Objectivist Movie Reviews: The Human Centipede 2 - Full Sequence

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"The Human Centipede" was released in 2010 to very mixed reactions. On one hand, there was an outcry from those offended. According to them, the film would inspire copycat killers or at least increase social violence! So they sent Tom Six death threats on Facebook (talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy) as a way to express their displeasure.

"The Human Centipede" mostly gained fame because of its.... odd... premise. Specifically, a psychotic German surgeon kidnaps three people before sewing them together, mouth to anus (person A craps into person B's mouth, person B craps into person C's mouth). You have to give Tom Six (the film's writer and director) at least some credit for shifting the emphasis away from the typical blood and onto another body fluid.

Even amongst the horror film community, however, the film was divisive. Some praised the film for its relative restraint on the viscerality front; plenty is left to the imagination and the use of bandages in strategic places conceals the worst of the worst. And others were outraged! They were promised the sickest film ever! They were deceived!

So along comes "The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence," the inevitable sequel. Tom Six made it very clear that this film was going to make the first one look like My Little Pony in comparison, so I simply couldn't resist going to the Monster Pictures special screening (which included a Q&A with Laurence R. Harvey; the actor who plays the villain).

In writing my own review and analysis of the film, I remember how the other reviews were split down the middle between two different interpretations of the flick. In one interpretation, the film is seen as an attack on those fans that wanted more gore in Centipede 1. Movieline (http://www.movieline...ms-a-victim.php) described the film as "designed to turn the tables on its own gore-hungry fans by depicting a fictionalized version of one of their own so revolting they think twice about their twisted tendencies." InsidePulse (http://insidepulse.c...equence-review/) described the film as "a treatise about horror fandom." In this interpretation, Tom Six apparently hates his audience because the villain is an audience surrogate; a fat short ugly asthmatic autistic loner and loser with no friends and only an all-consuming psychosexual obsession with "The Human Centipede."

The other interpretation, however, sees the film as a satire of the amount of hatred directed at the first by the Moral Guardians. They thought the film would create maniacs. But in this film, Six is loudly repeating "Centipede 2 isn't real life; it's just a movie. Six is screaming at the top of his lungs that everyone is taking his sh*t way too seriously" (http://www.bloody-di...ilm/4823/review).

So, what is this film? Is it a monument to hating one's audience? Or is it a "punkish respone film" (http://www.latimes.c...0,5524602.story) satirizing the overblown fear of movies creating killers?

Before I deal with this question, allow me to look at the cinematic features of the film.

Aesthetically, "Centipede 2" is the opposite of the first film in every way. The first film was filmed in color, the sequel in black and white. The first film has meticulously sterile sets and cold harsh lighting, the second film takes place in filthy housing projects, underground carparks and abandoned warehouses. The first film is restrained with the gore, the second film reaches a scatological climax worthy of Salo and has as much blood and mutilation as a Cannibal Corpse album.

Even the villains are completely different. The first film has Dr. Heiter, who is tall and thin and angular and linear. The second film has Martin, who's appearance is maximized for bulbousness. Heiter is a genius, Martin is mentally disabled. Heiter is the ultimate sexual abuser, Martin is an abuse victim. Heiter is rich, Martin is poor.

The plot of the film is very simple, and essentially functions as an excuse for the gore. Martin lives in a bleak housing project, performs a bleak job in a dingy and dirty underground carpark. He was abused by his father, his mother tries to kill him, his therapist wants to rape him, and his only escape is his favorite movie: "The Human Centipede."

Yes, this is another Meta film; one of those films with characters that are familiar with the relevant horror films and tropes (a style pioneered by Scream).

Either way, Martin starts kidnapping people (most of whom are loathsome) and takes them to a warehouse. Eventually, the film reaches its inevitable climax where Martin begins assembling his twelve-person (!) human centipede.

Let's get it out of the way; this film is gruesome. If you want gore, see it immediately. The cinematography and soundtrack really help the atmosphere of the film; it feels grimy and industrial and filthy, like the perfect Skinny Puppy music video.

Whereas the first film was the story of Jenny and Lindsay (two people sewn into the centipede), and to a lesser extent Katsuro (the third member of the centipede), with Heiter as a terrifying alien presence, Centipede 2 reverses this. Instead, this is Martin's story. The members of the Centipede have very thin characterization, as do most of the people around Martin. Martin isn't the imposing, terrifying creature that Heiter was, but rather evokes a sickening cocktail of pity and empathy; he's clearly loathsome and yet he's so victimized by everyone around him (rapist father, shrink that wants to rape him, mother that tries to murder him, everyone basically abuses him) that there's going to be a part of you that cheers Martin along at least at one point in the film.

There's a clear "Who's Laughing Now?" element to the film, with Martin's brutality being at least in part an act of twisted cathartic vengeance against society at large. In some respects, Martin is actually more compelling a villain than Heiter; Heiter's Germanic bombast and obviously-evil complete-monster mad-scientist sexual-sadist act was very well done and charismatic yet at times lapsed into hamminess (not to mention the anti-Promethean implications of the Mad Scientist thing). Martin, on the other hand, is very consistently pitiful and fucked up, and being able to partially identify with him makes him more disturbing and 'close to home.'

