Watching someone have their face stapled to the arse of an incontinent stranger really puts things into perspective.
Emerging in 2011 from the warped and squalid imagination of Tom Six, The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence is a monstrosity that takes to exorbitant extremes the depravity of its predecessor. If this film is about anything, it's about what it feels like to have your face stapled to the arse of a stranger – a stranger who releases heroic quantities of shit into your unwilling mouth.
The film zooms in on Martin Lomax, a – let's not mince words – middle-aged, near-mute, asthmatic loser who lives with his dickhead of a mum and feeds live insects to his pet centipede while saying "Eeeeeee". It's self-referential from start to finish. Martin is fixated with the first of the Human Centipede franchise, and as we begin, he is watching it end.
Like most of us no doubt, Martin is inspired by the idea that it might be possible to create one of these human centipedes by attaching a line of people "arse to mouth", thereby creating one united digestive system. Unlike many of us however – though I can't speak for everyone – the thought makes Martin so excited that he masturbates with sandpaper.
I have The Human Centipede 2 playing on Netflix as I type this – a terrifying prospect, which, as you will probably now understand, means I am plagued by an unsettling feeling like knowing that one of your nails needs to be taken off sickeningly close to the root. And yet, in a perverse way, part of me can't help but feel a strange quiver of anticipation.
I watch aghast as Martin crowbars his way through victims, keeping them in a warehouse, bound and naked. He proceeds to sever knee tendons (you see all of this), hammer out teeth (you see all of this), and staple unwilling mouths to arses (hi there) until, literally crying with joy, he has orchestrated the most depressing conga line you've ever seen in your life.
Injecting his ten victims with laxative, he watches as each of them unleashes the contents of their bowels into the mouth of the person behind, who then does the same to the person behind, etc. etc. This is the film for which the phrase ad nauseam was invented.
I'm not a horror devotee. And as far as gore goes, I've seen about five of the Saw films – but after The Human Centipede 2 that's like boasting that you've watched every episode of Ready Steady Cook. It is unbelievably difficult to watch, offensively realistic, and set (mercifully) in black and white. Well... not entirely. Six chooses to splatter the screen with brown at the appropriate moments, don't you worry.
The first time I watched The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence was in the fateful summer of 2012. I was staying with my best friend, who was to get married that week. The pair of us had spent a while watching episodes of An Idiot Abroad but, as everyone is always saying, what you really want to experience in the days before your wedding is a film about stapling lips to bums. Something old; something new; something borrowed; The Human Centipede 2.
Watching the film came about as a kind of dare. Initially it's just a laugh, talking about movies that are infamously disgusting or frightening; you hear them described and their horrors live in the abstract, not vivid enough to leave an imprint. My best friend and I had no real idea how nauseating the film would be; we were young and, hey, bloody heck, we were foolish. If we could have seen into the future, we would not have wanted to grimace and gurn our way through the poo-stained gore-fest. But grimace and gurn we did.
In the spirit of learning from your experiences, I can – with hindsight – tell you that the most disgusting film ever made is worth seeing for your own personal development. Given that the British Board of Film Classification said that the film posed "a real risk that harm is likely to be caused to potential viewers", you're probably going to want to see it. Here's why you should.
It is not a good film. It is a woeful film. It is 86 minutes of shit, screams and blood. But The Human Centipede 2 made me glad to be alive. Before I had seen it my world was carefree and virgin-white by comparison. You know the expression "You don't know what you've got till it's gone?" Well, I can tell you, you don't know what you've got till you've seen a bald man rip his stapled, excrement-stained face from the anus of an incontinent stranger.
What The Human Centipede 2 does is make your life seem wonderful by comparison – in terms of both its premise and its production. However much my parents might inwardly wish I had chosen a different career path, I am always cheered by the thought of Tom Six having a monthly dinner with his mum and dad, who ask him what he's been up to recently.
TOM: Oh, not much. Still makin' those movies.
PAPA SIX: Well, if that's what makes you happy.
MAMA SIX: Can you pass the gravy, Honey.
PAPA SIX: What have you been working on?
TOM: You know, this one's actually about an obese, bulbous-eyed reject who attaches ten people together by stapling them face to arse. Then he injects them with laxatives and watches as they're forced to eat the explosive shit of the person in front. One of them shoves a live centipede up the man's rectum.
PAPA SIX: Oh for fuck's sake.
MAMA SIX: Tom, what is it with you and arses?
A word so often associated with film is escapism: we go to the cinema to forget ourselves. In Brad Pitt we see the man we wish we were; we imagine in startling detail Scarlett Johansson giving us a sponge bath. A trip to the pictures is an evening lived vicariously: we wish we could rob banks; we wish we could deck enemies with one punch; we wish we could stroll into a bar and say, "Hey Jack, just my usual." Horror films are a sick visitor in this fantasy; why do we wish to force such distress upon ourselves?
The Human Centipede 2 is escapism of a different kind. What its grim, almost unbearable torture does is enable you to actually appreciate everything in your gorgeous life: colours are brighter; your other half is more angelic; the fact that you're not having your tongue ripped out with pliers is cause for celebration. Whereas George Clooney's latest film leaves you blinking into the real world feeling angry that you're not George Clooney, The Human Centipede 2 leaves you ecstatic that you have all your limbs and aren't being fucked by a man who looks like Gollum spent the last thirty years in a fudge shop.
If I am in need of cheering up, I have only to think of the film and I will get a boost from the knowledge that my life is nowhere near as shudderingly depressing. Further to this, it has the ability to empower: once you have endured The Human Centipede 2, you can face anything. I think I could become a surgeon after watching it. Bring on the gore. Bring on the bones. Nothing you can do will hurt me. I have walked into Hell and it's the colour of shit.
The Human Centipede 2 is haunting; over the last two years I have found it truly difficult to shake off. This is why it is so repulsive and why having watched it is important. If a film leaves its fingerprints on your brain, it is telling you something. This may not have been its intention, but The Human Centipede 2 tells you that your life is good. Don't worry. Things are OK. They cannot possibly be as bad as they are for any of the people in the film, nor can your mind be as fucked as the one that made it.
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