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Thursday, 3 November 2011

Uncoiling "The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)"!

Tom Six’s original horror classic went down in history, as one of the most shocking and original films seen in the genre. It caused a lot of complaints, especially from the “Daily Mail” brigade, and ruffled many a feather, but the BBFC granted the film full and uncut status. It become a cult hit, and made Six a career-defining name.

Now, we have the sequel. And this time, it’s even more grotesque!

Back in 2010, Six had warned critics, censors and fans, that the sequel would not be an easy ride. When the finished film was then submitted to the BBFC in June 2011, the BBFC looked at it, and Rejected it soon after. At the time, they said:

“Unlike the first film, the sequel presents graphic images... and the viewer is invited to witness events from the perspective of the protagonist. The principal focus... is the sexual arousal of the central character... the spectacle of the total degradation, humiliation, mutilation, torture, and murder of his naked victims. It is the Board’s conclusion that (the film) poses a real, as opposed to a fanciful, risk that harm is likely to be caused to potential viewers. It is the Board’s view that there is a genuine risk that this video work may be considered obscene within the terms of the Obscene Publications Act...”

As soon as this Press Report was made public, fans were aghast and shocked that the BBFC really believed that a film could be considered so depraved, as to genuinely be obscene (under the legal definition of the word). Six himself, was also very angry at the way the PR release made public large amounts of detail about the film’s content, when it was not going to be released in the UK at all. Eureka Films, more famous in the UK for their “Masters Of Cinema” releases, suddenly found themselves corralled into a gigantic furore: they had their hands on a film that could not now be shown in the UK, under any circumstances! (At the time, the film had only been submitted for home viewing, and not theatrical showings.) Worse still, Eureka was one of many small, niche distributors who had already suffered severe financial hardship, after the London Riots over the summer had destroyed the Sony DADC distribution plant in Enfield, destroying millions of pounds worth of independent label stock. A crisis was now in full force!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, the Office of Film And Literature Classification (OFLC) in Australia – their equivalent of the BBFC – had, rather shockingly, passed THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II completely uncut and uncensored for theatrical distribution! This was a double surprise, as Australia is a fairly censorious nation, and normally the OFLC are far stricter than the BBFC, and rarely pass material that the BBFC wouldn’t. An infamous teaser trailer was quickly leaked online, which went global, promoting the UK banning, and the insidious and depraved nature of the film, whilst simultaneously gloating that Australia would be the first country to see the film in its complete form.

Roll forward exactly four-months-to-the-day, and with the film not making an appearance in Australia, due to fear of fallout from the film’s notoriety, the BBFC announced that they had agreed a version of the film that Eureka could release, both theatrically and for home viewing. The cost came at a high price: 32 separate cuts, across eight particular scenes, with 2m 37s worth of material being excised! At last, the film could now be shown and released in the UK.

Back in Australia, the film still hadn’t premiered, but a date was eventually announced for it as the 5th November 2011 at the Brisbane International Film Festival. Here in the UK, a theatrical release was pretty much cancelled, other than a couple of late-night festival showings in London, and the public at large finally got to see what all the fuss was about on the 31st October, when the film was given a release on DVD and Blu-Ray as an HMV Exclusive. (It will then be launched elsewhere, and be available online at Amazon, from the 21st November!)

So, with all of that said and done, what have we been left with? Is this film actually any good?

The film follows Martin, a socially and mentally-challenged man in his mid-forties, who works as a security guard at a Central London car park. It is here that during his shifts, he watches the original THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE movie endlessly on DVD, whilst secretly fantasising about creating his own deviant “centipede”, with which to sexually satisfy himself. When not watching the film, he has his personal scrapbook to indulge in, containing photos and plans of his unholy creation, as well as explicit details of how he intends to create it, much of which has been duplicated from Dr Heiter’s own work in the first film.

At home, living in a squalid council flat, with his mum, we learn that Martin’s a little unhinged, as he was sexually abused by his father. Father is now serving life in prison, but his mum has never forgiven Martin for her husband being taken away from the family nest. In the lounge, he keeps a centipede as a pet, which he feeds live bugs too, and which he obtains a sexual frisson from, when he does so. The film follows Martin as he goes about finding victims – of both genders – to collate and eventually stitch together, to form the 12-person centipede.

By now, you’re all wondering if the film is worth it. How badly have the cuts affected the film. Well, having watched the cut version on DVD, I can now say that if you enjoyed the original, you will probably get a kick out of the sequel.

Unfortunately, the cuts are very noticeable. There are at least two major censorship moments in which the scene builds-up to a murder, only for the living victim to suddenly turn up dead, without any explanation. (The viewer is thus forced to fill-in the blanks for themselves.) And there are times, when the cuts are less obvious, but are extensive. Due to this, you have to judge the film on what remains, not on what might have been there originally. Thus many people will feel it wrong for me to recommend a cut version of a film. However, if there is no alternative, (and there isn’t at this time, despite many claims on the Internet to the contrary), we have to deal with being the only nation in the whole world to have the film on DVD legally, albeit not the complete version.