Overall, this film will appeal to anyone that enjoys either 1) splatter films, 2) the first "Human Centipede" film, or 3) people with violent revenge fantasies. As a person that fits into at least two of those categories, I enjoyed the film. It drips with atmosphere, has a unique aesthetic, has a villain just as iconic and memorable as Dr. Heiter, and is monumentally gruesome. However, I can clearly say that most people would probably not enjoy this film. It isn't for everyone.

Onto the interpretation issues!

As stated before, there are two duelling interpretations of "Centipede 2." The first is that the film is an attack on the audience, comparing them to Martin, and basically mocking their love of gore. The second is that the film is an attack on the Moral Guardians outraged by the first film, mocking and satirizing their view that the original film would create psychos.

I believe the second interpretation to be the correct one.

The most obvious clue to this is the plot of the film itself. The film's plot is precisely what the Moral Guardians think will happen: someone watches the first film and is inspired to outdo it! "Centipede 2" is ultimately a satire of this.

But doesn't "Centipede 2" occur in reality? After all, it is one of those "Meta" films?

I don't think it does. Whatever world "Centipede 2" occurs in, it is not the reality we live in. "Centipede 2" is all black-and-white. Our world is in color. The second film is deliberately less realistic than the first film and the filmmakers say so; the first film was billed as "100% medically accurate" and the second was "100% medically INaccurate." The second film is so blatantly, unrealistically over-the-top that Martin manages to join his centipede together with duct tape and a staple gun. Anyone that is even remotely familiar with staple guns knows that human flesh cannot be plausibly stapled together. Martin takes none of the medical care that Heiter did; Heiter at least checked the kidnapped to see if they were tissue matches!

In short, "Centipede 2" is further removed from our reality than the original film was.

Thus, whilst Martin is indeed a fan of "The Human Centipede" he isn't representative of the real-world fans of horror films. I don't think any of them have attempted to make a human centipede. None of them were creepy autistics with bulbous greasy protrusions where their faces ought to be. And all of them were quite talkative and conversational; Martin on the other hand is mute.

By placing the precise scenario envisioned by the Moral Guardians in a world so blatantly unrealistic, Tom Six is making it quite clear what he thinks about the censors' scenario: the chance that a film will create a psychopath is the same as the chance that a staple gun can attach someone's lips to another person's anus (i.e. impossible).

At one point in the film, a prospective member of the Centipede (when realizing what Martin has in store) even says "The Human Centipede is a film! A FILM!" Exactly. It is fiction, and despite what either the Christian Coalition or Michel Foucault's followers would have you believe, fiction doesn't 'socially construct the discourse of' anything.

Just to further hammer the message home, the film ends with a scene that makes it ambiguous whether or not Martin committed the crimes in the first place. Yet another moment of THIS IS NOT REAL AND IF YOU THINK IT IS, YOU ARE STUPID.

Ultimately, Martin isn't the Audience. Martin is the kind of person that the Moral Guardians assume the audience to be. Libertarians of all kinds, amongst other critics of censorship, have frequently pointed out the elitist assumptions behind the censor's theories; the assumptions that we have no free will, no ability to critique or analyze or repurpose what is contained in the text (hence the fixation on "justified by context" in codes of censorship), and that we are all so simple-minded that merely viewing a horror film can turn us all into drooling maniacs that jerk off with sandpaper over images of people being degraded and tortured. It is not Tom Six, but people like the BBFC (UK), OFLC (Australia), MPAA (USA), American Family Association, Focus On The Family, and all the Foucauldian types, that believe all horror fans are Martin. Martin is their stereotype of horror fans as googly-eyed bed-soiling greasy fat autistics that can't tell fantasy from reality. It is these elitists and culture-warriors that assume horror fans are all only one slasher film away from flipping out and hacking their mothers to death with a crowbar.

And it is this worldview that "The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence" relentlessly ridicules. I found the film's critique to be stunningly effective at demonstrating the sheer ridiculousness of the censorious worldview.

In conclusion, I don't believe Tom Six hates his audience. Sure, the film is vile and gruesome and twisted, but the audience were (proverbially) absolutely eating it up!

This isn't a film for everyone, but it is clearly an enjoyable horror film and a worthy sequel to the original.

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  • 2 weeks later...


I saw the film before the film had its classification reviewed.

After its review, The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence was refused classification, i.e. banned in Australia.

See: http://www.refused-classification.com/censorship/films/human-centipede-2-full-sequence-2011.html#11-11-29-banned-by-review-board

Unsurprisingly, some fucking Christians were responsible for this. Specifically, a Jesus-fascist bitch named Melinda Tankard Reist and her lobby group Collective Shout (she uses a bizzare mix of leftist and Christian rhetoric.... talk about someone worthy of being a villain in Atlas Shrugged). IIRC she was also one of the people behind the protest against the Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant held in Melbourne (see http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=11048). She and the Australian Christian Lobby teamed up, lobbied a State Attorney General, and got the film banned.

This is why Jesus and Freedom are totally incompatible. Its one or the other. Do you grovel on your knees before God or do you live on your feet like a true human being? Make your choice.

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