There was a time when the first Human Centipede film managed to get a cult audience based on its reputation alone. But unlike other transgressive cult films, like Pink Flamingos or Cannibal Holocaust, it has nothing to say. The characters existed just to be captured by a mad scientist, the mad scientist only was interested in creating the titular monster.

Now, this description applies to several b-grade horror films. But those movies have a sense of fun, or at least a sense of pathos. Ed Wood in Bride of the Monster allowed Bela Lugosi to have some humanity through a rambling monologue about how “he has no home.” It was a dumb monologue but even Wood knew that we couldn’t just say the villain as the bad guy who only exists to service the plot. One of the few things I did like about the movie is the late Dieter Laser’s performance as Doctor Heiter, who creates a ”human centipede” in which three people are stitched together mouth to anus so everyone shares one digestive system. His menace reminded me of Boris Karloff in his later years. Yet it wasn’t enough because I didn’t care about the people he was menacing.

The first film was awful, but this film makes it look like the original Psycho. This is a true cinematic atrocity, which only exists to disgust people who dare watch it. It’s horrible to look at, no one in the movie can act, and once again, like a geek show, it’s another example of a ton of anticipation with very little pay off.

Director Tom Six (his last film came out in 2015 and he’s currently trying to get his latest film, The Onania Club, a distribution deal) made all three films in the Human Centipede trilogy. I have not, as of this writing, seen the third one and had vowed never to re-watch this movie after seeing it once. Yet here I am.  

I don’t hate deliberately controversial films necessarily. Art should push cultural boundaries. Horror as entertainment has been around for millennia and there’s no reason for artists to avoid using gore for shock value. (Just ask Sophocles.) And some of the most extreme horror films can offer appropriate social criticism. Salo, despite its controversial content, is making the same points Johnathan Swift was in A Modest Proposal. What the four leads do to the kids is disgusting, yes, but it was that way because Passolini wanted to ask why the audience lets other exploitation of lower classes by the upper classes occur. Is Salo the limit? If not, what is?

Yet there are films that don’t understand this and thinks the shocking content only needs to exists to be shocking. That’s what Human Centipede 2’s greatest flaw is, and this is such a basic point I shouldn’t have to make it. Even South Park understood the titular Centipede needed to mean something. Yet the worst part is that Human Centipede 2 pretends like it has a point to make.

I’ll start with our “protagonist.” Martin, the new man behind the Centipede, is a deeply unpleasant specimen. He comes from a dark background (his father sexually abused him and his psychiatrist is continuing to do so) but channels his trauma into an obsession of repeatedly watching the first film as we works as a security guard in a parking lot. He looks like a cross between Rodney Dangerfield and a bullfrog, he barely talks, and he masturbates using sandpaper. So what am I supposed to think? Is this how Six genuinely views his fans? The actor, Laurence R Harvey, does give off unsettling vibes and could have made a great Oswald Cobblepot in a Batman movie. Yet after watching this, I can’t tell if he can act. He seemingly lets everything wash over him until he’s required by the script to bash someone with a crowbar.

Martin could have been used to make a point about how media can shape the minds of unstable individuals if he was written to have been more like John Hinckley Jr (who famously cited Taxi Driver as his inspiration for trying to assassinate President Reagan). But we’re never given an opportunity to know Martin as a human being. Why is he obsessed with The Human Centipede? Is it because he feels the creature is the ultimate happy family, unable to be separated? How does he feel as he creates his own through brutal methods? Where did he learn the medical knowledge necessary to perform the crude surgery? And why doesn’t he speak, or at least not speak to the audience? Is it related to his obsession with the first film?

And above all, the film can’t decide how audiences are supposed to react to Martin. I was confused the entire time whether this was supposed to make me laugh at him or make me feel sorry for him. There’s a scene that’s practically copy pasted from Eraserhead, with Martin’s abusive mother yelling at him while his psychiatrist tries to figure him out. (“The centipede is a phallic symbol,” etc.) It’s out of place in this movie because Tom Six doesn’t realize Eraserhead is meant to be funny. It’s an odd sense of humor but it’s still humor and when Henry meets his girlfriend’s family, we learn everything we need to know about him and his “family.” Henry’s a scared man who doesn’t know what adulthood should be.

The most we learn watching this movie is that Martin is getting some sort of sexual thrill out of the centipede. Why? Is related to the giant pet centipede he keeps in a vivarium? Also, for a man barely able to function, Martin is very adept at conning Hollywood agencies to send their actors over to Britain for phony auditions. This scam actually leads to one of the actresses from the first film (playing herself) going to England to audition for a nonexistent Quentin Tarantino movie. How was Martin able to do that? We never find out. By the time he builds his Centipede, I didn’t care. I knew Six was only interested in making the treatment of his victims as agonizing as possible.

And agonizing it is. Instead of the careful surgical precision of the first film (which was mostly unseen), we get to see every staple placed in everyone’s – and get to see parts of the centipede tear away from other parts. It’s exactly as pleasant as it sounds. And there is indeed a scene in which a newborn baby has its head crushed – by the mother, no less, under a car pedal as she tries to flee Martin’s horror factory. Why did that need to be in the film? I already understood why Martin’s victims would be desperate and scared. What was the point of that?  

I don’t want to sound like I’m moralizing and dismissing the film because of its grotesque content. My objection is it doesn’t mean anything. It’s one thing to try to use extreme content to attempt to make a point and fail at making that point, like the French horror film Martyrs. But the first Human Centipede had no message and this movie is angry at us for expecting it to have one. It throws some faux drama scenes into the run time to pretend like we should try to understand Martin, and then abandons it entirely just to show him at his most depraved.

Martin is seemingly killed at the end after someone inserts his pet centipede into him via a funnel (or perhaps not – it’s entirely possible the events in the movie only existed in Martin’s mind, and the last shot of the film brings us back to watching Martin watch the first movie in that parking garage again). His death is a far more pleasant experience than watching this movie.

Next time, we’ll be looking at 2009’s Stan Helsing, a horror parody that promises to be so unfunny it’s scary. We’ll see if it lives up to its reputation.

About the Author

Daniel Suddes

Daniel Suddes lives in Atlanta and is a panelist on the "Myopia: Defend Your Childhood" podcast (

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