Directed by: Tom Six
Produced by: Tom Six
Screenplay by: Tom Six
Starring: Laurence R. Harvey
Music by: James Edward Barker
Cinematography by: David Meadows
Studio: Six Entertainment Company
Distributed by: Bounty Films (United Kingdom)
IFC Midnight (United States)
Release date(s): September 22, 2011 (Fantastic Fest)
October 7, 2011 (United States)
Running time: 87 minutes (International Cut)
84 minutes (United Kingdom Cut)
Country(s): United Kingdom
Box office revenue (as of publication): $123, 043
Alright, as mentioned my previously posted review for Drive Angry, this will be my final review for the month of November, a summary for which will be posted later on. In getting on with December, I have seen Tabloid, Errol Morris' new film, and by the time I publish this will have seen Age Of Heroes. Also, I have screenings pitched in for Tintin, Breaking Dawn and Hugo, the big blockbusters out there. On another note, I'd recommend you get down to listening to some of the music off of Gary Numan's new album Dead Son Rising: there are a number of very cinematic tracks, and given that he has recently expressed thoughts about doing film soundtracks, they are of paramount interest to anyone into film music. So, as usual, by all means, keep your eyes posted!
Well, the gruel that we have been served up on our dish today is second Human Centipede film. Last year, director Tom Six released the first film to rather mixed reviews, but I found myself liking it as it didn't try to be anything more than it was: it's a brutal piece of exploitation schlock, and unlike the truly awful A Serbian Film, lacked the self-importance that often plagues these films, which all too often appeal to the audience and imply there is more to the film that what's on the surface. Centipede 2 has caused a stir in that it was rejected an '18' certificate here in the United Kingdom. Only two films in the past two decades have had this 'privilege,' so Centipede 2 has joined an elite group of films that have managed to be banned by the usually lenient BBFC. Following on from the tone of the original, with the sequel (which I frankly thought was milking the concept dry), Six, who claimed Centipede 2 made the original Centipede look like "My Little Pony," turns the concept on it's head, with Laurence R. Harvey playing the lead character Martin, a short, English, fat and asthmatic security guard still living with his mother (Vivien Bridson), who has become obsessed with the original Human Centipede film. Taking inspiration from Dieter Laser's Dr. Heiter, he decides to one-up, or rather 'nine-up' Heiter, opting to construct his own, twelve-person centipede.
It may come as a surprise to some of you, but there was a lot about Centipede 2 that I liked. As was the case with Laser, Six has unearthed an actor who is not famous, but fits their role like a glove. In what I would guess is his first picture (I have come up short on unearthing information), Laurence R. Harvey gives a great performance as Martin. Visually, he is perfect for the role, but it is the level of detail he gives the character that makes him so fascinating. Wheezing, spluttering and coughing, all with sweat perpetually dripping from his brow, Harvey conveys a character who is both realistic and can be sympathised with, but is also like something from the deepest recesses of our nightmares. Furthermore, Harvey tells Martin's story by acting, with a distinct lack of dialogue, and projecting to the audience in a visual manner. Harvey can be credited for making the movie watchable, but also of praise is the cinematography and editing. In contrast with the previous film, this is shot with a fast, moving camera, shaking along all the way. Normally I'm against the shaky cam, but here it captures Martin's fragile mental state and tells a story, as opposed to it being about technique. Also, Six's decision to edit the film, shot in colour, to a monochrome colour palette is a terrific stylistic turn. With the construction of the Centipede being shot in heavy light, colour would have been too much, and it is certainly much more unnerving with removal of the colour's we would normally think of in these situations (yes, I regularly wind up the tail end of a Human Centipede!). Also, as it should be, the make-up is suitably nasty. Although, of course, "100% Medically Inaccurate," the centipede's construction is full of enough grot, vomit, fecal matter etc. that we do buy into the whole thing. The centipede's ante is upped too, as Martin struggles and occasionally botches the process of his creature's creation, making for some horrible (yet fascinating) scenarios. Finally, after the success of the first film, Centipede 2 marks Tom Six as a force to be reckoned with in the horror genre. His directing method is unique, in that he makes 'pure' horror cinema: with absolutely everything on the surface, he invites a viewer's participation in his madness, and as such they apply their own meanings to his work. Far from ramming his messages down our throats, the application of such excessiveness gives us room to think about the picture. It is refreshing to see a director who invites such viewer participation and lives up to his word with suitably nasty concepts. I personally invite and applaud Six to continue with his endeavours in genre cinema.
So, as I said, there was a lot I like about Human Centipede 2. However, despite these strengths, it can be a very flawed film. For instance, Tom Six's script is pretty poor. The film is at it's best whenever Harvey just fills up the screen, but having all these characters pop up, display the basest of emotions with the basest of dialogue, only to become a part of the Centipede is rather silly. Would it not be more appropriate to let the audience engage with them, so that we have an idea in our heads of them as people, thus making Martin's abusiveness toward them more repugnant? Also, while I like the central concept, I think the inclusion of a certain 'actor' from the first film (no spoilers) is pushing the idea too far. This overtness in terms of self-referentiality does tend to overbear whenever Six's script gets a little more indulgent. Also, frankly there was no need to explain the origin of Martin's fractured personality: Harvey already told us as much, without writing in a doctor that resembles the great Alan Moore, just in case we didn't know already. Much as I like Six, I think he really needs to learn how to write a script that is not sold solely on the strength of the film's central concept. Also, I think that the film's ending is botched, as it's nature implies a negation of events, and thus takes away from the horror, and indeed, importance of what we have just witnessed. I really do think Six exists on a different plane from other human beings (and I mean that as a compliment), so it would help if he paid attention to other people, for as much as he may find his film's amusing, most people don't: bearing that in mind, I think he would have made a better film. The script is really my only major problem with the film, but it is enough of a problem to have made me want to personally rewrite it myself as it is the cinematic equivalent of a gaping knife wound to the film's overall body.
Nevertheless, despite what I feel to be a rather shoddy script which does significantly detract from the film, I did like it. I forgot to mention the terrific minimalist score by James Edward Barker and Eilam Hoffman, but there are also many other fine aspects. Laurence R. Harvey gives an amazing lead performance, technically the film is spot on, and I think that considering the decisions he made in bringing this to the screen, Tom Six is a directorial force to be reckoned with. The pressure on for him to deliver his anticipated third and final part to the Centipede trilogy, as I feel that the script covers too much and frankly I worry there won't be anywhere else to go. Mark Olsen, writing for The Los Angeles Times, makes a valid point in arguing that "Six has more or less already contorted himself into The Human Ouroboros": there really is only so far you can go with this, and I would recommend that Six start thinking of new ideas, because another Centipede film could be flogging a dead horse. Also, on the basis of this script, we could be in for trouble. Nevertheless, I'll be keeping a close eye of Six, as Human Centipede 2 is an enjoyable exploitation flick in the purest sense of the word.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.9/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Tired (Radioplay finished, review finished: me need sleep!)
P.S. Vivien Bridson plays a great bit-part as Martin's mother