The cuts are bad. Yet, what remains still makes sense, for the most part, and still makes a very interesting film.

The first thing that will shock and surprise many, is the gorgeous, hi-def digital monochrome cinematography, which is absolutely divine. If you watch this movie on Blu-Ray, then you will certainly gain a lot more of an appreciation for the film. It may be an unusual choice, but it does add a very fetishistic and mechanised gleam to it, not unlike the blue-sheen tint that Shinya Tsukamoto gave to A SNAKE OF JUNE back in 2002. The close-ups of Martin’s pet centipede, really gives you the creeps, especially with the added foley effects. You’ll never look at a centipede in quite the same manner.

Alas, the acting is universally dire! The only person who comes out of this film with any kind of positivity, is Laurence R. Harvey, who as Martin, gives a sickeningly repellent performance of the disturbed loner. At times, you feel utter pity for him. At others, you will be incensed by his actions, but his performance is outstanding, and for a character who is largely mute throughout the films running time, his physicality is what makes him so memorable. (His dance, during the “Making Of” documentary, brings to mind Malcolm McDowell’s “Singing In The Rain” scene from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE: a twisted homage, if ever I saw one!)

Even original “Centipede” cast member, Ashlynn Yennie, who appears in this film as herself, comes across even dumber than her character already is. Some stupefyingly crass dialogue and character plot points, that are big enough for the 12-person-long centipede to crawl through, with ample room for manoeuvere, make her presence almost unwarranted. You have to wonder if Tom Six really needed the original star to return, or whether it just gave the sequel more bankability with the financiers. This is a real shame, as in the “Behind The Scenes” featurette, she comes across as quite a likeable young actress.

Only Martin’s mum, and his psychologist, who hams it up for all its worth, and turns him into a figure of fun, rather than a figure of fear, really have any other notable screen-time. The next door neighbour, a neo-nazi skinhead psychobilly Cockney geezer of a whack-job has no redeeming points at all, and the actor who plays him is one of the most untalented actors I’ve ever seen! Tom Six needed his head examining for employing this guy alone! Terrible!

With that all said, though, the film is good, and does work. It is definitely far more disturbing than the original, even with all of the flaws and issues I’ve described above. The final 15 minutes are unbearably sick, and I’m still surprised that what is shown, was still passed at an 18 certificate level, without more extensive cuts. There are moments that will test even some of the stronger-stomached amongst you, and there is one scene that is going to cause many genuinely serious offence, because of its content. Just as there was major controversy over the whole “newborn porn” scene in 2010’s A SERBIAN FILM, the finale of “HC2” has another explicitly violent scene involving the killing of a newborn infant, that – whilst aiming to be a sick and twisted piece of humour – is definitely going to make many feel that the rule of censorship needs re-examining! I won’t say any further, but even in the cut UK DVD edition, you know what happens, even without seeing it, and when you realise what it is, it leaves a very sick feeling in your stomach!

Ironically, with all of the censorship that the film has endured, the extras are another issue. If  you watch the “Foley Recording Session” and the “Making Of” featurette, both feature some of the material that was cut from the UK release. The material is in the background, on monitors and suchlike, but the BBFC has quite obviously not examined them closely enough, as some of the banned material is now there for everyone to view! This makes a mockery of both the BBFC and their decision to cut the film in the first place. Still, they are interesting extras to watch, and it’s blatantly clear that the cast and crew had a thoroughly enjoyable time filming this movie in Central London, (Westminster and Battersea to be exact), despite its content. Short and sweet they maybe, but don’t watch the extras, before the film, as they contain major spoilers. And if you want to see just how you make and film a “Human Centipede”, then all will be revealed. The interview with Six himself, is nice enough, but it is clear that the positive discussion was filmed during the making of the movie, and not after the fall-out when it was first passing through the BBFC’s hallowed halls. Admittedly, though, he does impart a few interesting tidbits, but not enough overall. There’s one Deleted Scene, that is pointless in its content and shouldn’t even really qualify as a “deleted scene” at all, in my view, but it’s been included for completion’s sake.

Lastly, if you buy the DVD from HMV, you will find four postcard-sized artcards, with scenes from the film. These are limited to the initial run of the DVD sets only.

I should state that no other official uncut release has yet been announced, anywhere. I hope that either NjutaFilms or Another World Entertainment will produce a decent quality release soon, (hopefully without burnt-in subtitles), for those who want to own the full and uncut version. Early information from across the pond, however, is that the eventual US release will still be cut, as even they didn’t want to incur any legal and moral fallout from an uncut release of “A Serbian Film”.

Bizarrely, the UK DVD release runs for 87m 52s, yet the BBFC site claims it runs for 84m 19s, with the uncut version running to 86m 50s. This is highly irregular, and I wonder if there has been some extra material inserted into the cut version to pad it out a bit? Overall then, not the best sequel in the world, but an interestingly twisted and very nasty second part to the (eventual) trilogy, that has and will always get some people’s backs up, due to its sickening and divisive content! Recommended, if you approach it with an open mind, and a cast-iron stomach, even in this censored form!

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