The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009) Movie Review

27 Comments

For the past several years, I have been completely underwhelmed by American horror films. I have criticized their lack of ambition, ridiculed their penchant for remakes, reimaginings, and reboots, belittled the distributors who provide a platform for underachieving directors, and poked fun at the genre’s overall lack of imagination. Even the once-intriguing “torture porn” subgenre has become nothing more than a series of impossibly cheap rehashes, rip-offs, and shoddy direct-to-video reach-arounds. It’s hard to get excited about an industry that keeps feeding its audience the same old thing, especially when there are so many other options to explore.

Tom Six’s remarkably twisted 2009 psycho-thriller “The Human Centipede (First Sequence)” is a prime example of why I’ve slowly turned my cinematic attention towards motion pictures produced overseas. Everything about this odd little movie is inventive, imaginative, and above all else, wholly original in both design and execution. Rarely do I find myself looking away from something unfolding across my television screen, but Six managed to accomplish this astounding feat several times over the course of this undeniably deranged 90-minute sideshow. Much like the demented Dr. Heiter, Tom Six is one sick, sadistic bastard who revels in his ability to unnerve his captors.

After a somewhat conventional opening that involves two girls, a flat tire, and a mysterious house in the middle of nowhere, “The Human Centipede” gradually begins to find its footing. Drenched from head-to-toe and desperate to locate someone who isn’t a stark-raving lunatic, Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) arrive on the doorstep of the mad Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser). Despite giving off an impossibly creepy vibe, the rain-soaked companions take refuge inside the not-so-good doctor’s spacious abode. Before you can shout “bad idea”, the girl have been administered a powerful date rape drug, which allows Heiter to easily secure them in his hospital-like cellar.

Once his three selections are awake and ready to pay attention, the forthcoming procedure is explained in excruciating detail. Using an overhead projector to illustrate the finer aspects of his plan, Heiter explains how each person will be surgically connected to one another. Needless to say, none of the unwilling participants are too thrilled with the idea. In a moment of desperation, Lindsay escapes from the cellar and makes her way to the surface, only to find her unstable tormentor waiting for her in the backyard. Her defiance, he decides, has granted her the centipede’s most undesirable role: the dreaded middle segment. This sequence essentially marks the point of no return.

Proclaiming “The Human Centipede” to be one of the world’s most nauseating experiences is a serious understatement. Seldom has a movie unsettled me to the point of physical discomfort. In fact, the last film to get under my skin in such a manner was Takashi Miike’s 1999 classic “Audition”, a movie that still ranks as one of my all-time favorites. Despite the film’s collection of controversial and deeply revolting moments, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Six had infused his outing with a wickedly dark sense of humor. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, mind you, but the absurdity of the situation and the doctor’s over-the-top theatrics make for some amusing scenarios. Watching Heiter scream “Feed her!” during the film’s infamous bowel movement scene is so bizarre its comical.

Despite some strong, sympathetic performances from Williams, Yennie, and Akihiro Kitamura, it’s German actor Dieter Laser’s turn as Dr. Heiter that ultimately steals the show. The guy is the personification of crazy, and Laser seems to thoroughly relish his role as the film’s grossly unstable antagonist. The doctor’s psychotic obsession with creating the ultimate Siamese triplet reverberates through every single frame of the film, culminating in a final reel freak-out that ranks as one of the best I’ve seen in ages. Although it may sound kooky to say as much, but I’d watch the whole thing again just to see Laser in action. It’s truly something to behold.

As the champion of several highly unpopular opinions, I’ll go out on a limb and declare “The Human Centipede” to be a twisted, unrelenting masterpiece of modern-day horror. Despite initial speculation to the contrary, the film’s gimmicky premise is powered by a strong, straightforward narrative and a truly unforgettable performance from Dieter Laser. However, seeing as how the film is warped in just about every way imaginable, I doubt others will share my enthusiastic feelings towards Tom Six’s bold and provocative endeavor. Regardless of your own personal feelings towards the project, you have to admit its one of the fiercest, most original genre pictures in recent memory. Even if you hate the movie with every nerve ending in your body, chances are you won’t soon forget it.

