You might have heard about The Human Centipede. It’s a little bit of a controversial cult movie that came about last year. There’s two types of people in this world. Those that watch Human Centipede and those that watch half of Human Centipede. OK, so there’s a third type that don’t wanna watch it at all. The majority really. Anyway, I watched it. All of it. Wouldn’t be able to do a review if I hadn’t. I guess I should tell you what I think about it. Click the link and all that.
Human Centipede tells the story… and I use the word story loosely… of two young ladies named Lindsay (Ashley C Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) who are walking, talking horror movie cliches. They’re on a tour across Europe and whilst on the way to a party they get a flat tire. Because they are denser than anti-matter they decide to go wandering into the woods looking for help. Instead of say attempting the use the spare tire they should have in their rental car or maybe just driving on a flat for a while. The engine doesn’t blow, just the tire. They mention changing the tire but seem to get angry at the idea that either one of them should know how to do that. I don’t drive but I’m pretty sure you pop off the nuts around the wheel base, take off the wheel and then reverse the process with a new one. Tell me in the comments how far off I am.
Anyway, they stagger their way to a randomly located house in the woods that belongs to one Dr Heiter (Dieter Laser.. awesome surname). Heiter is a man with avoid like the plague flashing across his face in neon lights. Despite this they go into his house and fall for the oldest trick in the repressed pervert handbook, Rohypnol! They wake up to find themselves, and a big old trucker strapped to hospital gurneys in Heiter’s basement. The fat trucker isn’t compatible apparently and Heiter kills him. Before long he’s captured himself a wild Japanese man presumably in the nearby grass with a Moon Ball after using a sleep spell on him. Yeah I made a Pokemon reference. The Japanese dude even refers to himself as an Insect type at one point. After this Dr Heiter unveils his plan to stitch the two girls and this Japanese guy (just like Lindsay and Jenny he is blessed with the equally generic name of Katsuro) ass to mouth forming a Human Centipede.
The concept is pretty grim. Unless you’re one of two girls who only have a cup for entertainment I doubt you’d be that keen on being a part of this. Unfortunately for this film the concept really is all it has to run on when it comes to the body horror side of things. Yes, Katsuro ends up taking a dump in one of the girls mouths. It’s not visually graphic but the sound effects of the gulping and the girls panic is enough. The film is actually fairly restrained when it comes to its more graphic moments. Very little of the operation is shown. There’s enough to give you a few skin crawling moments but it’s nothing that graphic. There’s a few bloody scenes but that’s really it. It’s quite refreshing to find that a film with such a potentially grim concept does show restraint leaving a lot of the more disturbing moments up to the viewers mind. I’d imagine someone not brought up on the video nasties of the 80s would probably have a harder time stomaching… heheh… the concept.
There’s very little in the way of CGI in this film which does mean that director Tom Six must have had a fun time trying to convince the three actors involved to spend days on end with their faces in the next ones arse whilst on their knees. Tom Six appears to be a director of some visual skill too. The reveal scene for the Human Centipede itself is quite interesting. Dr Heiter is dressed in his Sunday best and there’s a warm golden glow coming through the windows. it’s a stark contrast from the cold clinical look Dr Heiter’s house has throughout the rest of the film and I’d imagine a lot of other directors would have gone for a darker, more gritty reveal. The opening scenes play up to horror movie cliches, as I have mentioned already, which is an interesting way to kick off a horror film with such a… let’s say unique… concept. The trouble with that opening sequence though is that the two actresses involved aren’t particularly good. They sound like they’re reading lines rather than being the characters they’re meant to be. By the time you’ve seen them told what is to become of them you’re likely to be rooting for the Dr because it’ll mean they’ll be shut up. That said they scream, panic and cry quite well which is all they do for the last 45 minutes.
Dr Heiter is a terrifying villain. He is not only a complete nut job but Dieter Laser’s performance makes Heiter oddly compelling to watch. His broken English is almost an allegory for his fractured mind. He’s tall, has scary eyes and looks like he stepped out of a Nazi hospital once he’s in his medical gown. It’s kind of disappointing that he’s in this film really. He feels like a character that would have made a good villain in a more thriller based horror along the lines of say Silence of The Lambs. His home is also a great extension of his character. The walls are adorned with images of conjoined children. Prior to being a fan of ass to mouth Dr Heiter was a leading specialist in the separation of Siamese twins. To add to this his house is very clinical and angular. Apart from a spiral staircase there’s nothing but sharp edges and straight corridors in this building. He’s also quite the neat freak, getting quite upset at one of the girls when she fails to spill a drink convincingly. A lot of time must have gone into making him a believable nutter and it works quite well.
A lot of the films issues come down to poor script, acting from everyone but Laser and some of the most idiotic characters ever placed on film. I’ve already spoken about the opening sequence but as the film goes on there is more. A pair of cops turn up at a later point in the film and despite Heiter giving off nothing but alarm bells and warning signs they insist on going to get a search warrant first. Surely when Heiter is trying to force one of them to drink a drugged glass of water they should have just arrested him on suspicion of being a nutter. A lot of the stupidity does come in the last 30 minutes so I won’t go spoiling stuff. I can’t tell if it was all on purpose, in an attempt to reference the stupidity of characters in US horror films, or if it was just poor writing. I’m gonna go with the latter though based on the average quality of dialogue. It’s all very well to play up to cinematic tropes but it’s another thing to fall into their pitfalls willingly. A good writer uses the tropes and finds ways of making them work. Here, characters just do dumb, illogical stuff. There is a scene later that once you think about it the tension it manages to create will just fall to pieces. All I’ll say is, how did they get upstairs all the other times?
Overall the effectiveness of Human Centipede’s horror relies on how easily disgusted the viewer is. As a body horror film it’s a great concept but that’s about it. Cinematography is decent, occasionally quite good, and Dr Heiter is a cult villain in the making. The rest of the film though is mediocre and idiotic. There’s no artistic merit behind the concept here and there’s no metaphor to be read into. Technically sound and respectfully quite restrained the film falls apart on it’s lack of quality thematically and with audience connection.