Wrong goes too far, and then some
Given the chance to review one of the most controversial films of the year it was difficult to not grab the chance. Having now seen the – initially BBFC banned – “shock-horror” Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) I wish I hadn’t been reeled in, as I’d bitten the very (dubiously smelling) bait that Director Tom Six was no doubt angling …
… deliberately make it as controversial as possible ...
… get publicity when it is banned …
… and more people will come and see the movie out of curiousity after appeal.
Advice, for fans of horror - or even fans of the (very different, believe it or not) original Human Centipede (First Sequence) - is go nowhere near Six’s creation second time around. Gore-loving “torture porn” fans may rejoice, but aside from the flimsiest of satirical notes on movie-induced violence there is nothing for anyone else to see.
For Full Sequence doesn’t even bother trying to be a horror, have tension or be a story of entrapment above its concept. Neither is it anything like its predecessor – which was surprisingly well made and actually had a worthwhile story. Instead it is a thinly written, cheaply produced torture-endurance piece of little effort and very explicit gore, where every element has no design save to “shock” as much as possible. The only interest when watching is to (i) ponder just how much more disgusting it can get, (ii) speculate on what obscenity got it banned and was in the 2 minutes removed for release (you can look it up at the BBFC, but be warned), and (iii) toss a coin when you’re looking away on whether it’s worth sticking it out to the finish.
The best thing about The Human Centipede idea is that it’s hard to imagine someone seeing the film by accident. The original film’s horrific premise had a mad Siamese-obsessed surgeon deciding to make a human “centipede” by stitching three naked, kidnapped people together on their knees, erm… mouth to anus… so they share the same gastric system.
If you haven’t heard that before, you may need several moments to let that sink in.
However the sickness of the concept formed only part of the original film, as Six kept the gore off-screen and instead focussed on a little story of concept-shock, tension and three people trying to somehow escape imprisonment when awkwardly stitched together. While there were a few scenes that got people talking (“feeeeed her!”) there were no visual displays of … shall we say number twos… and the torture of the surgery itself was also kept well off screen. And under anaesthetic.
Leaving the worst to the imagination was fairly horrifying, and the performance of Deiter Laser as the evil surgeon made First Sequence plausible (if not medically accurate like Six tried to suggest) and a solid, original genre film.
This is not the case with the Full Sequence, which was quickly banned by the BBFC back in June.
But this was not due to its, ahem, mouth-to-anus stitching concept. The BBFC may be prudes, but they are not censors. Instead Full Sequence was banned for the drastic torture-related shift in tone Tom Six had taken. To quote the BBFC:
“Although the concept of the [first] film was undoubtedly tasteless and disgusting it was a relatively traditional and conventional horror film and the Board concluded that it was not in breach of our Guidelines at ‘18’. This new work….. [focuses on] the sexual arousal of the central character at both the idea and the spectacle of the total degradation, humiliation, mutilation, torture, and murder of his naked victims … and poses a real, as opposed to a fanciful, risk that harm is likely to be caused to potential viewers… The Board’s view that there is a genuine risk that this video work, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), may be considered obscene.”
…and in UK law, obscenity is one of the hardest criteria to satisfy. This is how morally bankrupt Full Sequence revels in being.
So much for the controversy, what of the actual film going on release?
Shot in black and white (so that flying blood and excrement effectively look the same), Full Sequence follows a new character: the diminutive obese car park security man Martin, a backward mid 40s man who lives with his mum, has an unfortunate past of sexual abuse, and is obsessed…. with the first Human Centipede film.
Yes really. Although if Full Sequence is trying to poke fun at the movie-violence mob, it doesn’t try any harder than this.
On the other side of this weird through-the-looking-glass dimension, protagonist Michael is a quiet loner guy – he doesn’t say a word for the whole film - but when he isn’t being insulted by his boss, mother or upstairs heavy metal neighbour, or being hit on by his Hasidic bisexual predator family doctor (yes really here too), he watches First Sequence over and over and over and dreams of making his own version, making loving, meticulous notes with his short chubby fingers.
Eventually bored of this planning phase, he rents a warehouse and begins collecting his… ingredients … by bashing car owners with a crowbar to sickening sound effects or shooting them with his handgun. Ever ambitious, Martin also fields voicemails from a Hollywood agent, apparently trying to lure the “real life” actors in First Sequence over to England by pretending to be cast for a “Tarantino film”.
Despite relegating the original to a “movie world” Full Sequence is ridiculously implausible, ratcheting up the bad-writing, awkward acting and nonsense as the film devolves into torture-only sequences. When it gets going – and it takes a while - Martin shoots, crowbars and performs surgery on victims over and over and over without any dying or blood loss, or any of them really attempting to escape despite knowing their grisly impending fate. As it makes no sense – and doesn’t seem to want to - there is literally no story. Victims have basic introductions in their kidnapping before being left as a shape on a floor, and tend to just lie there and moan as Martin goes about his ever-more-disgusting attempts at home surgery on hapless grey shades of skin. This results in unwatchable black-splattered visuals of pulling teeth, slicing of knees and buttocks and home-stapling. It gets worse, far worse, as one victim is a heavily pregnant woman – who of course gives birth trying to escape - Martin counters a “disappointing” lack of gastric pyrotechnics in his own explosive home-improvised way, and at the bottom of the barrel Martin eventually derives so much sexual pleasure from the experience that he is forced to act upon it at the back of the “chain”.
Perhaps Full Sequence is so extreme it becomes a comedy, but that’s hard to see.
Ultimately it just becomes obvious that Six hasn’t bothered with anything other than trying to shock as much as possible, and ups the shock levels every five minutes. A cynic may say he was trying to get banned by certificators so he can shout about his film in the media. Is it a coincidence that a June banning and subsequent appeal was timed perfectly for an autumn / Halloween release?
In fairness Six did announce that Full Sequence would make the first film seem like “My Little Pony”, but that doesn’t mean this new approach has merit. Perhaps there was no other direction for his concept to realistically go. Regardless, while he does succeed on shocking on every level and getting the publicity he needed, there is none of the intelligence, effort or filmmaking skills that Six showed signs of in his first horror piece. On top of it all Full Sequence isn’t even scary - it is hard to care for any of personality-less victims who don’t bother trying to escape, and any jump or fright in Full Sequence isn’t a “scare” but “disgust” horror.
When you add it all up, Full Sequence is not just morally vacuous and extremely disturbing, it is also … one dimensional and boring. And it’s biggest crime – it’s pretty lazy filmmaking in comparison to its original.
Incredulously, Tom Six has promised that a third film – god forbid – will make the Full Sequence seem like “Disney”. I imagine this will have to be incredibly cheaply made in order to make a profit, for while Six may have succeeded in getting column inches for this latest creation, if this is his true colours then almost all of his goodwill will have been erased.
And on a final note spare a thought for the BBFC. In an impossible role they tried to ban a film that was genuinely obscene, but only succeeded in generating it more publicity. It is perhaps telling that their original statement considered “no amount of cuts” would change their mind, and one dissenting director of the board stuck to those guns upon UK distributor appeal, and refused to change his mind.
In sum: for “torture porn” fans only, almost certainly a disgusting marketing ploy, but still a wasted talent and not worth it even as an endurance curiosity piece.
Review by Jonathan Guyett