The Human Centipede [First Sequence]
Film: The Human Centipede [First Sequence]
Release date: 4th October 2010
Running time: 90 mins
Director: Tom Six
Starring: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura, Andreas Leupold
Format: DVD & Blu-ray
The toe curling surgical horror from Dutch director Tom Six takes high concept body horror to new heights of imagination, and new lows of plot development.
Two young American women travelling across Europe get lost when their car breaks down in the woods. They then happen across the isolated home of Doctor Heiter, a surgeon specialising in the separation of Siamese twins. After inviting the two ladies inside, Heiter drugs their drinks and traps them in his basement, which has been turned into a makeshift surgical ward.
After capturing a male Japanese tourist as his third victim, the doctor then goes on to explain that his ambition is to create the titular ‘human centipede’, a creature with one gastric system made up of three surgically attached people positioned anus to mouth.
After a failed attempt to escape by one of the women, the ‘centipede’ is created. However, the centipede begins to rebel against Heiter’s commands, and the police (investigating the disappearances) begin to grow suspicious of the increasingly erratic doctor…
A film like this relies heavily on its high concept premise, but beyond that there is not much to The Human Centipede [First Sequence]. The film stands proudly beside the fact that the portrayal is one hundred per cent surgically accurate, as if to suggest that something this nasty could actually happen and, to be fair, the thought of that is undeniably scary. Unfortunately, once you get over that initial scare, the cack-handed nature of the filmmaking becomes too jarring.
The film has attracted criticism from some quarters, dismissing it as mere torture porn, and there is not much to refute this claim, especially due to the fact that two parts of the centipede are played by young, attractive, helpless (not to mention gormless) women – who’s top halves are also gratuitously naked for much of the film. More disturbingly, the film leads the audience to believe that being attached to the centipede is like a form of punishment to the victims for not living in the right way; especially considering that the inception of human centipede began when Six joked about performing this kind of mutilation to sex offenders. This is as good as confirmed when Katsuro (the front part of the centipede) admits that he deserves his fate for mistreating his family.
The plot plods along as slowly as the human centipede itself, with the usual bit of establishment, a bit of exposition, and then a hilariously poorly attempted escape that fails to capture any sense of suspense; copying about every slasher film chase cliché ever seen. After that, we are then forced to watch the doctor marvelling at his odd creation, as the two women are left to eat excrement. The biggest problem is that after the centipede is created, the plot loses all momentum.
The acting, for the most part, is pretty awful, too. The female victims seem to spend the first part of the film rambling through hammy dialogue, and then have no other option but to make muffled screams into the anus’ they are attached to – substituting for the lack of screams from the audience. The only honourable mention goes to Dieter Laser, who plays the demented surgeon behind the shocking misdeed – he really does play the part to chilling perfection. Unfortunately, his character is so overbearingly unhinged and suspect that it’s surprising the police hadn’t put him under some kind of surveillance beforehand. This isn’t necessarily Laser’s fault – the writing is just so poor.
This film is clearly marketed as a visceral body horror, but it fails to even do that very well, as much of the horror is communicated through over exuberant implication – often to the point of looking silly. At its best, The Human Centipede [First Sequence] raises some genuine chills, but, at its worst, it drags on, and makes a mockery of better realised horror movies.
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