Blu-Ray Review: The Human Centipede (First Sequence) & (Full Sequence) – Boxset

Posted on October 31, 2012 by Ben 2 Comments

Review by Stephanie Scaife

I have to admit that I did not relish the prospect of having to sit through a double-bill of The Human Centipede when the screeners came through my letter box. I’d seen the first film at FrightFest in 2009 and hadn’t been particularly impressed, and when I heard about the sequel I actively avoided it as it just didn’t seem like something I’d want to watch. Turns out I was right.

Re-watching The Human Centipede (First Sequence) I had much the same feelings about it as I did the first time: that it’s an outlandish concept that would have made a great short, but when dragged out to feature length it becomes somewhat tedious, and once you’ve gotten over the central idea it’s a fairly predictable and bog standard genre staple. We have our mad scientist, Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) who has become obsessed with the idea of creating a “human centipede” by surgically joining 3 people together ass to mouth, thus creating a singular digestive system. As luck would have it 2 American tourists, Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie), turn up at his house one evening after their car breaks down nearby. Not one to miss an opportunity when it arises, Dr. Heiter immediately drugs the girls and confines them to the makeshift operating theatre that he has in his basement. With the addition of another hapless tourist in the form of Katsuro (Akihiro Kitamura) he now has all of the pieces of his centipede in place, so he sets about attaching them together.

Obviously this is an outlandish and bravura concept that is as wince-inducing as you would imagine, but once you get past that we’re given nothing more than a standard sort of slasher film where our victims and Dr. Heiter embark on various games of cat-and-mouse around his palatial home. Predictably, it doesn’t end well for anyone involved. What worked about the first film was its pitch black sense of humour; it knew it was ridiculous and had fun with it, making it far more watchable that I’d initially thought possible. But overall the film is let down by its predictability and reliance on genre constraints. It’s worth a watch for sure, even just out of sheer curiosity, but it’s definitely not something I would consider buying and revisiting through choice.

The Human Centipede (Full Sequence) is an entirely different kettle of fish, and I found it to be exceptionally dull and tedious. It was like director Tom Six sat down and thought to himself, “what are all the most degrading and disgusting things I can think of that will offend as many people as possible?” and then proceeded to put all of these things into a film that is barely strung together into any sort of tangible plot. Martin (Laurence R. Harvey) is a vile little man who is obsessed with watching The Human Centipede (First Sequence), which he does ad nauseam, oftentimes whilst masturbating with sandpaper. Martin has become so obsessed with the film that he decides to make his very own human centipede, this time with 12 people instead of 3. This is after all a sequel, so everything has to be bigger and more extreme. So Martin, who works as a security guard in a car park, sets about capturing unwitting victims and storing them in a warehouse until he has his perfect 12. This is interspersed with scenes of Martin at home, having nightmares about being sexually abused as a child by his father whilst his vulgar mother continually threatens to kill him and herself.

As Martin is a twisted man with no medical experience, his creation of the human centipede is much messier than Dr. Heiter, providing the opportunity for some pretty disgusting things to happen, which is the sole point of this film. There really is nothing more to it; there is no real plot to speak of just a series of incidences stung together to tie up everything from child abuse to Martin raping his newly created centipede whilst his cock is wrapped in barbed wire. To me this isn’t shocking, it’s just boring. All of the humour from the first film is lost, leaving nothing to like at all. I’m not a fan of censorship, I believe that as adults we should be able to choose what we watch, but on this occasion I was glad to watch an edited version of this film. Mostly because it made it shorter.

It’s a shame really, because Tom Six always comes across so well, an enthusiastic and charismatic guy who really wants to push boundaries within the genre. It’s a problem that he doesn’t spend as much time on plot as he does on creating completely outlandish concepts. For me the highlight of this experience was a DVD extra of the Foley session, which proved fascinating. How did they create the barbed wire rape noises you may wonder? By stabbing a pig carcass. So there you go, you learn something new every day.

Released for no other reason that I can fathom other than it being Halloween, I see no reason to own special collector’s edition of these films. I honestly have no issue with films containing extreme content, but I think that ultimately they have to be more than just that. You only have to look so far as Gaspar Noé or Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs to realize that it is indeed possible, which is what I’d recommend doing instead of watching The Human Centipede.

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) & (Full Sequence) Boxset is out now on Region 2 DVD and Blu-Ray from Monster Pictures.

2 comments

  • Nia says:

    Fair review, Steph. I’m so buying this, though. think Full Sequence is brilliantly funny…!

  • zak says:

    I don’t understand how these films have received so much mainstream coverage. I can understand attention from genre sites like this, but why is it that someone like Roger Ebert feels the need to administer a second no-star rating after he’d already dismissed the first film?

    The first film was ok, a serviceable B-flick with a canny PR hook. The sequel I admire because it has a genuine sense of madness about it.

    It was a clever choice to set this from the point of view of the assailant. In a strange way, this film sort of becomes a parable about what it means to enjoy these kinds of films – or, dare I say it, cinema in general. Sort of like Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom. (Could HC2 be the anti-Hugo? Another way to look at it is in comparison to Pleasantville, though I’m thinking HC2 goes much deeper than these other two)

    Also clever not to have the protagonist speak, and to not justify or explain that decision. This makes the film feel more like a first-person narrative. I actually think he’s meant to be a stand-in for the audience; his diminutive bulbous figure suggests a walking id, and his infantilized home circumstances amplify this – indeed, they seem to suggest an archetypal domestic situation (the black and white underscores this aspect). In this puritanical world, it’s as if the first Human Centipede film stands in for pleasure itself.

    You would think that in a film like this, the obvious revenge outcome would be to have the mother and therapist wind up joined to the creature. The fact that they don’t is a restraint on the filmmaker’s part that shows he has thought this through carefully. They are the shaming parental eyes from which he seeks to escape – the extremity of his scatological violence suggests the flip side of the violent shame he’s internalized at the fact of his own desire. If he is made to believe that pleasure itself is disgusting, then, if his id is able to withstand that, then it has no choice but to embrace disgust itself to survive. The dark place where the creature is assembled is a sanctuary away from the punishing parental gaze, and, once the “parents” have been removed from the picture, he is able to plunge wholeheartedly into his fantasy, a fantasy which has itself been shaped by the brutality of its suppression.

    I thought that Beavis and Butthead was a joke by M-TV, sardonically embodying all the worst fears parents had about what that channel did to their children’s minds. In a way, this feels like the same kind of joke – but not just a joke. It feels almost as if the filmmaker weighed the moral majority theory about his first film, about the presumed threat such an item posed, and decided to systematically test this theory to see how true it might be.

    There is irony in the film, and a very black humor. But didn’t someone say that comedy was tragedy purely intellectualized, with the empathy switched off? Is it possible that the comic perspective, like the black and white, is intended to further abstract the experience, to invite a clinical response? The first film suggested a smarmy play to the audience, but this feels like an investigation. Perhaps a burrowing into the heart of the filmmaker’s own ambivalence? The repulsiveness of the protagonist and his fantasy suggest the audience’s guilt at its own pleasure – the self-image of the prototypical pimpled teen hidden away with his secret stash of Playboys. After all, what kind of person would even watch a movie like this in the first place? Isn’t that the question underlying this film?

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