The Human Centipede
Details: (R18+), 92 mins, Netherlands,
Synopsis: Two pretty American girls on a road trip across Europe end up alone in the woods at night when their car breaks down in rural Germany. As they search for help they find an isolated house. Offering to call them a taxi, the house's owner Dr. Heiter, a retired surgeon, invites the girls inside with the promise of a drink and dry place to wait for help to arrive. Too late they realise that there is something not quite right about the formidable Dr. Heiter...As their demented host explains his twisted vision, the two girls discover that they are soon to become a lot closer to each other than they ever wanted to be. Heiter's plan is to connect the two girls, along with a third person, a hapless Japanese tourist, to each other via their gastric systems in a daring bid to be the first person to create a Siamese triplet bringing to life his sick lifetime fantasy 'The Human Centipede'.
Gruesome concept elicits dark giggles.
Even if director Tom Six’s The Human Centipede represents the absolute pinnacle of films about three people with their bottoms stitched to each other’s mouths (and it’s fair to say it probably does), it is perfectly warranted to question its overall worthiness, even existence.
But, in all fairness, all films should be afforded the same level of critical analysis based upon the medium’s commonalities – script, acting, direction, etc – regardless of subject 'matter' (no pun intended, but expect plenty). So it comes as a delightful surprise that, on those terms alone, The Human Centipede is a pretty good film.
Oozing a dark menace that comes from some very fluid, self-assured camera work in the opening moments, Six introduces us to his villain, Dr Heiter (Dieter Laser) as he sits alone in his car by the kerb of a motorway off-ramp. He stares longingly at a photo, soon revealed to be his beloved ‘drei-hund’ – a deceased canine prototype of his ‘Centipede’ experiment.
We soon meet Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie), the two American tourists who, following a blow-out on a lonely road one dark, stormy night, find themselves drugged and tied to guerneys in Dr. Heiter’s soundproof cellar. It is in this state that they meet Japanese tourist and fellow abductee Katsuro (Akihiro Kitamura) and are shown by Dr. Heiter, via some crudely-drawn projections, exactly what he has in store for them. After a determined escape attempt by Jenny, Dr. Heiter begins the procedure that will turn them into the titular malformation. (I’d really rather not go into the exact details of exactly how the ‘human centipede’ is made, suffice to say that the surgical procedures involved are graphically portrayed and, apparently, entirely plausible.)
The limitations of the film’s narrative are exposed from here on in. Once you’ve stitched three people together bum-to-gum there is not a lot of things you can do with them (though, in one blackly hilarious scene, Dr Heiter tries to teach the Centipede to fetch the morning paper). Kitamiru, using his native tongue, has a powerful scene where he blames his predicament on past indiscretions; the girls spend the rest of the film with little to say and no way of saying it. All credit to the actresses for maintaining a sense of dignity and conveying strength of character despite facing real hardship. The audience is basically privy to the worst moments in the new creation’s life, including but not limited to the inevitable ‘feeding’ scene.
A well-staged but exceedingly conventional payoff highlights the fact that the film, despite being based on a perversely scatological and quite horrific premise, is actually rather palatable in its execution.
Nevertheless, director Six (whose name better not be some kind of ‘Number 2 x 3’ promotional ploy) proves himself to be an understated, convincing filmmaker, capable of creating genuine menace and giggly dark humour out of a patently absurd notion. With cultdom assured for Laser’s OTT Dr. Heiter (I’m reminded of the Seinfeld episode featuring the personalised ‘Assman’ number plates) and publicity-friendly debate certain to rage amongst squeamish conservatives along the lines of “Have horror films gone too far?”, expect The Human Centipede to be a rite-of-passage horror DVD for the next generation of chill-seeking teenagers.
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