Apparently the mere concepts of this film are enough to churn stomachs, so if the concept of literal shit-eaters is too much for you, time to shut this page off and find cats speaking broken English while doing a range of funny things.
The Human Centipede is the kind of film that is not made to tell a story, but garner a response. In this case, writer-director Tom Six wants you all to vomit in the aisles, tell people that you did so and then raise a curiosity in the people you tell so that they’ll fork out the cash for it and see if they too will vomit in the aisles.
The problem with a film like this is that the reputation is what it lives for. Never mind that the film is boring, badly acted and terribly paced – there’s a gross idea at its centre and that’s what it can draw you in with.
So lets get this out of the way – the entire plot of this film is a crazed surgeon wanting to sew three people together ass-to-mouth to create his own pet – the titular centipede.
Does that make you feel sick? Are you thinking, “Oh my god, that’s so depraved!”? If it does, then well done, you’re human. If it makes you curious as to how they can pull that off in a film, then you’re a pawn of the idea and marketability of said idea. If you think “how can they pull that off for a whole movie” then you’re a cynic like me, and the answer is – they can’t.
The story, what little of it there is, follows two American girls named Lindsay and Jenny as they tour around Germany – their car breaks down, and they go to a house to ask to use the phone. The owner of the house is our villain, one Dr. Heiter – and he drugs them. The two girls wake up chained in the basement, along with a Japanese man, Katsuro. Then Heiter explains to them his masterplan, then goes about fusing their lips to the consecutive anuses, and the film spends the rest of the time watching him live in the same house with his creation.
Where to begin with a film like this…
“100% MEDICALLY ACCURATE!”
This film is billed as being 100% medically accurate. Six even claims that he brought in a doctor to review the “science” of the film to verify the claim. BULLSHIT
Well, firstly, Heiter believes that in executing his ATM needlework, he’s creating a single being with one digestive tract – y’know, cos a digestive tract often involves shit being shat into someone else’s mouth where it is eventually swallowed and shat into a third person’s mouth. What he’s done, rather than creating a single digestive tract, is sew three people ass to mouth and make two of them eat the other ones’ shit.
Secondly, there is no nutrition to be gained from shit-eating. The third girl dies of sepsis, and the fact that consuming twice-shat shit has poisoned her blood – but the middle girl would have died of this also, and a hell of a lot quicker.
But rather than nit-pick, let’s just chalk it up as a cheap marketing ploy. It’s pretty obvious that you couldn’t use “based on a true story” here, so they’ve stuck on a ridiculous claim – combine that with word of mouth of the Squick-y premise and you’ve just got more punters in the cinema.
The one thing I will give it credit for, and it’s the only thing I’ll give it credit for, is that when Jenny gets out of her hospital bed and rips the IV out of her arm, her arm bleeds out. That is medically accurate, and it’s a crying shame that the first film I’ve seen it accurately portrayed is this steaming pile of crap.
The acting in this film is some of the worst I have ever seen. And not in a bad performance of Tommy Wiseau proportions that makes it utterly fascinating to watch, it’s just excruciatingly bad acting. It’s so bad that you’re glad the two girls end up having an arse sewn onto their mouth so that they just fucking shut up!
Seriously, between the two leads, there is not a single line delivered convincingly, no moment of nuance or considered performance – they just say their lines as though they’re imitating bad actors and fucking up that imitation. And their characters are so poorly written – they’re such unlikable girls – they bitch and whinge at each other for so long that you just don’t care about their inevitable fate.
Katsuro is possibly a good performance, but given that his dialogue mainly consists of screaming except for one terribly-written monologue where he compares Heiter to God. As much as I can tell he does a semi-decent performance of it, but the words he’s saying are so ridiculous that it’s rendered moot, and the language barrier doesn’t help matters at all.