Tom Six (director) / Tom Six (screenplay)
CAST: Dieter Laser … Dr.Heiter
Ashley C. Williams … Lindsay
Ashlynn Yennie … Jenny
Akihiro Kitamura … Katsuro
Andreas Leupold … Detective Kranz
Peter Blankenstein … Detective Voller


Author: Todd Rigney

Todd was raised on a steady diet of Hollywood blockbusters, late-night Cinemax programming, and USA’s “Up All Night,” which may explain why his taste in movies is more than a little questionable. When he isn’t providing news and reviews for Beyond Hollywood, he can be found lounging lazily on his couch, perched in front of his television, or dwelling in places where direct sunlight can be easily avoided. He's happily married, in his 30's, and totally badass. If you'd like to reach Todd, you can follow him on Twitter or send him email/scoops to todd (at) beyondhollywood.com.
  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

    Nix's point was simple. Apparently so simple you missed it. He's not JUST talking about this post. He's an admin/mod (and Nix if I have the title wrong my bad) so he's probably seen most of your comments. Point being you go out of your way to comment and ramble on about how you're offended or upset over a movie when you can simply ignore it like the rest of the people who don't like something. If you were curious, came across it and was then disgusted fine. But seriously eople are entitled to their opinion and yes are entitled to voice said opinion. But you crossed the line when you basically insulted the reviewer and the people who may be interested in the film. I probably won't be watching it, but hey I also don't watch the Saw films because it's become torture porn and the few topical sociological issues that were prevalent in the beggining just don't seem there to me anymore. And I hated Hostel. That said I'mmnot gonna condemn people who like them, and call them names. I'm not twelve.

    Voicing your opinion is one thing. Whining about something you don't agree with is another. Both are acceptable. But insulting people is not. You have now fallen into exactly what you were complaining about. Doing something for the sake of doing it. You're basically starting an argument when you could have just said “this is my two cents” but no you had to basically say that we are the shit eating middle of the human centipede. Thanks. NIX is done with you, I'm now washing my hands of it. But you'll probably have some more fun with others enjoy!

  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

    Thank you Vineland. Very good points and very civilized of you.

  • tokyojesusfist

    “Point being you go out of your way to comment and ramble on about how you're offended or upset over a movie when you can simply ignore it like the rest of the people who don't like something.”

    Why don't you go ask Roger Ebert if he thinks the only proper response to a bad movie is to not talk about it. Also ask him if he thinks it's appropriate to discuss a movie's morality or view it in any larger cultural or social context.

    Oh wait, what's this: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/ar
    Or this: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/ar

    “But you crossed the line when you basically insulted the reviewer and the people who may be interested in the film.”

    This movie's singular purpose and very essence is to insult the audience and anyone involved with movies, and anyone who is a human being. So what are you complaining about?

    “You have now fallen into exactly what you were complaining about. Doing something for the sake of doing it.”

    Not even close. I am making a point, and part of that point is that the filmmakers are reprehensible morons and so are the people who praise the movie.

  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

    That may be the movie's whole point but I'm not gonna be insulted if I don't watch it. As for Ebert, I put very little stock in him nowadays. He's all over the place with his reviews. As for your whole reason for bringing him up, you're not him, you weren't reviewing the movie so your social and cultural comments don't really have the weight. Even Ebert would WATCH the movie before making broad comments just because he dislikes the premise of a movie. But whatever. Like I said, when you started insulting people is where it stops being commentary.

  • tokyojesusfist

    “Well you might have had a point but you used NAUGHTY WORDS so I guess it was all for naught!”

    Red herring spotted.

    If you look at some of Roger Ebert's zero star reviews, you'll see that he isn't exactly polite either. “This is a scummy little sewer of a movie, a cesspool,” he says about a movie. Another one is “sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash,” and its makers “suggest by the contents of this film that they are jaded, perverse and cruel human beings.”

  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

    Ah but those aren't curses, and he's not calling out the people who may like it or even give it a good review. Everyone is entitled to their opinion without someone saying negative things about them for liking something. I mean seriously. So if there's something you like that I don't it's okay to call you names and curse at you?

  • tokyojesusfist

    Complaining about curse words is a red herring, an attempt to draw attention away from the things that actually matter. And the only difference between me and Ebert is that I'm just a bit more rude than he is.

    “Everyone is entitled to their opinion without someone saying negative things about them for liking something.”

    This is not true and never has been.

  • tokyojesusfist

    “you're not him, you weren't reviewing the movie so your social and cultural comments don't really have the weight.”

    The truth is the truth regardless of who says it.

    “Even Ebert would WATCH the movie before making broad comments”

    He would have to watch it because he's a paid and published critic. But it is not necessary to watch the movie in order to conclude that it's bad and objectionable and should never have been made.

    “Like I said, when you started insulting people is where it stops being commentary.”

    Arbitrary red herring.

  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

    Yes Mr. “I'm always right”

  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

    Actually it is, but human nature usually doesn't allow it. And you're a red herring distracting people from what really matters…which is finding out about the movie without people harping on them for liking it or even being interested in it. You cannot even begin to compare yourself to Ebert. You'd never hear him calling the audience names for liking something he didn't, paid reviewer or not. People come here to have civilized convos (for the most part) but someone always ends up name calling or cursing at someone or something and degenerates into nonsense. If you don't like the film make your statement (about the movie, not people who may like it) and move on. And since I really could care less about the film I'm unsubscribe to this thread. Enjoy all!