As an actor, what do you say when your agent tells you that you’re up for a part, but that the part involves your face being attached to another actor’s ass for most of the movie? That probably doesn’t come up often, but it must have when Dutch writer/director Tom Six was casting his horror film “The Human Centipede (First Sequence)”.
“The Human Centipede (First Sequence)” is the “the most fucked up movie ever” of the moment, and it is out today on DVD/Blu-ray. The movie has become so much of a pop culture phenomenon that it has its very own porno spoof. That’s a good way to judge if a film has truly hit the mainstream or not, that and if they spoof it at some MTV awards show.
The movie begins with a creepy guy in a trench coat and sunglasses shooting a trucker who is trying to drop a deuce in the woods. Then you meet two sorority girls who are clubbing their way across Europe. They’re obnoxious, vapid, and arrogantly American, the type of people who think speaking English loud and slow makes it understandable to people who don’t speak English. They’re the female equivalent of the bros from “Hostel”. Right away you want something awful to happen to them. You’ll feel bad about that later.
The set up is pretty standard horror movie fare. On their way to meet a cute German waiter, Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jennie (Ashlynn Yennie) get a flat tire on a lonely stretch of desolate road in the middle of rainstorm. Of course their cell phones don’t work, cell phones never work in horror movies. The propagation of mobile devices has indelibly altered the landscape of horror cinema. Now every film has to have a scene that explains why the characters don’t just get on their phones and call for help or tell someone where they are. These moments are now almost obligatory.
After wandering around in the woods for a while, Lindsay and Jennie have the horrible luck to knock on the door of Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser, who looks like Christopher Walken’s emaciated cousin), a Nazi-esque mad scientist, who drugs them and straps them to hospital beds in his basement. Heiter also happens to be the creepy trench coat guy from earlier, and the trucker, who wanted nothing more than to crap in peace, is tied up next to them. Before long the trucker is killed and replaced with a Japanese man (Akihiro Kitamura).
Heiter made a reputation and fortune separating Siamese twins, but now he has different aspirations. His god complex has grown so out of control that now he dreams of creating a human centipede by sewing people together, mouth to ass. Though he claims to be a famous surgeon his surgery skills are somewhat suspect since every time they show him slicing human flesh it is obvious his cuts aren’t all that smooth.
Here is the main problem with “The Human Centipede”. It claims to be sick and perverse, it pretends to be psychologically horrifying, but in reality, it’s just a silly, middle of the road horror movie. Heiter is a cartoonish villain, much more ridiculous than frightening. Seriously, he’s got an overhead projector and gives a detailed presentation about how he’s going to stitch his victims together. There are a lot more laughs than you would think, but they’re not all intentional. If you have much experience with horror as a genre, you’re probably going to laugh every time Heiter pauses to flare his nostrils and glare, which happens every few minutes.
The movie isn’t even as twisted as it wants to be, which is saying something about a movie where the main plot point is a bunch of people who’ve had their lips stitched to another person’s rectum. There is little blood and gore, and Six does a decent job of implying things rather than overtly showing everything, which is what keeps this from being torture porn. The most disgusting thing in the movie is actually a close up of a steak.
The movie is the most tense and suspenseful when Lindsay is trying to escape, but that is a five-minute sequence in the middle of the movie, and it is over too quickly. This is where you start to feel sympathy for the heroines. Sure they may be intolerable and abrasive as people, but you can’t help but feel bad for them, kidnapped, tortured, and sewn together with a stranger.
Honestly, the movie feels over after about an hour. After that the centipede is complete, and most of what follows feels tacked on and forced, like the filmmakers weren’t sure what to do next.
For a few minutes, right near the end, “The Human Centipede” does verge on completely amazing. So much so that it almost makes up for having to wait through the mediocre film that precedes it. But before it can redeem the film, before it can make the movie awesome, they totally fuck it up. It is so awesome for just a moment then they waste it. The moment creeps right up to the precipice of being incredible, but then blows the opportunity with some nonsense that comes out of nowhere. Telling you what happens would give away too much, but they ruin what could have and should have been the best part of the movie.
In the end, “The Human Centipede” is decent, but it didn’t blow me away. The idea is cool, and there are moments where Six almost pulls it off, but it isn’t nearly as horrifying, grotesque, or shocking as people make it out to be. Though it isn’t horrible, it is also is far from great. It is just okay and doesn’t seem worthy of all of the buzz and hype.
The DVD comes with a deleted scene that is deleted because it is idiotic. It involves Heiter dancing around like a jackass as the Human Centipede cries behind him. If the scene had been in the finished film it would have sent the whole thing tumbling down into a pit of absurdity. The collection of behind the scenes footage is just that, a reel of out of context video from the set that doesn’t add much. Film of a Foley session is interesting if you’ve never seen that sort of thing, and some casting tapes are included.
The best bonus features are an interview and feature-length commentary with Six. He has an obvious affection for his film, and doesn’t take it too seriously. Nothing would have been more off-putting than had he sat there for 90-minutes talking about how great the movie is and how it is the sickest thing ever. Listening to him is both engaging and entertaining, and it makes me want to watch the sequel, which he promises will be so over the top even the most misshapen, jaded viewers will have trouble watching it. Supposedly there will be a twelve-person centipede.
A lot of hardcore horror fans are probably going to love this, while novices will find it stomach churning and repulsive. It is better than most recent American horror, but I still think it is just okay.
Tom Six (writer/director)
CAST: Dieter Laser … Dr. Heiter
Ashley C. Williams … Lindsay
Ashlynn Yennie … Jennie
Akihiro Kitamura … Katsuro