Dieter Laser, the actor who plays Heiter received a fair bit of praise for his performance, but it’s the kind of hammed-up chewing the scenery performance that you’d expect from anybody playing a role wherein your character sews three people together at the anus. Calling it a good performance is akin to saying your 7-year-old portrayed a convincing tree in a pantomime.
It’s billed as a horror film, but that’s only because there’s not any other genre to accommodate it. It’s not a horror film. It doesn’t play any of it for scares, and the concept of body-horror within the film is so laughably inane that you can’t really be repulsed by it.
Look at the picture above. Now imagine that Elmo is dropping a deuce into Minnie’s mouth. The horror in this film is only as explicit as that image above. If the performances had been anything resembling “good” there might have been the horror of imagining what’s going on, but given that the performances resemble what they’re supposedly swallowing, there just isn’t. Salo may be the worst film I’ve ever seen, but at least it showed the crap they were forcing the characters to eat.
Here’s the thing: when you make a movie that relies on a horrible premise, you have to work in the threat of that premise. This film would’ve been a lot more effective if there’d been tension before the centipede is created. As it is, the only build up you get is one small scene where one of the girls tries to escape but doesn’t, and then before you know it, they’ve been sewn to each other. If it was real life, this would be horrible, but in a horror film, there’s not much to be done once it’s there. Heiter treats the centipede like a pet, but this is about as interesting as a film of a man watching TV with his dog asleep at his feet.
All that’s left for the film to do is kill the characters. Heiter bites it when two policemen come looking for him and he gets shot in the head, but not before fatally wounding both of them. Jenny dies from the blood poisoning, Katsuro gives up and slits his throat, leaving Lindsay stuck alive in the middle, with two dead people attached at either end.
And while the film would like you to picture that as a fate worse than death, logic kicks in immediately, and you realise that 1) two police officers going missing will be investigated pretty promptly, and 2) painful though it would be, she can just rip her face off Katsuro’s now-dead arse. In fact, including that would have been a suitably horrific moment for a horror film.
HOW THIS FILM WORKS
It doesn’t work. Its reputation does. I know a lot of people who have said they’ll refuse to see this film after hearing the premise. Those people are imagining a film, and imagining the act of having to swallow another person’s shit and it’s that process of imagining it that is the scary/disturbing part of this film.
What I can safely tell you is that the film is dull. It’s a waste of time and money, and it’s a lot more boring than it is disturbing. It’s not entirely devoid of moments to make you squirm – there’s a scene where Heiter inspects Jenny’s septic wounds and pushes out a solid sliver of pus – that was gross. Certainly grosser than anything within the rest of the film.
And I know that I give this opinion having seen a wealth of intense/horrible/scary/disturbing films, so I’ve hardened my tolerance to such things, but I really believe this is the kind of film that will only be as disturbing as you want it to be, to live up to your own assessment of how gross the central idea is.
This film isn’t so much a film as it is a thing. It’s an idea that can now be used effectively to demonstrate some certain amount of depravity. It’s the kind of thing that trolls will use to prank their friends. It’s the kind of thing that teenagers will use to prove their bravado – “I’ve made it through The Human Centipede so I’m awesome…” – and yes I can see a certain irony in that last statement relating my view on this. But it’s just not worth it.
If you’ve heard the idea, or read this review and heard more of the film, and you still haven’t seen it – that is where the film is disturbing, because it’s out there…waiting to shock you…waiting to break your innocence in film-viewing. Your own imagination of the ideas in this film will be a lot worse than what’s on offer.
Perhaps it would’ve been a more disturbing film if the acting or production values had been better. Perhaps it would’ve been a nastier film if it had been, well, nastier. The tone of a film is often an indicator of a disturbing film. A Serbian Film is disturbing, and its tone matches its content. This film wants to be disturbing, but is like a childhood bully pointing at you and going “nah-nah-nah-nah-nah” – it wants to be disturbing but it just can’t put its money where its mouth is. In this case, the mouth is attached to someone’s ass.