Last year I somewhat redundantly explained the vomit-coaxing plot of The Human Centipede to a friend. Nine hours later he texted me back: “You ruined my day.” In a sense, he had already seen it. Once you know it concerns someone surgically connecting three people ass-to-mouth, little of what the film, surprisingly light on gore, offers can shock you. Actually watching it is a mere formality.
No such luck with the promised/threatened follow-up, which is the movie most people assumed the first was: a bacchanalia of sights you can’t un-see, not simply thoughts you can’t un-think. That is to say that the parts the original tastefully elided—namely the icky surgery bits—here take up a full third of the running time, for which no amount of spoiling can prepare you. Moreover, the psycho here is no skilled surgeon. He’s Martin (Laurence R. Harvey), a morbidly obese security guard who speaks only in disgusting mouth noises. Obsessed with the first film, he takes fanboyism to the lower depths, creating his own man-’pede hybrid, but with zero medical knowledge—not even, evidently, that people can bleed to death. His version, four times the original’s length, is literally held together with duct tape and—it pains me to type this—staples.
Give Tom Six credit: this is a genuinely original sequel concept, and a darkly funny one, even if the results—teeth removed via hammer, body parts extracted without anesthesia and other fun stuff best viewed through fingers—rather preclude any laughter. To dull the vividness of his imagery, Six has been nice enough to film in B&W. But the griminess of the stock makes it even worse, turning what’s already an unpleasant nightmare into a miserable dirge that makes one yearn for a shower or a long, sobby hug. If Six’s goal was to one-up A Serbian Film, he luckily failed; the bluntly effective THC2 lacks that film’s bracing social commentary, and its digs at fanboyism remain shallow. It is interesting, however, if read as auto-critique: what we have is a filmmaker wrestling with the awful premise he brought to existence—and, as per the silly 11th hour twist, probably being too hard on himself.