Darkness comes in many forms. Human suffering and torture is one of the more extreme forms and you wouldn't wish that on anyone. Sometimes, a quick death is preferred to prolonged suffering. And that was how I felt when, on Halloween night, I decided to foolishly ratchet up the nausea level and allow a pretty intense and horrific movie experience to unfold on my TV screen. I purposely saved my viewing of “The Human Centipede” until a special night like Halloween to fully embrace the midnight movie experience. And boy, was it ever an experience!
As a lover of horror films, I can attest to my strong tolerance for graphic violence, gore and all manners of depravity. Well, that is until “The Human Centipede” came along. Not since Paolo Pasolini's highly controversial 1975 film “Salo,” has a film managed to elicit a gag reflex from me. Call it sick, depraved or just courting controversy for controversy sake, “The Human Centipede” is not for those with weak (or full) stomachs. Nor would it be accepted by the general public. This is a film that is solely catered for connoisseurs in the horror film community who might tolerate (or enjoy) intense subject matters. Consider yourself warned if you choose to read on.
“The Human Centipede” is the brainchild of unknown Dutch director Tom Six (yes, that's his real name). Why is he unknown? Well, consider the titles of his other two films: “Gay in Amsterdam” and “Honeyz, I Love Dries.” Need I say more? Anyway, I am not going to beat around the bush or be coy about the full details of this film. Chances are, you've already heard about it or since you are still reading this, I assume you'll want to know as well.
Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) is a famous German doctor who specializes in separating conjoined or Siamese twins. However, something has snapped within and he is now obsessed with fusing humans together, into what he coldly describes as a human centipede. Having been successful before fusing three rottweilers together, he is now ready to take his experimentation to the next level. But first, he needs “volunteers.” That's where two young and naïve American tourists come in. Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) are vacationing in Germany and inexplicably get themselves lost one night on their way to a nightclub. When a flat tire disables their rental car, the girls decide to go searching for help and wander into Heiter's house/laboratory by chance. Of course Heiter seizes upon this golden opportunity and imprisons the unsuspecting girls for his glorious experiment. For his third test subject, he kidnaps a Japanese man named Katsuro (Akihiro Kitamura).
I can almost hear the jokes now: What has a Japanese man and two young American girls holidaying in Germany have in common? Why, they are a human centipede, of course! Silly goose! Before starting, Heiter has the courtesy of informing and explaining to his victims how he will achieve his ultimate dream with a series of clinical slides. To their horror, Heiter tells them that he will first disconnect the tendons in their knees so that they can't straighten their legs and have to move on all fours. Then comes the even crazier part of the surgery. Heiter intends to fuse them by sewing their mouths and anuses together, thus creating a single food digestive system flow! Food goes into the mouth of the front person, out his anus and into the.....er, you know where I'm going with this, right? You certainly do not want to be the person in the middle of this sick atrocity.
Okay, you may take a moment right now to digest (seriously, no pun intended) that.
And all that is in the first half of the film. The second half deals with Heiter gleefully interacting with his new “pet,” treating his unholy creation like an animal, demeaning and beating it. Only the sudden appearance of two police detectives--investigating the disappearance of the girls--at Heiter's house, is able to put a dent into the mad doctor's rock-solid euphoria. I must say, after a nausea-inducing and depraved journey, the final showdown between the doctor and the police moves the film towards a pretty exciting finale.
With a title like “The Human Centipede,” one kind of expects the film to have a little sick sense of humor within itself to offset the crazy storyline. But director Tom Six treats this film with full-on seriousness, never taking his foot off the depravity pedal. This is, without a doubt, a serious horror film from start to finish and it never once swerves into cheesy midnight movie territory. It stays true to its intended genre and is all the better for it; Six's preposterous claim that this film is “100% medically accurate” notwithstanding.
Dieter Laser is a sincerely intense actor and as Dr. Heiter, he is absolutely laser-driven to push the boundaries of his character's madness. Like a cross between Dr. No (from the Bond franchise) and Dr. Moreau, Laser's Heiter is the sort of character nightmares are forged from. Also impressive is Kitamura's character, who never speaks a word of English but all his futile screams and pleas (in Japanese, of course) only heightens the intensity and illustrates the extreme torture, given that his American co-stars can't speak at this point.
Before I end, let me leave you with a more horrific fact: “The Human Centipede” is subtitled “[The First Sequence]” and Six is already in production for “The Human Centipede [The Full Sequence]” set for a release in 2011.