Director/provocateur Tom Six unleashes a sequel to The Human Centipede (First Sequence) that's stylistically gorgeous and thematically repellent in near-equal measures. This follow-up, which premiered last week at Fantastic Fest 2011, is likely to be as divisive as its predecessor, which was a Fantastic Fest 2009 favorite that gained notoriety almost entirely by word of mouth.
The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) is the cinematic equivalent of a triple-dog-dare from hell. You wonder if, by announcing the sequel at FF 2009 – long before he'd even begun preproduction on it – Six backed himself into something of a corner. A corner begrimed with blacker-than-black, death-camp humor and human feces to be sure, but a corner nevertheless.
Six's biggest coup is, again, his lead actor. This time it's the ickily riveting Laurence R. Harvey, who plays Martin, an obese, dwarfish man-child who works as a security guard in a car park in some unknown, presumably British, backwater. Martin spends his downtime endlessly watching a DVD of The Human Centipede (First Sequence) on his laptop. The fact that Six has suddenly gone all meta on us pales in comparison to the ghastly realization that this pop-eyed, Peter Lorre-esque pervert is taking notes. It's not long before – you guessed it! – Martin has mangled his domineering mum and has started collecting interchangeable victims to, well, interchange.
Six outdoes himself in the disgusting bodily fluids department, but you can't shake the feeling that he's trying way, way too hard. After all, in a black-and-white film, do we really need to see the coprophagic torrents in living (and dying) color? Brown appears to be the overall mood of this film, not crimson like its predecessor. All of this is fair "can you take it?" territory, but in he end you find yourself wondering where Nineties-era German cinema-transgressor Jörg Buttgereit is, and when he might deign to make Nekromantik 3. As for Human Centipede 2, well, frankly it kind of sucks ass. And we mean that literally.
A version of this review previously appeared as a blog post at austinchronicle.com/screens.