The Human Centipede (2010) Review

The Human Centipede (2010) Review

Cinema, ever since it’s early days, has been intent on pushing the boundaries of what we deem as acceptable viewing further and further back. Yet the urge to look is as strong as it has ever been. When we hear of flesh being torn from a human body or of sex scenes so graphically disturbing in a film, we will still sneak a peek, and often the title in question will gain more notoriety because we continue to watch and discuss it, rather than to just leave it alone. This of course happened with many of the so called “video nasties” of the1980’s (Cannibal Ferox, Human Experiments, I Spit On Your Grave, to name but a few) and now The Human Centipede (First Sequence) looks set to face a similar fate/destiny.

Written and directed by Tom Six, this Dutch film is the story of a German doctor obsessed with the idea of creating a conjoined triplet connected by a singular gastric system; a human centipede. His previous experiment using three dogs failed, so Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) is on the hunt for new test subjects. Human test subjects.

The Human Centipede

When two American girls travelling through Germany, come knocking on his door in the middle of the night and the pouring rain after their car breaks down, he seizes the opportunity and wastes no time in drugging them. They awake to find themselves held captive in the doctor’s basement as he explains in great detail the plans he has for them. Joined by Katsuro, a Japanese tourist who also met Dr. Heiter at the wrong time and wrong place, Lindsay and Jenny undergo the mad doctor’s surgery to become the human centipede.

The second act involves the training of the human centipede and how Dr. Heiter expects them to adjust as a new life form. Things don’t go exactly according to plan though, they refuse play “fetch the newspaper”, Katsuro bites the doctor’s leg and their constant whimpering and Katsuro’s screaming keeps Dr Heiter awake. It’s also not long before the police start sniffing around and making enquiries into missing tourists leading Dr. Heiter to finally snap as a result of his sleep deprivation. Seeing an opportunity to escape, the trio embark on one of the most painfully slow getaways in film history as we near the climax.

The idea that you’re stitched together from mouth to anus to another person with no hope of ever escaping (because the getaway attempt would be so painfully slow!) is truly a terrifying concept, but before any of that happens, to just look into the eyes of this crazed doctor is horrifying enough. Heiter, obviously has been alone far too long to be able to have any empathy or compassion towards mankind (“I hate humans” he says when the girls first arrive). His sense of humour towards his captives is that of a cruel master towards his animals, especially when Katsuro bites Heiter’s leg. After a severe beating, the doctor goes back to eating his dinner, but his appetite is ruined by the incident. The next day he dares Katsuro to bite his leg again, this time showing off his thigh high leather jackboots (commonly used by Nazi’s) “You want to bite me? Bite my boots!” he alughs. Heiter is wonderfully played by German actor Deiter Laser (think Udo Keir, just scarier! Much scarier.).

The Human Centipede

The Human Centipede is more his story though. While the final images of the movie might leave you thinking what becomes of the experiment and its test subjects, your mind will be brought back to Heiter, with questions such as:

- What events lead his dog experiment?
- Has he always worked alone?
- Was he himself a conjoined twin?
- Why was he obsessed with such an experiment?
- Who did he work for?
- Is there a level of sexual delight in what he’s doing?

I do wonder if these will be explored in the upcoming sequel The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence), which will have a centipede constructed with 12 (really, really) unfortunate individuals.

We’ve had stories and films before which have dealt with human experiments; Frankenstein (1931), The Invisible Man (1933), The Fly (1958), The Man with Two Brains (1983), to the more recent Species (1995), and Splice (2010). The difference with The Human Centipede though is the pure hopelessness of the situation and the despair you feel for the trio, especially the one stuck in the middle. There is a kind of black humour to it as well though. Katsuro truly feels awful for defecating in the girl’s mouth, and while audiences and critics are revolted by this act, it’s not actually shown on screen but rather left up to your imagination. Scenes with human excrement were much more graphic in films like Trainspotting (1996) and Salò, 120 Days of Sodom (1975). What’s more disturbing is the macabre delight Dr. Heiter takes from the discomfort and suffering of others. His cruelty leads Katsuro to ask “Are you God?”.

Finally, the combination of German, English and Japanese is used in the movie to full effect. The girls and Katsuro have no idea what Heiter is saying when he speaks German, Heiter has no idea what Katsuro is saying when he speaks Japanese and when they are sewn together, the girls are unable to speak, silenced forever in their torment. It’s the stuff of nightmares. But don’t let it put you off from visiting Germany though. I have spent many countless hours lost and wandering the city and woodlands until the early hours of the morning and never once did I meet any mad doctors. Or perhaps they didn’t want to meet me… But to answer the question which so many are asking though, “Is this the sickest film of all time?” No. It’s most certainly not, but it does leave you with um…food for thought!

Static Mass Rating ★★★★★

Dieter Laser as Dr. Heiter
Ashley C. Williams as Lindsay
Ashlynn Yennie as Jenny
Akihiro Kitamura as Katsuro
Andreas Leupold as Det. Kranz
Peter Blankenstein as Det. Voller

The Human Centipede is released in UK cinemas from August 20th 2010.

Official Site

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