The Human Centipede II: Full Sequence (Blu-ray / DVD)
Directed by Tom Six
Distributed by IFC Films
Saying that Human Centipede II: Full Sequence goes way past the boundaries of good taste is a given. So is making the point that this sequel is Tom Six’s meta reaction to the Human Centipede phenomenon. Tackling a review for Full Sequence is a bit of a challenge because, truth be told, there’s plenty of merit in the voices of both the admirers and detractors. Yes, this is a sickly smart experience for those willing to trawl the gritty depths of depravity. Like the original film, it also possesses a wicked sense of humor about its sadistic streak for those twisted enough to laugh. Lest this turn into a full-fledged rave, however, there’s also redundancy and pacing issues of the lazy and overconfident variety that prevent Full Sequence from being as successful as its predecessor.
Parking garage security guard Martin (Laurence R. Harvey) is a sickly fan of the original Human Centipede, an overweight case of arrested development suffering from a rotten childhood and an overbearing mother. Unable to shake the impact of the original film, he becomes obsessed with the idea of creating his own centipede. The problem? He lacks the medical know-how to make this a reality. So he resorts to clubbing parking patrons over the head and storing them in an abandoned warehouse until he can craft a twelve-person version of Dr. Heiter’s masterpiece.
Considering writer/director Tom Six’s approach to this sequel, it’s obvious that Martin functions not only as a mockery of horror fans, but also as society’s perception of them. A socially inept man-child dominated by an elderly matriarch with a mother knows best mentality, the film walks a shaky line between sardonic comedy and flat-out misery when chronicling his home life. Martin’s also a parody of the whole movies create psychos argument that gets thrown around by irresponsible media. In many of these earliest scenes, Full Sequence sort of excels as a twisted character study. The more we learn about Martin, the more, um, understanding we are of his plight.
Harvey is a fantastic villain, carrying the film with expressive eyes and almost nothing else (the character is completely mute). He’s as depraved a mind as his presence is unintimidating. A complete contrast to ubermensch Deiter Laser, Six was smart to craft a villain so diametrically opposed to his last one. It’s also sort of troubling since Martin is a reflection of Six’s audience: We laugh when he does, celebrate when he does (the audience I saw this with applauded at the centipede’s climactic unveiling) and we’re even uncomfortable for him at all the right times. Make no mistake; Six wants his audience to know that they’re solely responsible for the depravity of Human Centipede II. After all, we’re the ones who made the first film such a success.
This sequel isn’t as successful in its second act, a collection of redundant moments where Martin stalks will be centipedes in the nearly abandoned parking garage. Six has no interest in staging suspense this time around, an intentional omission since the director showed a surprisingly adept hand with these sequences in the original. Instead, Martin’s attacks are presented as bluntly as a blow to the skull. And while these stalk-and-smash moments fall a bit flat, there’s an intentional design to Six’s madness as he takes his critics to task. The first film was dumb? Here, have a scene where a victim successfully eludes her attacker, only to cower in a stairwell rather than escape completely. What about a crying child screaming at the top of his lungs for days? Nope. Nobody notices. Six brings a contemptuous approach to this material, gleefully sacrificing any and all credibility in favor of making his point (while annoying his audience further). It’s a funny idea that doesn’t quite work, mostly thanks to an execution that lacks flare. Just because Six is playing with conventions doesn’t mean it has to be so drab.
And Six’s response to fans and critics alike doesn’t stop there: Act Three paves the way for some of the most vicious and unforgiving agony the genre has ever seen. Broken limbs, mutilated knees, shattered teeth, barbed-wire rape, impromptu abortion, fecal ingestion: The list goes on and on, completely embracing and exploiting the lore of the first film. Just as Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 worked hard to be everything that the first film was not, Human Centipede II proves more interested in sequelizing The Human Centipede’s reputation. Damning fans and critics alike with showcases of extreme sadism, it appeases and revolts in equal measure.
Is it an orgy of bad taste, offensive and repulsive? Absolutely. And that’s precisely the point. Whether or not it works for everyone is another matter entirely. There’s a wry sense of humor all around Human Centipede II, and it’s possibly the smartest piece of repugnant cinema ever made. Whether or not that’s enough to overcome several middling moments is another story. This is an audacious experience that will delight some, enrage others and leave a few wondering why the hell anyone cares at all.
Full Sequence slithers onto Blu-ray in a 1080p high definition transfer that points out the limitations in the film’s cinematography. Shot on digital video (and, originally, in color), this isn’t a reference-quality disc by any stretch. The black and white color scheme lacks the starkness of actual film, instead giving way to flatter colors most of the time. Detail is fine, sharp and textured in nearly every scene, but with some unfortunate aliasing issues plaguing several backgrounds. Normally, I’d be quick to blame the encode here, but it seems like this is the natural result of the way in which this one was shot.
The DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track is technically proficient: clean audio, sickeningly textured FX and the occasional ambiance in the rear channels. This wasn’t designed to blow your speakers off the wall, but there’s no issue here.
IFC does a fine job with the supplements: First up is an audio commentary with writer/director Tom Six and star Laurence R. Harvey. It’s a nice discussion, and Six is a gracious enough filmmaker to repeatedly praise his actor and the achievements of the rest of his cast/crew as well. There’s also a twelve-minute interview with Six where he discusses the film and his approach to the disgusting material. Star of both Human Centipede films, Ashlynn Yennie takes us on a rather pointless tour of the film’s warehouse set while we get small pieces on the crucial Foley work and a look at the film’s awesome poster design as well. One deleted scene accents this set, rounded out by the film’s promotional, theatrical and teaser trailers.
Human Centipede II is strictly in the love it or leave it category. For you lovers, IFC has put together a rock-solid little Blu-ray release. Everyone else may want to stay clear of this literal flesh, blood and shit show.
3 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5