It's likely that the first Human Centipede movie wasn't your cup of tea. But if you're like me and enjoy disturbing cult movies, it's one of the very best. The "ass to mouth" horror of Human Centipede wasn't gross — it was suggestive and existential. Plus it was darkly funny, with a mad doctor (Dieter Laser) who was full of bizarre zeal.
Filmmaker Tom Six obviously wanted to change all that in Human Centipede II (available on demand), an arthouse flick without humor, which revels in exposing all the extreme gore that the first film tucked behind bandages and cartoonish powerpoint presentations. Instead of a mad doctor, we get the sadistic Martin, a garage attendant who is a die-hard fan of the first movie. Everything he does is a pathetic attempt to recreate the glory of Human Centipede, but without skill or finesse. That's right: Human Centipede II is about somebody creating horrific, real-life fanfic about Human Centipede. Gross spoilers ahead.
I suppose the best thing you could say is that writer/director Six obviously appreciates the original Human Centipede as much as cult fans do. We get to see long sequences from the first film, played on Martin's laptop while he jacks off with sandpaper. These clips only remind us how much better the first movie was than this one. So why, exactly, did we need this boringly gory footnote to the first movie? I'm pretty sure Six's point is to show that his first movie was way more transgressive than you ever thought, because look how it inspires this sick fucker to watch DVDs while he's at work — and then kidnap a bunch of people so he can staple them together in a super-giant centipede that represents the worst fanfic ever.
Martin even manages to trick an actress from the first movie, Ashlynn Yennie (playing herself), into joining the fun. In typical fannish fashion, he makes Yennie into the head of his new centipede, instead of the end. Fans are always trying to turn minor characters into major ones.
As I said earlier, one of the big "attractions" of this sequel is that we see all the things we only imagined in the first flick. The eponymous human centipede of the first movie was all bandaged up, with just parts of everybody's faces peeking out above the sterile gauze. When the infamous "oh now I have to shit" scene happens, all we see is the shame on the face of centipede's head, coupled with the muffled groans of the women attached to his ass. Yes, it's horrific — but it's also very cartoonish and abstract. In Human Centipede II, nothing is left to your imagination. There are lurid, long scenes of Martin carving up people's asses and kneecaps (in artistic black and white!). Then, when Martin wants to do his version of the poop scene, he injects all his victims with super laxative, and we have to watch a long scene of shit spraying everywhere. If you get this far into the movie, you'll discover that it's possible to be nauseated and bored at the same time.
Unfortunately, this sequel is just serving up shocking imagery for its own sake. And it's not even imagery based on an original premise, which makes it even less interesting to watch. Plus, our only comic relief comes from the "joke" that Martin was molested by his dad, and then later his astonishingly large-bearded psychologist continues the molestation quite openly. There's a scene where the psychologist is getting a blow job from a hooker in the garage where Martin works — while Martin watches via security cam — and the psychologist says something like, "Well this is OK, but I'd rather be fucking that retarded kid [Martin]." Um, yeah. Writing that line felt super punk rock I bet. Too bad Jim Goad and GG Allin already got there like 20 years ago.
My point is that the humor in this sequel comes from what is basically recycled transgression from another era. We're also supposed to think it's funny that the short, obese, sweaty Martin walks around in his underwear a lot. Six makes sure to film Martin so that he looks like the yuckiest thing you've ever seen. Except that I've seen "yucky fat pervert" characters in everything from surrealistic Fellini flicks to recent actioner Gamer. Again, not very original. I miss the pizzaz of Dieter Laser!
As a meditation on fandom, Human Centipede II has the potential to be interesting. But unfortunately Six gets too involved in his own self-fandom, revisiting the parts of his original movie that didn't need revisiting. Along the way, Six sacrifices the originality and humor that made the first movie such a standout of the cult genre. Let's hope Six's next film makes good on the promise he showed with Human Centipede — by tackling a completely different subject.