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Monday, January 10

The human Centipede dissected

I finally got a chance to watch The Human Centipede, a movie I've been curious about for some time. It was one I first heard about on Rue Morgue Radio. Sheer sensationalism, was my immediate reaction, done for shock value. Then after listening to the podcast ( if you aren't a regular listener to RMR, then do yourself a favor and check out this free weekly podcast, it is terrific... or should I shy - TERRORific) I thought it actually might have more to offer and wanted to give it a shot.

For those of you who haven't seen it, you might want to skip the next couple of paragraphs.

The story concerns two attractive young American girls on vacation in Europe. They are headed to a nightclub where one of the girls is hoping to hook up with a waiter she met earlier in the day. They get lost and, in a typical B-movie staple, have a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. They also, in what has become another staple of horror films of the modern age, have no cell service so their phones won't work. In this digital age of connectivity that is always an explanation that has to be quickly established, which I find an interesting sign of our times. So the girls, instead of staying safe in their car, decide to look for help and make their way to a nearby house that just so happens to be home to a very bad dude.

We were briefly introduced to this character at the beginning of the film while he was out hunting. Hunting for human prey - with a tranquilizer gun. You see, this is home of Dr.Heiter, a scientist of the maddest proportion. Heiter has been engaged in a series of experiments that involve combining multiple subjects into one creature, creating a human "centipede" by stitching them together, mouth to anus, thus linking the subjects together and creating one large digestive tract that flows throughout the subjects. He had previously tried this unsuccessfully with dogs, and we see a gravestone that says "My beloved 3 dog" written in German as the girls approach the house. You see, Heiter is a German doctor who has developed a laboratory in his basement to conduct his mad experiments. He drugs the two girls, and traps them in the lab along with another test subject. He later announces that their tissues are a match for this experiment, and explains the process to the three via a slide show while they are strapped onto hospital gurneys.

He then proceeds to do that very thing, slicing through the tendon below the kneecaps so they can't walk, forcing them to crawl at all times. He stitches them mouth to anus, with a Japanese male in the lead, and the two girls behind.

End of spoiler.

This is a horrific movie, make no doubt. The subject matter is so ludicrous it made me chuckle, but it was a nervous chuckle, as the operation dealt with such a personal and invasive area that it made me squeamish. It isn't a movie that is comfortable, it is in fact quite the opposite. Isn't that what a horror movie is supposed to do, explore those areas that are off limits in the daytime, shine a light into the dark recesses of the human psyche and look at the ugly side of humanity.

I think it is no accident that Dr. Heiter is German, or that the subjects are both American and Japanese. It brings to mind immediately the horrors of the Nazi regime in WWII, and I'd bet money this was an intentional move. The acts perpetuated by the Nazis were some of the most heinous in the history of mankind and carried out on a scale unimaginable. Had Mengele thought of such a perverted idea you can be sure he would have tried it.

Dr Heiter is played by Deiter Laser, and it is his performance that gives this movie it's powerful impact. He pulls off a difficult role, one which could easily have been ludicrous but instead is creepy and convincing. I have never seen this actor before, but he is indeed one scary guy - I look forward to seeing more of this guy's work.  The movie is directed by  Tom Six, and again, I've never seen any of his work. He does a magnificent job here, with beautiful camera work and direction, showing just enough of the abomination that is the centipede to get the disgust and horror across to the viewer without it being unwatchable. After all, we are talking about a human with their mouth stitched permanently to another's rectum. That is some pretty tough territory to pull off there.

Kudos to the actors - I don't think I could have done it, honestly.  It isn't every actor or actress that would agree to crawl on all fours, naked, with their face planted firmly in another person's arse for even a minute, much less the time it took to shoot this film, which, according to the Rue Morgue Radio broadcast, could be quite extensive at times. The girls, played by actresses Ashley Williams and Ashlynn Yennie, do a good job in this movie, although their characters are so stupid it is hard to believe anyone in the real world would make the choices they did to lead them into this predicament.

Ashley Williams in particular is really good. She is a gorgeous woman and her reactions to the terror going on around her are quite convincing.

One thing I really appreciate about this movie is the lack of sex. Despite the whole ATM angle, and the fact all three centipede sections are topless, the doctor's motivations are purely asexual. In fact, the only emotion he seems to show is toward himself, in the ultimate narcissistic moment where he makes out with his reflection in a mirror in celebration of the successful operation. Otherwise he is oblivious to gender - his subjects weren't chosen for sexuality, merely compatibility. And I think this is what makes this movie palatable. If the doctor was screwing the human centipede, we would be treading in completely different waters. The girls are topless but we only get brief shots of their breasts, and never in full frontal view. Again, it's not about that.

Ultimately Dr. Heiter is a mad scientist on par with the maddest of Bela's performances. He makes this movie, which is an interesting look at a perverted experiment involving human subjects - but ultimately it pales in comparison to the real life terrors of Nazi death camps. Definitely worth watching, and would have made my best films list of 2010 had I viewed it in time. The fact a movie like this cracked the Redbox and Netflix catalogs is amazing.


1 comment:

  1. I liked that this wasn't as horrifyingly gross as it sounded, much more like an older Cronenberg movie like DEAD RINGERS than the new "extreme horror" films of today like, say, HIGH TENSION. Laser reminded me of a grimmer Udo Kier. The ending was good too, although I really hope Six doesn't make a sequel like he's promised/threatened. I had no idea it made it to Redbox! Ha ha ha.