Friday, September 4, 2015

The human centipede creeps ever more loathsomely

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Whether or not you could stomach seeing the original Human Centipede, you surely know what it was about. It was one of the most talked-about films that came out last year, for better or worse, simply for its premise alone.

A mad German scientist abducts three people and stitches them together in a chain on all fours, anus to mouth, to form one long digestive tract. Things do not exactly turn out the way he planned.

It gained justified notoriety but at least it had artistic merit. It was shot beautifully, it was daring and original, unlike anything you had ever seen and something you had to tell people about. This may sound strange given the subject matter, but there was an unexpected elegance to the simplicity of the storytelling. There was genuine suspense that built quietly and steadily, with none of the gratuitous, graphic violence that marks today's so-called torture porn.

With the sequel The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence), everything is gratuitous. Everything seems intended for shock value. It is hard to imagine what other possible intention writer-director Tom Six might have had this time around. It is as if he is saying: "OK, horror fans, you say you can't get enough? You say you haven't seen it all, that you haven't been sufficiently grossed out, that all possible taboos haven't been explored? Well, here you go. Have at it. Enjoy."

By making his killer a disgusting, socially stunted British horror nerd who is obsessed with the original film, Six ostensibly seems to be saying: "He is you. He's the worst of you." Or maybe he's satirizing the misguided notion that movies like this inspire copycat crimes. It's hard to tell whether he made The Human Centipede 2 to titillate his audience or to mock it. And after a while, it is hard to care.

The tubby, sweaty, diminutive Martin (played by Laurence Harvey without a single word of dialogue) doesn't just watch the first film all day on his laptop at his thankless parking-garage job. He wants to re-create it. And three people aren't enough for him. He wants to build a human centipede with a dozen people. His victims run the gamut - there's no sense of justice here, no rhyme or reason, no "type."

So whereas the doctor in the original (played by the deeply creepy Dieter Laser) had a vaguely noble purpose - he wanted to achieve a scientific breakthrough with his experiment - Martin just comes off as depraved.

And shooting his makeshift medical bumblings in grainy, high-contrast black and white, as Six does, doesn't make them any artsier. This approach does, however, spare us from having to see all the various bodily fluids he spills in vile, vivid color.

Associated Press
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