doctor as a father figure.
As this is a column on extreme cinema, let’s break down some of the debauchery (there be spoilers below)-
Many of the shocking scenes in Human Centipede 2 revolve around Martin’s twisted psyche – for instance, the sand-paper masturbation scene (the reason the BBFC banned the movie) and the ol’ barb- wire-around-the-dick human centipede rape scene both involve genital mutilation – something rather common in individuals who have been sexually abused. Also…food for thought, when Martin rapes the human centipede, is he fucking 10 (remember two were omitted) people at the same time? Martin wants to be a part of his creation, and does it the only way he can…through the back-door.
Next up, the “money-shot” if you will; director Tom Six’s homage to selective colorization as seen in Spielberg’s Schindler’s List – the infamous shit scene. Martin grows tired waiting for the circle of shit (bonus points for Passolini reference) to occur, so he injects everybody with some turbo-laxative – picture the scene from Dumb And Dumber where Harry is unloading into Mary’s (broken) toilet – but instead of a toilet, it’s somebody’s lips staple-gunned to your poop-shoot. Messy. Wet. Brown.
There are two subtle things about Human Centipede 2 that stuck with me – the first being the usage of the number 12 – in both Martin’s scrapbook – “3×4 segments, 12 (circled)” as well as his suddenly – appearing hand tattoo (?) with 12 tick-marks – akin to Min Sik Choi’s in Oldboy – seen when the centipede is complete. Could that be the age Martin was raped by his father? Does every segment of the centipede represent a year of Martin’s youth, all connected to the ones before and after it? Is that why the pregnant lady was going to be the first segment? Is that why Martin fucks the end, the last ‘year’? Am I asking too many questions? The other thing that caught my attention was the flickering light in the warehouse. In a black-and-white film, lighting is everything, just look at any noir film. The light flickers throughout the film, but more noticeably towards the end – when the debauchery is at its crux – perhaps the flickering light is a metaphor for Martin’s sanity?
Finally we need to discuss the director, one Tom Six. Six is a maniac with a vision – as made evident by his claims during the commentary of Human Centipede 2- “[The shit scene] was like the end of society.” Sociological abstracts and theory in Human Centipede 2?! You maniac! And here we thought it was just shock and awe. But in all honesty, the world (of film) needs more people like Tom Six, individuals not afraid to push the envelope and shock the hell out of their audience BUT still able to have an underlying philosophy to it all, a catalyst if you will. Shock and awe without a catalyst is just as cheap as a jump- scare in a horror film, something that capitalizes and manipulates you through reflexes alone indicates a very primal approach to film-making. I raise my glass of absinthe to you Mr. Six.
When Human Centipede dropped, nobody knew the extent of worldwide reaction there would be – from it being on many “most disgusting movie ever” lists to countless parodies – the most popular being the South Park episode “Human Cent-iPad” where Kyle doesn’t read the terms and agreements prior to installing iTunes and faces the horrible consequences, as well as a XXX parody called “Human Sexipede.”
Love him or hate him, Tom Six has created a monster, and when the third part drops he will be immortalized a la John Doe in Se7en – for better or (much) worse, we are witnessing history and the future of extreme cinema, bring it on!
Be sure to check out Fangoria #326 for my exclusive interview with Laurence R. Harvey!