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Film Review: ‘Human Centipede’ sequel has no legs

Whether or not you could stomach seeing the original “Human Centipede,” you surely know what it was about. It was one of the most talked-about films that came out last year, for better or worse, simply for the premise alone.

A mad German scientist abducts three people and stitches them together in a chain on all fours, anus to mouth, to form one long digestive tract. Things do not exactly turn out the way he planned.

It gained justified notoriety but at least it had artistic merit. It was shot beautifully, it was daring and original, unlike anything you had ever seen and something you had to tell people about. This may sound strange given the subject matter, but there was an unexpected elegance to the simplicity of the storytelling. There was genuine suspense that built quietly and steadily, with none of the gratuitous, graphic violence that marks today’s so-called torture porn.

With the sequel “The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence),” everything is gratuitous. Everything seems intended for shock value. It is hard to imagine what other possible intention writer-director Tom Six might have had this time around. It is as if he is saying: “OK, horror fans, you say you can’t get enough? You say you haven’t seen it all, that you haven’t been sufficiently grossed out, that all possible taboos haven’t been explored? Well, here you go. Have at it. Enjoy.”

By making his killer a disgusting, socially stunted British horror nerd who is obsessed with the original film, Six ostensibly seems to be saying: “He is you. He’s the worst of you.” Or maybe he’s satirizing the misguided notion that movies like this inspire copycat crimes. It’s hard to tell whether he made “The Human Centipede 2” to titillate his audience or to mock it. And after a while, it is hard to care.

The tubby, sweaty, diminutive Martin (played by Laurence Harvey without a single word of dialogue) doesn’t just watch the first film all day on his laptop at his thankless parking-garage job. He wants to recreate it. And three people aren’t enough for him. He wants to build a human centipede with a dozen people. His victims run the gamut — there’s no sense of justice here, no rhyme or reason, no “type.” They include the unsuspecting fools who leave their cars with him, his neighbors and even one of the stars of the original film whom he’s lured into his seedy lair. That is how meta things get.

Martin’s motivation seems to stem from a severely dysfunctional childhood, one filled with sexual and psychological abuse. He continues to suffer as an adult at the hands of the cruel and potentially homicidal mother with whom he shares a rundown London flat, as well as the predatory family doctor. Again, all of these subplots seem intended to startle us with their inherent wrongness, rather than functioning as essential elements of plot or characterization. At least the interactions with Martin’s mother provide some twisted, deadpan laughs to break up the dreary monotony.

So whereas the doctor in the original (played by the deeply creepy Dieter Laser) had a vaguely noble purpose — he wanted to achieve a scientific breakthrough with his experiment — Martin just comes off as depraved. While the doctor performed his procedure in a sterilized operating room with dignified precision, Martin hacks away in a grimy warehouse with a crowbar, hammer, staple gun, duct tape and other sundry (and sullied) household items.

And shooting his makeshift medical bumblings in grainy, high-contrast black and white, as Six does, doesn’t make them any artsier. This approach does, however, spare us from having to see all the various bodily fluids he spills in vile, vivid color.

“The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence),” an IFC Midnight release, is not rated but contains copious amounts of graphic violence, language, nudity and disturbing subject matter. Running time: 88 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

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