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The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence

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'The Human Centipede 2': Legless, Gutless
Kat Murphy, Special to MSN Movies

Dutch filmmaker Tom Six's "The Human Centipede (First Sequence)" accumulated disgust, death threats and lots of video-on-demand dough. It was hard for most people to hear the film's premise, let alone watch the thing. Framing this almost documentary-style nightmare about a deranged doctor's experiment to surgically join three human guinea pigs mouth to anus, Six betrayed no horror or compassion. The chilling result was an artful picture of outrageous physiological violation, the kind a Dr. Mengele might perform out of sheer scientific curiosity. What's on view in "HC" is beyond revolting; even worse is the film's oppressive nihilism, as God's noblest creations are reduced to tripartite intestine.

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Now Mr. Six has dumped a sequel on the slavering horror-fan market. Your consumer reporter must warn you that "The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)" outdoes the first film in repulsiveness. It revels in blood and excrement, vicious cruelty and atrocity, and the casualties are more numerous, including a pregnant woman.

OK, that's blunt enough to warn most of you off this repellent movie. But if anyone's still reading, I'd like to share some observations about Six's cinematic descent into dreck.

The British Board of Film Classification has banned the showing or selling of "HCII" in England, claiming that "there is little attempt to portray any of the victims ... as anything other than objects to be brutalized, degraded and mutilated for the amusement and arousal of the central character, as well as for the pleasure of the audience." I'm not sure about the audience getting any pleasure from it, but otherwise the Board's declaration sounds like Six explaining his philosophical and aesthetic aims.

Search: More on 'The Human Centipede' | More on censorship and movies

The first film's mad scientist was all mind, lusting to know and control. In contrast, the sequel's centipede-maker (Laurence R. Harvey, perfectly cast) is wholly id-driven, a developmentally arrested infant hung up on oral and anal gratification. Martin's hard to look at, with his grotesquely ovoid head topped by lank strings of hair, while hugely exophthalmic eyes survey his barren environment with not a trace of interest or fellow-feeling. However, this otherwise mute lump emits little insect-like squeals of happiness — "eeeeeeee" — while watching the original "Human Centipede" over and over. He touches the computer screen like a delighted child, then absently caresses his lower lip as though literally tasting the movie. Shoulderless, with little breasts and a pendant gut, Martin is sexless, more larva than grown man.

Objectified by abusive dad, homicidal mother and grotesquely bearded shrink, this asthmatic creature (reminiscent of those underground things in Neil Marshall's "The Descent") bumps blindly but doggedly toward fulfilling his self-gratifying fantasy, fueled by Six's first film: the creation of a plaything of his very own.

Six's camera often looks down on Martin and his monster mom in their tacky, claustrophobic box of an apartment, as it will on the naked, wriggling bodies he stores in a dank warehouse. They are the human, less animated equivalent of the large pet centipede Martin lovingly feeds in its glass container.

Sucked deeper into Six's swamp, you feel almost drugged by its noxious atmosphere, numbed by nausea and despair. Every illusion that humankind might be better than beasts is stripped away.

Once Martin has collected his candidates for 12 centipede segments, the film piles on one graphic image of horror after another: his concentration, as he matter-of-factly mutilates his victims' flesh, is exactly like that of a demented child pulling the legs off a beetle. A Humpty Dumpty-shaped ringmaster, he waves his arms in delight as his very own deformed toy crawls around its maker. There's worse to come, involving the music of excremental explosions. This is surely hell, as a godless Dante or Bosch might paint it.

Shot in unclean black and white, set in a city of dreadful night and unending rain, populated by people effortlessly reduced to pale, soulless worms, "The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)" projects profound nihilism, an excremental vision far more toxic than the original. When writing off Six's nightmare as "torture porn with European art sauce" (his own words), you still have to wonder why this provocative director bothers to frame, compose and color his underground world so intelligently and atmospherically. It's light years away from the hack filmmaking and metronomic gorefests of "Hostel" and its ilk.

"A reflection of a most unpleasant mind, a mean, sly, sadistic little mind" ... "a cold and brutal film, almost devoid of human feeling" ... "one long toilet joke." Critics damning "Human Centipede II"? Nope, those are reactions to Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho," another horror movie about a mother-ridden, murderous boy and a world that keeps sliding toward the sewer. If Hitchcock had been less civilized, less repressed, less of a genius, would he have gone as down and dirty as Six?

Kat Murphy once had the pleasure of writing a book-length comparison of Howard Hawks and Ernest Hemingway, friends and fellow travelers in fiction (Quentin Tarantino reckoned it "cool."). She's reviewed movies in newspapers and magazines (Movietone News, Film Comment, Village Voice, Film West, Steadycam) and on websites (Reel.com, Cinemania.com, Amazon.com). Her writing has been included in book anthologies ("Women and Cinema," "The Myth of the West," "Best American Movie Writing 1998"). During her checkered career, Kat's done everything from writing speeches for Bill Clinton, Jack Lemmon, Harrison Ford, et al., to researching torture-porn movies for a law firm. She adores Bigelow, Breillat and Denis -- and arguing about movies in any and all arenas.

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