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Monday, October 10, 2011
Equal parts Cronenbergian body horror, perverse fetish film, and E.C. Comics-style gross-out, The Human Centipede is Dutch director Tom Six's uniquely macabre endurance test for fans of modern fright fare. What's surprising about the picture isn't the premise--its story, about a madder-than-mad doctor (German actor Dieter Laser) who unites two American tourists (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie) and a Japanese counterpart (Akihiro Kitamura) in a hideous surgical procedure that creates the title monstrosity, was broadcast in detail across the Internet prior to its international theatrical screenings--but rather, the degree of reserve Six applies to depicting every excruciating detail. That's not to say that Human Centipede is a bloodless affair, but Six relies more on the physical endurance and talent of his actors to present the mortal terror of their predicament, which in turn offers a more terrifying experience for the viewer than anything dreamed up by a special effects team. The approach also makes up for some of the more crassly exploitive moments in the film, like the doctor's relentless abuse of his creation, which is largely clad only in filthy underwear, and Laser's occasional overacting, which at its most heated, suggests an unholy, highly medicated hybrid of Klaus Kinski, Lance Henriksen, and the late Howard Vernon's awful Dr. Orlof. Obviously, this is not for the casual horror fan, and most definitely not for the squeamish; more hard-core types should find their nerves thoroughly rattled by the time the film reaches its darker-than-dark conclusion. A final, disturbing note: the complete title is The Human Centipede (First Sequence); a planned sequel reportedly promises a 12-segment (gulp) creation. --Paul Gaita The Human Centipede was fairly underwhelming. It wasn't terrible and it wasn't fantastic, but it wasn't this monstrously absurd and gory movie you may have expected from the concept and promotional materials. The concept itself was probably the most disturbing and interesting aspect of the movie. Imagining yourself in that situation was more horrific than anything that made it on-screen. It didn't even feel like people had enough time to fully process the first film before writer/director Tom Six began hyping the second film in a proposed trilogy. The sequel was then banned in the UK (before the ban was lifted recently) and censored in the US, which probably only piqued curiosity even further. Tom Six has gone on record as saying The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) will make the original seem like "My Little Pony" in comparison, which is probably true due to its graphic nature. Unfortunately the sequel has little else to offer. So before I go into too much detail, the screener I saw was apparently an edited version of the film. Maybe that means this is the one that will be distributed theatrically in the US, but I do know that the barbed wire bit didn't make it into the film and the ending was slightly altered. We're introduced to Martin (Laurence R. Harvey), a security guard who has a rabid obsession with the original Human Centipede film. He does nothing but watch the movie over and over again and even has a scrapbook devoted to it along with re-drawn diagrams from the movie to pull off the centipede. Martin isn't normal; he was sexually abused as a child, likes mutilating himself, and still lives with his mother. While on the job, he kidnaps people, ties them up, and stores them in an abandoned storage unit with the hopes of making his passion a reality; a twelve person human centipede. The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is entirely black and white. It does make the film stand out in comparison to its predecessor, but it also changes the appearance of gore rather dramatically. Tom Six defended this film after being banned in the UK by calling it "make believe" and called it "art." The black and white aspect of the film certainly makes it feel more artistic, but that term will probably come into question after you witness some of the things that take place on screen. Martin is very off-putting. He's extremely overweight, greasy all the time, and just really creepy overall. He has this Jonah Hill meets Wayne Knight at their worst type of look to him. Every close up, every action, every time he licks his fingers, basically everything Martin does grosses you out. Martin also never speaks throughout the movie. He wheezes, cries, and throws tantrums, so he's not completely silent. But those of you expecting another Dr. Heiter will be sorely disappointed. It's not like this version of the film didn't completely shy away from gruesomeness though. There's still plenty in here to get offended over or get excited about. The sandpaper bit did make it in there, but I have a feeling it was edited as well. The pregnant woman in the car scene is pretty revolting. I had to rewind it and watch it again to make sure I saw it right. We see Martin dismantle about half a dozen kneecaps by cutting open the sides and snipping their tendons, Martin takes a hammer and knocks out every tooth in a man's mouth before fishing them out, and that same man rips his stapled lips off another man's anus. Those are just a few examples. Martin's mother was unintentionally hilarious. She mostly just seems bitter and old when the movie first starts, but her bad acting eventually makes itself known. She also has a scene with Martin at the dinner table which leads to their second encounter with their upstairs neighbor that is probably the best scene in the sequel even though it only lasts a few seconds and is kind of ridiculous. The twelve person centipede gets really disgusting though. Once Martin gives everyone a laxative shot, then you can probably see where that is going to lead and it gets all over the camera multiple times. The ending is pretty weak, too. Did you ever play Super Mario Bros 2? Well that's pretty much the ending you get here. Online reports say that there's actually more to the ending featuring more footage, but the version I saw was literally credits of the movie, Martin sitting in the camera room at work, Martin licking his fingers, an outside shot where we see Martin through a window, end film. There may have been a baby crying the background, I don't recall. But with that version of the ending, it's difficult to argue that it all wasn't just a dream. I'm not going to tell you to not see The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence). If you enjoyed the first film or if your interest has heightened due to its hype, then curiosity will cause you to see this in some way or another. Hell, I'd at least like to know what was cut and I'd probably watch it again if I knew it was unrated, the director's cut, an alternate version, etc. But the sequel is a bit disappointing. Sure, the blood and graphic content of the sequel is increased tenfold but Martin isn't nearly as captivating as Dr. Heiter and everything just feels like it's for nothing by the time the ending rolls around. The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) just leaves you with bloody discharge on your face without much of anything to show for it. Demented, disgusting, and rather pointless, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is more than likely the extremely nauseating film you expected the first film to be.