If the long list of failed Saturday Night Live skit-based films are to be criticized for their contrived attempts to elongate one or two jokes into a full length feature film, then a suitable denouncement for the Human Centipede films would be, “What if some asshole who really liked ‘Two Girls, One Cup’ made the damn thing into a movie?”
Except that’d actually be more intriguing than the real inspiration, which Wikipedia describes as:
The Human Centipede’s plot came from a joke that writer/director Tom Six once made to his friends about punishing a child molester they saw on TV by stitching his mouth to the anus of an overweight truck driver. Six saw this as the concept for a great horror film, and he began to develop the idea.”
So the sort of rumination you might expect a thirteen year old to have immediately following their first sip of beer or hit from the bong is the mental impetus and mythological Muse for one of today’s most controversial films. If you had told people two hundred years ago this is what the visionaries of the future would be using that “newfangled motion picture” technology for, I’m sure they’d be jumping for joy.
Hey, I understand the market for this stuff. People love the perverse; the aberrant; and above all, being grossed out. Why else would shows exist where contestants who gobble up the most emu testicles are declared the winners? (Or websites where people can rate freshly deposited bowel movements? And no, we don’t mean our website). Though one can’t exactly condemn Tom Six for upping the ante in his efforts to repulse because people actually complained that the first movie wasn’t “gross” enough, despite the depraved title and premise. And the best part? He saw it all coming. “Six claimed the sequel would be much more graphic and disturbing, making the first film seem like My Little Pony compared with part two… [and would] contain ‘the blood and shit’ which viewers did not see in the first film.”
The story revolves around Martin Lomax, a corpulent, bug-eyed parking garage security guard with an unhealthy obsession for the first Human Centipede movie. (As opposed to a healthy obsession with it?) Despite the fact that he’s mute, exceedingly asthmatic, and looks about as athletic as the mom from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, he is able to bludgeon and maim over thirteen people throughout the course of the movie, ultimately using ten of them to actualize his perverse fantasy: to recreate the events from The Human Centipede. Only, as is customary with sequels… with even more people (and different ethnicities!) stitched together to form the titular formation. Victims this time around include two African Americans, a bald punk rocker, and a pregnant woman, (is it really spoiling anything by saying there’s a newborn baby scene that makes the movie Dead Alive’s similar spectacle look almost rational by comparison?) so you know Six is ready to offend. (Or is that “be more inclusive?”) All that’s missing is a pirate and a nun as the perfect set up for a bad bar joke.
Other characters include Martin’s mother, who serves as a cheap Mrs. Bates knock off and Martin’s egregiously Freudian-accented, rabbi-bearded psychologist in an attempt to infuse some modicum of characterization or profundity to the movie, and even Martin’s actual pet centipede (apparently the loudest one in recorded history, according to the bevy of sound effects which accompany its every skitter) for symbolism, but they come off just as forced as the premise of the movie itself. And you’d think that the whole thing being in black and white might be a nice homage to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, along with what seems to be a twist ending reminiscent of American Psycho (perhaps to alleviate some of the preposterousness of the plot), but Tom Six is no Bret Easton Ellis. And it’s almost sacrilege to mention the guy in the same breath as Alfred Hitchcock.
Whereas the many instances of depravity are implied or covered up with tape in the first Human Centipede, which may have actually added to their resonance, Human Centipede 2 leaves nothing to the imagination. You asked for more blood and fecal matter in your movie about a chain of people schnozz deep in each other’s assholes, and by God, Tom Six is gonna give it to you. The only thing that’s missing this time around is people sewn together by their other external sex organs, but I’m sure Six is saving “the best” for the third installment, which he proclaims, “will make the first two installments look like Disneyland.” Perhaps the main problem with the film is that shock value can only bring you so far. It excels in a one or two minute format where the viewer is downright baffled in witnessing the absolute nadir of human behavior set to chilling piano music, but sadly when an entire movie is just one act of depravity after another it just gets… kinda boring. You know that these people are going to be linked together in horrific fashion and pooping in each other’s mouths eventually, but you kind of wish they’d get that over with already so that something actually surprising might happen.
Still, the movie achieves at least part of its desired effect: once you see a skein of ten people forcibly linked ass to mouth carouseling around an abandoned warehouse floor on all fours while a fat man in a lab coat dances around them making farting noises… you can’t unsee it. Based on the name of our website, you can probably guess that it takes a fair amount to offend me. But since I’m not some closet scatologist or torture porn enthusiast, yes, many of the visuals in Human Centipede 2, resemblant as they were of some perverse, antithetical synchronized swimming routine, did enough to hold my attention… and unnerve me. But then I remembered that they were all connected to each other by nothing more than a staple gun and that the duct tape covering someone’s mouth fell off earlier in the movie and instead of gnawing away the other people’s duct tape bondage in a last ditch survival effort, the guy just loudly proclaims, “He’s gonna put us all together! Ass to mouth!” You know, so the people in the audience can rest assured that’s exactly what’s gonna happen. If a person can saw off their own hand while trapped under a two-ton boulder to survive, surely out of ten people, one can find the gusto or ingenuity to break themselves out of a few feet of duct tape.
Perhaps instead of lauding Six’s efforts to shock, we should instead laud him as the most successful movie director troll of all time. The fact that he was able to successfully persuade investors to back him for a trilogy of movies on a concept that shouldn’t have even made it past the planning stages is a feat in itself. Though you can’t say the guy hasn’t put time and thought into his anal opus: “Tom Six makes a point of meticulously researching and thinking through his various projects. While working on the concept for The Human Centipede, Six purportedly contacted a Dutch surgeon in order to ensure that the film was truly ’100% medically accurate.’ Although resistant at first, the surgeon eventually agreed to discuss the matter with Six, even going so far as to produce a detailed medical report on the viability of a human centipede. Six consistently claims that there is an intellectual and artistic method to his madness.” I’ve read a lot of reviews that credit Six with being able to make “Marquis de Sade vomit in his popcorn,” or something equally startling, but what these people seem to forget is that de Sade was incarcerated and committed to insane asylums for most of his life. We can all think of some pretty deranged shit at one time or another in our lives, but to actually create a film on it? One can only hope the process has been cathartic in some way to all those involved in the creative process.
So what can Tom Six do to truly make the third installment of his Human Centipede trilogy the most frightening yet? How about a documentary about a guy who has devoted so much time to the subject matter at hand that he has fooled people into thinking what he’s doing should be venerated as piece of art? Now that’d be downright terrifying.