Sunday, 5 July 2015

the human centipede 2 (full sequence)

i don’t even know where to start with this film.

so the first human centipede movie exists in the world of the movie and car park attendant martin is obsessed with it. as his obsession grows he decides to take matters into his own hands and kidnaps people from the car park to build his own human centipede, only his will be four times as long as the one in the original movie.

i’m going to be reviewing human centipede 3 this week and i’ve seen the first one so i felt obliged to watch this one too. i liked the first movie. despite the insanity of the premise it actually holds together as a pretty solid horror film, with a standout performance from dieter laser as what has to be the best portrayal of a mad scientist in film history. but the sequel is one of the strangest films i have ever seen.

on one hand, it’s clear that director tom six has set out to make the most grim, filthy, disgusting viewing experience possible. the rain-drenched locations are decrepit and ugly, none of the actors are presented in a particularly flattering light, and there is this drone on the soundtrack that just makes every scene feel uncomfortable and unsettling. it would be easy to argue that this is an earnest attempt at making the most unsettling film experience of all time, and yet six also clearly has a sense of humour. there are moments of the film that play like a cartoon, with lead actor laurence r. harvey practically winking at the camera on a couple of occasions. the violence and gore and depravity are so over the top at times it becomes hilarious and six knows it. except whenever you think you’ve got the joke and start to settle into it, he does something truly horrible and disgusting that throws it all out again.

it’s worth talking about harvey’s performance as martin in a little more detail. where did six find this guy? like laser in the first film, the casting is perfect and ultimately it's this that makes the film work. harvey oozes depravity and perversion every moment he’s on screen. he plays a character that is too over-the-top to play with any kind of naturalism, but he makes it feel real. if they truly gave out oscars for the best performance rather than it being a popularity contest, harvey should’ve walked away with one in 2011. and yet, despite admiring the performance it’s impossible to like the character.

that’s what makes this a tough watch, much more than the violence and gore. martin is the protagonist in every sense of the word, but that means as an audience we are put in the unenviable position of being on his side. this is his story, the human centipede is his goal and to truly engage with the film is to want him to achieve that goal. in putting his audience in this position, six makes the film a completely alienating experience. it becomes pure art, because we have nothing to hang our perceptions onto, nothing to relate to except for the truly unspeakable. so what happens is we just have to watch it and see how it makes us feel, like a rothko painting. except i've never felt physically sick at a rothko exhibition.

let’s be clear, i didn’t enjoy the experience of watching this film, i’m not sure that’s even possible. at times i wondered whether i should have been more offended than i was, but martin is an equal opportunities murderer and the men get as much abuse as the women, to a degree. maybe i'm trying too hard to defend something indefensible, but at least the human centipede makes no attempt to hide what it is, unlike the misogyny and sexual violence in something like game of thrones, which pretends to be high art while quite obviously adhering to a nudity quota every fucking episode. six is quite clear with his intention to offend, and in a way that makes his work less offensive.

there is an element of sexual violence, which is problematic, especially if we're being asked to laugh at it. but i'm not sure that is the intention. there is a noticeable shift in tone between the moments that are so extreme they're funny to the moments that are genuinely disgusting that makes me think six is deliberately trying to catch us out, albeit in a very juvenile way. we laugh at martin injecting his victims with an over sized bottle of laxative and making fart noises as he dances around them, but six is hoping we're still laughing when martin rapes the end of the centipede so we feel bad. and maybe i should be offended at that because turning rape into a game isn't cool, but six clearly wants me to be offended so i'm naturally refusing to do so, and in refusing to be offended by something that's offensive purely to stop the filmmaker getting what he wants, doesn't that mean he wins anyway? this is why i find this film fascinating. six has a deliberately antagonistic relationship with his audience and is so dedicated to antagonising them that he has made three films, films that took time and money and the efforts of a whole team of people, simply to offend and antagonise his audience. because it's a film and so much time and effort and money goes into making films this seems absurd, but is it any different to the theatre of cruelty developed for the stage by antonin artaud? deliberately torturing the audience is not a new idea.

there are other elements of the film i found interesting. a theme that a lot of horror films share, sometimes unintentionally, is the dehumanisation of the human body. if you watch a lucio fulci movie for example, after the third or fourth grisly, over-the-top murder the characters stop seeming like human beings and are reduced to blood and meat held together by a thin covering of flesh that happens to talk. in the human centipede, people become parts. the obvious comparison is frankenstein, with body parts forming a whole, except here the bodies themselves are the parts. the human body is very much on display in this film; there is an excess of flesh in the room where martin conducts his experiment, and yet he manipulates that flesh into something that no longer resembles a human being. the struggle of the characters in the centipede becomes one of holding onto their humanity, and that’s difficult to do when you’re part of a chain of defecation. by making his audience feel nauseous, six rams that point home – that ultimately we’re nothing more than a machine built for passing fluids. as we watch the human centipede form, we ourselves are dehumanised.

i also wonder if is a movie about making movies. martin is inspired by his favourite movie to create something of his own. he steals the components he needs, but when he starts to build his centipede he’s frustrated that it’s so much harder than it appears in the source material. in the end, when he’s finished and he has knocked together something that in many ways is a poor, cobbled together mess of a creature compared to that of the original, he is unsatisfied. sure, he makes it work, he has his fun with it, he has made the thing he wanted to make, but when it’s over there’s a sense that it was all rather pointless. what has he really achieved? is that how six feels about filmmaking, i wonder?

i can’t really recommend this film, but i am glad i saw it. i think tom six is doing something interesting and i’m glad he is able to do it. roll on number 3!

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