It’s really about two stories. That’s what brought me into court that day.
Exhibit A was The Avengers, Exhibit B was The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence. I had requested both films be shown in court as part of my defense. It’s amazing the demands one can make in the name of justice, especially when serving as one’s own attorney.
The prosecutor, a crew-cut, beefy fellow I came to refer to as Biff J. Downerpants, made his objections about relevance, yapping about how I was wasting the court's time, making a mockery, clearly unstable ... blah blah blah. This was, after-all, a simple trespassing case. But my argument was about the state of mind brought on by these two stories. One, a wretched creature consisting of absurd, half-developed characters stitched together mouth-to-ass. The other is The Human Centipede 2.
Over-ruled. The court will allow it.
So let’s start from the beginning.
As the proprietor of a thriving street corner spare change procurement operation, I had the wherewithal to pay for my theatrical film-going experiences, even if I did disappear into the shadowy recesses of the theater when doing so. However, during my first attempt at legitimately attending a screening of The Avengers, my off-putting appearance drew a great deal of criticism from the mooing fan-boys in ill-fitting comic character-centric t-shirts. I fled from the theater at first, shouting something about “making them all pay.” I returned later that night, sneaking in through a back door which had been left propped open by a popcorn slinger who had stepped out for a smoke behind the dumpsters.
Within 7 minutes of the start, the dialogue “I am Loki of Asgard, and I am burdened with glorious purpose” caused a rise of thick tidal vomit in the back of my throat. And so begins the forced assembly of these disparate characters to meet the threat. Samuel L. Jackson’s one-eyed leather jacketed bad-ass motherfucker Nick Fury, introduced through small cameos in earlier films, takes center stage as the first to encounter the malevolent threat of the mythical God Loki who, after mind-controlling some locals, manages to escape in the back of a pick-up truck. Based on the cartoon that follows, this opening sequence is refreshingly quaint, harkening back to a day when the laws of physics were at least given a cigarette before being blindfolded up against a wall and shot.
We meet Black Widow, a master assassin played by Scarlett Johansson-cum-highly fetishized murder-gymnast, as she is questioned in a quasi-rapey hostage scenario. She escapes thanks to an extreme amount of trust she puts in her own ability to do a backflip while strapped into a chair. Soon she’s sent to gather up Bruce Banner, also known as The Incredible Hulk. It’s not his ability to morph into a mindless green destructo-goliath that the team’s after. They want his knowledge of gamma radiation because … well, the why isn’t important. It’s shrouded in so much pseudo-techno-babble that the dialogue on “24” sounds authentic by comparison.
(At this point in the court proceedings, I gave myself a high-five for that chop.)
The movie lumbers along with a story more perfunctory than a midnight truck stop rest room hand job. We meet Captain America, Iron Man and Thor, all beneficiaries of their own films providing back-story. And we meet Hawkeye, whose super power is that he can make Jeremy Renner look even more disinterested in being on camera than usual. Then we’re treated to overacting of some of the most painful dialogue this side of a “Cash for Gold” infomercial. Loki goes on and on, making his case for why the quest for individual freedom is crushing the human condition. In Loki’s universe, everyone should just give up hope and they’ll be happy. I can’t say I disagree.
Robert Downey Jr. is the high point of the film, but mostly because his dialogue is fused with wit and delivered with a rare likable smugness. Everyone else has to deliver awkward exposition over-explaining the over-simple plot.
“I fail to see what this has to do with Human Centipede 2, your honor.” Biff blurted out.
Plot, your honor. After all, isn’t that what we’re here for? Plot?
And I believe, nay, I know that in the dearth of plot exhibited by both films, their playing fields are equal, and Human Centipede 2 is the superior film.
Over-ruled. I’ll make my case.
Following my viewing of The Avengers, I found myself wandering the streets in a state of near-catatonic self-loathing. What had I just witnessed? Had I, a grown man, actually just watched what amounted to a big-budget, two-and-a-half hour episode of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers”? And more than that, had I achieved this through multiple attempts at legitimately doing so using my own hard-begged money? I had left myself vulnerable and exposed, enduring the taunts and snickers, for this?
[Read IN staffer Sean Curry's glowing review of The Avengers here]
When my mental waters are muddied by my lowest expectations being so thoroughly savaged, I find an even worse film to be the perfect palate cleanser. I usually flip through my internal rolodex of terrible cinema for something that I had already seen to comfort me with the knowledge that “at least it was better than this turd.” I cannot count the number of times Mortal Kombat: Annihilation has rescued me from the teetering edge of oblivion. But on this night, I needed something new and irrational. Something to shake my disdain loose from its foundations.
