Directed by: Tom Six
Premise: A sequel to the 2010 film. Taking place outside of the world of the first film, a disturbed parking attendant becomes obsessed with the DVD of the original Human Centipede and plans to copy what he has seen in the film with his own experiment, this time with twelve people.
What Works: Horror films are not generally liked by mainstream film critics. Sometimes that derision is earned, since the horror film market invites hacks and inexperienced filmmakers working on shoestring budgets. But although there are plenty of criticisms to make against The Human Centipede films and their director, Tom Six, shoddy filmmaking craft is not among them. Filmed in grainy black and white, Human Centipede 2 includes grueling scenes of violence shot and edited very effectively and the soundtrack fills in the cutaways with appropirate awful aural effects. Another reason why mainstream film critics often do not like horror films (or comedies for that matter) is that these pictures often offend refined, bourgeois sensibilities; according to mainstream critical values, great art is uplifting and work that appeals to “lower” interests is beneath regard. Like its predecessor, The Human Centipede 2 intends to shock its audience and dare them to keep watching with progressively more awful set pieces of torture and violence. Judging this film by setting its intentions against its accomplishments, The Human Centipede 2 is a success. Like a tasteless joke, the point is to nauseate the audience and the film manages to do that.
What Doesn’t: All that said, The Human Centipede 2 is no great piece of filmmaking, even by the standards of extreme and subversive cinema. The original Human Centipede was dogged by a resounding, nihilistic emptiness and the sequel suffers even more from this same vacuity. The Human Centipede 2 follows Martin, a lowly parking garage attendant, as he kidnaps a dozen people and prepares his own experiment. This takes up the first two-thirds of the picture, and so the bulk of the film’s running time is an uninspired loop of abductions intercut with Martin obsessing over the original film and coping with his overbearing mother. But Martin is nothing more than a fanboy of the original film; The Human Centipede 2 never suggests why Martin is obsessed with the film or what it does for him, and his dysfunctional relationship with his mother is a similar narrative dead end. The Human Centipede 2 attempts to get metatextual by taking place outside of the diegesis of the original film and had the sequel followed this to some provocative conclusion about entertainment, artistic responsibility, or the impact of film on society, The Human Centipede 2 could have been post-modernist gold. But this film does not do that. Instead, it repeats many of the horrors of the original Human Centipede but on a larger and grosser scale. It’s a wasted opportunity to enhance the audience’s understanding of the original film or at least enrich the urban myth around it.
Bottom Line: The Human Centipede 2 will gross out all but the heartiest of horror viewers, but any further aspirations of the film are thwarted by its own short-sightedness. The filmmakers of Human Centipede 2 may aspire to the subversion of Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom or Cannibal Holocaust but this film is much more in the company of Bloodsucking Freaks and Maniac.
Episode: #363 (November 6, 2011)