Human Centipede, The: First Sequence (2009)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2011-10-07 09:30

Written and Directed by: Tom Six
Starring: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, and Ashlynn Yennie

Reviewed by: Brett G.

ďFeed her!Ē

More than any other genre, horror lends itself to infamy; I imagine that audiences even in the thirties were aghast at some of the lurid (for the time) stuff offered by films of the era. That sentiment extends all the way down through the years, to the Blood Feasts, the Mark of the Devils, and other seminal gross-out flicks that dared to be seen by audiences. I guess the watershed barf bag moment of the past decade is The Human Centipede, which captivated audiences with a disgusting premise.

Iím referring, of course, to the plot by the diabolical Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser). After fusing together some pet dogs, he dreams even bigger, as he intends to create exactly what the title suggests: a human centipede, wherein three unfortunate victims get fused together ass-to-mouth style. He lucks out when a couple of American girls (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie) get stranded near his home; theyíre eventually joined by an unfortunate Japanese tourist (Akihiro Kitamura) that Heiter manages to abduct.

And then theyíre co-joined, literally. And yes, itís sick and disgusting just to think about the logistics of it, as anything the Japanese guy eats has to be digested and ultimately passed through the two gals behind him. That revolting scatological concept is the filmís calling card and really is just about all it has; while director Tom Six is certainly confident and helms his production with ease (the film is shockingly nice to behold), I just canít really get past how silly it all is. Maybe thatís intentional, but aside from its admittedly outrageous centerpiece, this is just a slightly above average horror movie. In fact, to be so ďout there,Ē The Human Centipede sure relies on cramming as many clichťs into its first act as possible: two, shrill, annoying girls get stuck in the middle of nowhere before being approached by a perverted old man (all the while, their cell phones donít work because the only thing more rare than reception in horror movies is a functioning car).

Those two girls are quite annoying as they trade a bunch of witless dialogue; Iím just glad that their eventual fate meant their mouths would be sewn shut. One almost wonders if Six didn't intentionally front load this with a bunch of cliches to butt up against the bizarre central concept; there's certainly a sense that we're supposed to understand how ridiculous all of this is, so maybe that's why the two girls are amplified into typical horror damsels. At any rate, Laser fares much better as the mad doctor, who is just alarmingly insane; however, like most mad men, he can put on an inviting front to lure people into his house of horrors. When he unhinges, itís intense stuff that channels a Kinski-esque screaming German psychopath who is fascinating to watch. Then again, how could this guy not be a little bit fascinating? We never really find out whatís driven him to perform such an outrageous procedure, which could have perhaps made him even more interesting. He was once renowned for the opposite procedure--splitting Siamese twins--so maybe thereís something to be gleaned from his desire for fusion rather than fission.

Or maybe The Human Centipede really is just another in a long line of infamous horror flicks whose craziness demands attention. I certainly canít deny that much, as the actual human centipede is a demented conception that took some fearless performances from the actors involved. The actual construction of the centipede isnít really shown, though we get all the glimpses we need; likewise, actual gore and excrement isnít all that abundant. This could be a case of a filmís infamy diluting its actual potency because I might have been expecting something truly revolting; that I didnít get that might actually be good thing, so maybe I shouldnít complain. Instead, Iíll say that the film has two genuinely disturbing moments: one involves stairs, which are always a tricky proposition in horror films but even more so when it involves coordinated movement between Siamese triplets connected at the anus and mouth.

The other moment involves the final fate of one of the victims, who is left in a truly despairing position by the end. In a film that mostly relies on shock value, this is a genuinely unsettling moment as youíre left to ponder what this person will have to endure. Iím mostly intrigued by where the sequel will take the concept, as this film doesnít lend itself to a sequel, let alone a trilogy (which Six has planned). I think it's interesting that the film's central image is an absurd metaphor for the way we digest and recycle shit, and I would like to see Six take that notion even further. Is it supposed to be a commentary that condemns how we're all too eager to swallow and pass on the various bullshit that's fed to us? Maybe. Apparently, part two is going to take a meta approach that obviously lends itself to this sort of exploration, and I hope it does.

For the moment, though, thereís just this one, which was released on DVD and Blu-ray last October by IFC films. Iíve actually had the high def disc sitting on my shelf since its release week, and it revealed itself to be a fine presentation--the detail is sharp, and the sound is robust despite only being a stereo track. The various special features (which arenít in HD) include some behind the scenes stuff, an interview with Six, casting tapes, a foley session, a deleted scene, alternate posters, and a feature commentary with Six. As a film whose central concept essentially involves ingesting shit, The Human Centipede surely delivers what youíd expect with its gross gags and the almost comedic antics of its mad doctor. Call it the cinematic equivalent of "2 Girls 1 Cup," I guess--it's something that just begs to be seen, and I suppose it also proves that is alright to go ass-to-mouth at least once. Rent it!

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