(Warning: The following review contains some descriptions that could make you regret your last meal.)
Dutch filmmaker Tom Six puts it this way: The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), his sequel to 2009’s controversial The Human Centipede, makes the original seem like My Little Pony. Having endured Six’s latest contribution to cinematic art, I can confirm the director is not exaggerating. The original Centipede, about a mad doctor who surgically connected three unwilling people anus-to-mouth to create a single organism, was repulsive and loathsome. But like most horror sequels, which must always outdo their predecessors, Centipede II is much, much worse. This one goes to 11.
Or 12, to be precise. That’s how many people the London parking lot attendant Martin (Laurence R. Harvey) hopes to stitch together when he builds his own centipede, which he is inspired to do after studying the first film obsessively. Yes, Six is taking the meta-route with Centipede II, pretending the original was merely a movie, one that leads the fat, mentally-challenged Martin to commit an act of copycat madness. The self-reflective premise is clever, at least as far as these pictures go, and Centipede II initially raises your hopes that Six may be up to something more ambitious than making you nauseous.
There is some demented humor, for example, in the depiction of Martin’s home life — a miserable existence in a shoddy flat he shares with his mother (Vivien Bridson), who begs neighbors to kill them both and end their pain. In one scene, Martin catches her standing over his bed, furiously stabbing his pillow with a knife, but just shrugs it off and goes to sleep. He even holds back when his mother finds his most prized possession in the world — a scrapbook of photos and clippings devoted to the first film — and tears it to pieces. He draws the line, though, when she dares to threaten his pet centipede.
Harvey, who gets to laugh and yell and scream but never utters a single line of dialogue, is a much more intriguing psycho than the original’s mad doctor: There’s something quietly empathetic about this solitary lunatic, and you also have to respect his relentless drive to carry out his plan. Martin even manages to lure Ashlyn Yennie, one of the actresses from the first Centipede, back to London, under the guise she’s about to audition for Quentin Tarantino, who is going to direct Centipede II.
Six shot The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) in black and white, which at first you assume was a deft stylistic choice (the scenes in Martin’s apartment are strongly reminiscent of David Lynch’s Eraserhead). But once the horrible second half of this revolting movie gets under way, you realize the film would have been unwatchable if Six had made it in color. Everything that was hinted at and implied in the first film, Six gleefully makes graphic this time. When Martin is standing over his obscene creation, waving a syringe filled with laxative and smiling triumphantly, he becomes a stand-in for the director. A few minutes later, when Martin is holding his nose from the smell and running to a corner to vomit, he’s become the audience surrogate.
Centipede II is undeniably a better film than its predecessor — I liked certain twisted touches, such as the way Martin slowly lines up his medical instruments (a pair of pliers, a hammer, a staple gun and duct tape) in front of his horrified patients — but in its final half-hour, the movie becomes an all-out wallow in torture porn, played out in stomach-churning detail that leaves nothing (and I mean nothing) to the imagination.
The movie is so extreme that Six was forced to trim certain sequences for the U.S. and U.K. release. The cuts are noticeable (e.g. a scene in which Martin masturbates with sandpaper), but this is the rare sort of film that doesn’t make you curious whatsoever about what was lost in the cutting room. I don’t know how Six can possibly outdo the grotesqueries of The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), but he’s already at work on a third film titled The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence). Promises, promises.
Cast: Laurence R. Harvey, Ashlyn Yennie, Vivien Bridson, Bill Hutchens.
Writer-director: Tom Six.
Producers: Ilona Six, Tom Six.
An IFC Films release. Running time: 87 endless minutes. Vulgar language, nudity, extreme violence, obscene medical gore. Plays at midnight Friday Nov. 11-Saturday Nov. 12 and 10 p.m. Sunday Nov. 13 in Miami-Dade only: O Cinema.