“I hate human beings.” – Dr. Heiter
Every once in a while an idea for a film comes along that is so repulsive that morbid curiosity takes over. Tom Six’s The Human Centipede is a perfect example. The film has made waves in the horror circuit, if only for its central gimmick of three unwilling participants, sewn together mouth-to-anus, to form a single entity with one gastric system. While the premise seems ripe for an over-the-top grindhouse-style film, Six plays the whole thing straight and the result is a psychological thriller that will stay with you for days, if not weeks.
The opening scenes are familiar horror setup fare. Two American girls, Lindsay (Williams), and Jenny (Yennie), are traveling across Europe. On the way to a nightclub, they get lost and find themselves with a flat tire. After be sexually harassed by a nasty local, the two set foot into the German backwoods in search of help. They come across the luxurious home of Dr. Heiter (Laser), a renowned surgeon best known for separating Siamese twins. After being drugged, they find themselves in Heiter’s basement lab, along with another Japanese man (Kitamura), and Heiter’s intentions are illustrated with the most disturbing use of an overhead projector in the history of overhead projectors.
The film comes with the tagline “100% medically accurate.” I have my doubts as there are many unanswered questions about the procedure, but Six sells it by shooting the picture very professionally. He makes effective use of Heiter’s labyrinthine home, filled with disgusting abstract art and white walls. The lack of gore (though that is only relative to what most viewers will be expecting going into it), plays to the film’s advantage as we have no choice but to sympathize with the three unfortunate members of the centipede. The film does lose steam once two dummy cops are introduced, but the ending is as bleak as any in recent memory. That’s the thing: the film is so dark and foreboding from the outset that any thoughts of escape seem impossible. This is dank and depressing stuff.
Dieter Laser, who has appeared in TV and film dating back to the late 60’s, emerges as one of the most memorable villains in horror lore. His Dr. Heiter, while overacted at times, is demented to the core and Heiter’s physical appearance alone will give many the shakes. He plays the combination of Heiter’s God complex and unhinged insanity to perfection. The supporting characters, which I’m hoping were paid respectably, are more of a mixed bag. Akihiro Kitamura gains the most sympathy as the panicked front of the centipede, but the again he’s really the only one that can speak, if you catch my drift.
Grading The Human Centipede is virtually impossible. Is it well made? Yes. Will it get under your skin? Yes. Is there a point? Not really. There are undertones that could be further analyzed, but Six is mainly out to push boundaries and test audience’s moral stability. It’s not a film I can recommend except to those who fully know what they’re getting themselves into, but it’s also effective and professional enough that it can’t be immediately dismissed – though I do wish I could dismiss some of the images from my brain.
Studio: IFC Films
Length: 90 Minutes
Rating: Not Rated (Contains language, gore, and some nudity)
Theatrical Release: April 28, 2010 (Video On Demand), April 30, 2010 (NY)
Directed by: Tom Six
Written by: Tom Six
Cast: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura, Andreas Leupold