Established horror franchises ‘going meta’ is nothing new.
The ill-fated Blair Witch sequel, Book Of Shadows, tried – and, inarguably, failed – the self-referential tack. Meanwhile Elm Street’s breaking of the fourth wall in New Nightmare fared decidedly better, discovering an almost perfect balance between scares and nod-nod-wink-wink comedic self-awareness. Tom Six, writer/director of the first Human Centipede: First Sequence, returns with a similarly pitched sequel to 2009’s controversial body shocker – a grim, monochrome love-letter to the lucrative furore the original film created, the ending of which had backed him into something of a narrative corner as far as a sequel was concerned. Martin (bug-eyed newcomer Lawrence R Harvey), a squat and clammy night-shift car park attendant, is hopelessly enveloped within the mythos of the film The Human Centipede. Priapically obsessed with the colonically unifying efforts of psychotic surgeon Dr Heiter, whose exploits are on constant rotation on Martin’s laptop, Martin dreams of the construction of a twelve-strong centipede of his own. Mute, besides the odd childish exultation of a stifled giggle or recalcitrant wail, Martin alternates between a tumultuous home life living with his borderline-infanticidal mother (Vivien Bridson), and time spent alone, fermenting in his office, greedily watching both the CCTV feeds and The Human Centipede. He is waiting until adequate prey presents itself, at which point the individuals in question are shot in the leg, clubbed over the cranium, and bundled into the back of Martin’s Corsa van. How Martin actually managed to secure this job is never explained, and quite how he manages to keep it throughout the course of the film is one of the least thudding contrivances, of which there is a generous litany. Night after night he fills the car park with the almighty cracks of gunshots, pools of blood, the now vacant conveyances of a steadily increasing number of victims, plus a screaming, abandoned child. Presumably, there is no handover to another guard at the end of Martin’s shift.
Martin – a “retarded” (the film’s word, not mine) mute, remeber – also manages to lure star of the first film, Ashlynn Yennie, to his dank, London staplegun workshop, by convincing her and her professional Hollywood agent that she is crossing the Atlantic to audition for the latest Tarantino movie. Er, yeah. And, anyway, it’s all irrelevant, really. Discussing this film from a standpoint of logic and reason is like trying to describe the socio-political leanings of a dead dog. It would be an attempt to imbue the film with things it does not possess, and nor does it purport to. The first film just about got away with its premise because, despite what cynically reactionary tabloid rags said, it wasn’t torture porn. Instead, it was a psychological body-horror based around Dieter Laser’s gaping, delicious performance as the unhinged surgeon. The sequel cannot claim this arm’s-length defence. It is torture porn, of the worst kind: it’s not disturbing, or gross-out entertaining, or funny, or frightening, it’s just…terrible. Through its tired penchant for protracted close-ups of mutilation, defecation, sexual abuse and death, it tries so desperately hard to shock so regularly that rolling, soothing waves of ennui are the only possible response.
Its attempt at story (which ends half way through, giving way to one indescribably tiresome extended torture sequence) is utterly risible, contemptible in its kitchen-sink approach to offend. ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ it shouts, and then when you do, it realises it doesn’t know what to do next, so it throws in some sandpaper-assisted masturbation. There is throwing shit at the walls to see what sticks, and then there is having a wall so hopelessly smothered in it that everything that hits it slops off into a gormless, reeking stack of narcoleptic pointlessness.
The last half-hour – explosive excretion, laxatives, urination, ligament-cutting, tooth-pulling, vomiting, anus-slicing, allusions to every bodily fluid you can imagine, a rape scene pitiful in its pining, box-ticking controversiality – is simply bereft of any redeeming features whatsoever, lacking the knowing kitsch of successful body horror, while completely missing the opportunity for any kind of redemptive subtext, no matter how minute or spurious. The acting is at least symmetrically abysmal from everyone whose mouth isn’t prevented from speaking by its fortunate proximity to another’s fundament. Bridson as the mother, who blames Martin for her husband’s child molestation conviction, is particularly awful, clearly aware of the scant merit of the material she’s reluctantly chundering, while star of the first film Yennie is guilty of a standard of ‘natural’ acting that would embarrass a downtrodden Frank Bruno. If was meant as a comedy the first half might have actually worked: one murder in particular is so protracted it is must be in for laughs. Yet it’s all solely a tired pretence to people pooing into each other’s mouths for an extended period of time, while making sounds that suggest that this is unpleasant. The press notes wildly exclaim it’s ‘The film the BBFC didn’t want you to see!’ and boast that an extended scene (where Martin wraps barbed wire around ‘himself’ and rapes the lady at the rear of the centipede) was removed. This gives you some idea of the level we’re at, and it’s all just a bit sad. The sense of it occasionally taking itself seriously is an uncomfortable one, as is its apparent reverence for the status of its own mythology, which – now with no central story or performance to carry it – is thoroughly dashed by this sequel. It’s eighty eight minutes of some of the blandest, most desperate cinema you’ll see this year. The horror genre deserves, and regularly delivers, better.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.