I happen to know Big Wally’s Video Hut on Colfax doesn’t have a very robust security system. I managed to jimmy open the back door with a rusty flat-head screwdriver. Once inside I sought out my salvation: Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence (henceforth in these proceedings to be referred to as simply HC2).
I had heard much of this film. It had been banned in the UK for its depravity. Having seen the first film, and the fact that it hadn’t been similarly banned, I was acutely attuned to the possibilities portended by such action against the sequel. Reviews and comments noted its lackluster plot, over-the-top self-congratulatory nature, and cynical catering to the basest cravings of its target audience. Having just sat through a similar experience, I only hoped that it could offer a redeeming perspective. Kind of like slamming your balls in a car door to get your mind off of a foot cramp.
It begins with Martin, a portly, mentally disturbed man who spends his days working in a parking garage and masturbating to a DVD of the original Human Centipede. He obsesses on the film, filling in a scrap-book with press clippings and drawings of the hideous mouth-to-anus construction of infamy. He’s the ultimate fan-boy, driven to hideous depths by an unthinkable identification with his fictional hero. Sounds familiar.
Martin’s home life with his abusive mother culminates in him caving her head in with a crowbar, but only after the first part of the movie establishes that she really kind of deserves it. This frees him up to pursue his true passion: creating his own “human centipede” in the style of the first film, which had outlined it as a relatively simple procedure. The only problem is Martin’s a disorganized simpleton with no medical training or sterile supplies at his disposal. But he does have plenty of random tools like hammers, pliers, staple guns, and duct tape. Fortune favors the brave.
Victims are procured through absurd opportunity, such as when Martin’s oddly-bearded therapist inexplicably turns up in the parking garage engaged in a sex act with a prostitute in the back of a cab while the driver waxes poetic about how wonderful the whole experience is. Two victims suddenly multiply to four, then to eight, and before you know it, Martin is staple-gunning the faces of a dozen victims to each other’s asses, capped off with one of the actresses of the original film, playing herself, at the front.
And so, with the kind permission of the court – and the assistance of Exhibit C: a PowerPoint presentation I had designed for the occasion – I moved on to my closing arguments. And it began simply with this: neither film necessarily qualifies as good cinema. Neither film can truly stand on its own without the crutch of earlier works providing context. They are both merely spectacle, aimed either at devout fans or the curious bystanders wondering what all the fuss is about. Those who hunger for stories and characters that attempt to illuminate and elevate the human condition would do wise to avoid these films altogether. However, for what they try to accomplish, HC2 is the more successful of the two. Which is like saying that it’s the winner in a self-dismemberment contest.
Make no mistake: HC2 is a vile and repulsive film, but it has a certain integrity that is lacking in The Avengers. It owns its absurdity with a straight face while The Avengers distances itself with cheap one-liners that only draws attention to how full of crap this endeavor is. HC2 is a meta-film about fan-boy obsession run amok, whereas The Avengers is that fan-boy obsession run amok. The Avengers audience is the back-end of a human centipede on 10-cent taco night. In either case, someone’s getting a face-full of ass.
And finally, while it’s not necessarily a good film, at least HC2 was an hour shorter.
So I rested my case and took a bow for the court, confident that I had clearly explained why I was discovered at Big Wally’s Video Hut the next morning, curled into a ball on the floor as the film played on the wall of screens in a perpetual loop. My situation was not helped by my muttering “I am the tail section… I am the tail section” over and over as the police led me away, but I hadn’t had much to eat that day, so it was probably some kind of electrolyte imbalance thing happening.
It’s been a few days since the court rendered its verdict which, in layman’s terms, was “too cuckoo to go to jail”. Biff J. Downerpants took mercy and sent me to a very nice care facility. While I find the pristine white surroundings and heavy narcotic regimen rather soothing, the wide-open spaces and constant prying eyes are troublesome.
Perhaps they’re right when they tell me that I’m not quite ready for the outside world. As much as I despised the experience, there was true camaraderie among the audience in attendance at The Avengers. They laughed in unison at references lost on me. The villainous dialogue of Loki, which flowed like poorly translated anime, seemed to strike a chord of menace that added to the tension and culminated in applause at the end of that infernal two-and-a-half hour run-time, all topped off with a post-credits “Easter egg” promising yet another sequel which drew even more applause. This is who they insist I become to prove I’m “normal” if I want to ensure my release.
And prove it I shall. With Dark Knight Rises and Prometheus coming out soon, I need to get my ass back to my corner for some ticket money.
Image courtesy of the author