Like last year’s infamous A Serbian Film, The Human Centipede 2 has managed to become the hot button issue of the UK film industry. In one corner, we have the BBFC; in the other, the fans. What is being fought over is not only the morals of British society but also our approach to controversial art in the future.
First, the BBFC banned the film, because they said it was impossible to cut it to an acceptable format. Now they’ve allowed it in a cut version although one member of the board abstained from voting in favour of the decision. Some critics love it, some absolutely hate it. Audience members throw up, some cheer, others boo. The contents have now become almost mythical for their gratuitous violence. So how does a low-budget horror film elicit such strong reactions from every segment of the film industry?
With The Human Centipede, Tom Six proved that horror did not need to live up to expectations to fulfil its potential. Audiences expected gross-out body horror of the most extreme kind, and he delivered a well-timed and skilful update of the mad scientist figure.
With the sequel he seems to have pulled out all the stops to deliver something visually extreme. However, at the core of his film lies a central performance that borders on slapstick. Laurence R. Harvey stars as Martin, a seemingly mild-mannered car park security guard who lives with his abusive mother. Martin seems to spend his days watching the original Human Centipede on repeat and putting together a shoddy plan to continue the work of Dr Heiter (Dieter Laser). As his psychosis blooms, no one around him is safe from his fantasies of playing doctor and conducting the ultimate centipede experiment.
In this sequel, Tom Six promises that the whole thing is ‘100% medically inaccurate’ and to say that he fully delivers on this claim is an understatement of sorts. Martin is an introvert, the kind of person who as a child would get picked on at school, and his understanding of surgery and human anatomy leaves a lot to be desired. However, Martin compensates for his lack of knowledge with a gleeful sense of enthusiasm that drives the film forward.
Laurence R. Harvey’s performance is pitch-perfect: Martin lies somewhere between the deadpan mannerisms of Buster Keaton and the full-blown psychotic tendencies of Henry. Each gesture, each facial expression perfectly conveys his character. He is not moral or amoral but free from these considerations - a child lost and never found.
Perhaps the biggest problem with The Human Centipede 2 is the forced cuts by the BBFC - reading their detailed report on the film, it’s hard not to feel cheated by these numerous snips, which create leaps in the narrative logic and a sense of discordance. However, as it stands, The Human Centipede 2 is still a terrific movie: if you can tune into its warped, droll humour and excessive brutality, this is one hell of an experience you are sure not to forget. Tom Six has managed to channel a true British nasty through his uniquely European approach. Unmissable.