Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Human Centipede 2 (2011)

The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence
Dir. Tom Six

1 out of 5

In 2010, the internet briefly collapsed under an avalanche of incredulity regarding The Human Centipede, the film with the gag-inducing premise of a crazed surgeon who stitches three human beings together mouth-to-anus to create a new multi-limbed creature with a single digestive system. Director Tom Six had the sangfroid to suggest that his movie was inspired by the residues of European fascism and the hellish "experiments" performed on concentration camp prisoners by Nazi surgeons such as Josef Mengele. That dubious justification seems quaint with the arrival of the sequel - subtitled Full Sequence to indicate a fourfold increase in surgical victims - which is full of the same reprehensible acts but inspired by nothing except itself. This might be palatable if Six were genuinely interested in cinematic self-criticism, but his contempt seems to be reserved solely for his audience. I have to say that the feeling is mutual.

The viewer surrogate is a physically and mentally stunted British mute (Laurence R. Harvey) obsessed with the real-life Centipede phenomenon and harboring a desire to replicate the infamous procedure. He starts to gather specimens from the parking garage where he works and stashes them in a warehouse (offscreen, Harvey somehow seems to have mastered the art of non-fatal crowbar blows to the head). When it's time for the surgery, Six shows us what we all ostensibly wanted from him the first time, dragging out the excessively gruesome spectacle of the centipede's creation and fate by Harvey's decidedly amateur hands. It is all the stuff that was tastefully (if I can use such a word) omitted from view in the original movie, and these are the sequences in particular where THC2's black and white photography feels like the director's lone act of mercy.

THC2 is mean, ugly, and interminably smug. Six attempts to implicate all of us with Harvey's single-minded quest for ever more extreme violence and depravity. What he really wants is to direct our attention away from his severe desperation and narcissism, trying to scold us for buying into (or perhaps for making fun of) a concept that he has shamelessly promoted and defended from day one. Our culture's penchant for morbid curiosity deserves to be questioned, but not via tut-tutting torture porn from a filmmaker so far up his own ass that one cannot readily discern where he ends and the next guy's mouth begins.

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