The Human Centipede (First Sequence)
2009, NR, 90 min. Directed by Tom Six. Starring Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura, Andreas Leupold, Peter Blankenstein.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 7, 2010
Coprophiliacs looking for a movie that really rings their chimes will be positively tintinnabulating from this arthouse horror number. The rest of us, well, the rest of us will be quivering, too, but not necessarily from happiness. This notorious Dutch film is sort of a thinking person’s torture-porn movie. It is excruciating to watch, even though there is very little bloodletting and gore. Director Six seems to positively revel in his film’s taboo-breaking subject matter in which a mad scientist surgically attaches three human beings – the lips of one to the anus of the next – so that they share one united digestive system. The film’s marketing claim to be “100% medically accurate” should not be regarded as a validation of its premise; by most accounts, such surgery would not create a viable entity – at least, not one that existed for more than a few days. Filmmaker Six seems to have his own tongue buried deep within his cheek as he infuses The Human Centipede (First Sequence) with touches of dark humor and promotes it with the all the hucksterism of marketing genius William Castle. To the hoary cliché of the mad scientist in a basement laboratory, Six adds the overused setup of young Americans (Williams and Yennie) lost in Europe when their car gets a flat tire on a rainy night. So ring Dr. Heiter’s (Laser) chimes they do and, in practically no time at all, they are they drugged, bound, and undergoing the knife. At the head of Heiter’s centipede is a Japanese man whom he has kidnapped. German Dr. Heiter also calls to mind Josef Mengele’s infamous Nazi medical “experiments” on twins. Though for great periods of time, we see Heiter’s bizarre human centipede crawling (their kneecaps have been removed, too) around his home, pool, and yard, we see practically nothing in terms of fecal matter and blood. Still, if you manage to make it through to the climax, your gag reflex is certain to kick into overdrive. And none of the shocks up until that point prepares us for the film’s final existential ending. The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is the real deal when it comes to horror: It’s disgusting, perverse, and ultimately unshakable. Don’t plan on dining directly before or after the movie. (See "Do Not Try This at Home," May 7, for an interview with the director.)