Human Centipede has been a subject on the minds and message boards of cult movie fans for a while now owing much of its infamy to its outlandish and disgusting concept.
For those unfamiliar, the film follows two American girls on a road trip through Germany. When their car breaks down in the middle of the woods they look for help to stumble upon an isolated villa occupied by a strange retired surgeon whose specialty was in separating conjoined twins. Soon the girls find themselves held captive by the German doctor, and they along with a Japanese man find themselves to be the subjects of a diabolical experiment. The deranged Doctor plans to be the first person to connect people via their gastric system, in doing so bringing to life his sick lifetime fantasy “the human centipede”.
Unfortunately the film as a whole begins and ends with its concept. Aside from a premise that promises to gross out and disturb, the film feels like it is killing time until it gets to the titular human centipede and once it does, it kills more time until it runs up to its forced conclusion.
There are a few bright spots to speak of such as handful of effectively shot and edited escape attempts by the aforementioned centipede as well as the performance of Dieter Laser who plays the diabolical surgeon. With a face that looks like a cross between Marv from Sin City and Boris Karloff, Laser makes for an engaging and menacing screen presence.
The film is written and directed by Tom Six who never seems to know what he wants to do with his film. Its tone is all over the map. Starting off silly and campy with the two female leads putting in performances that feel like they are channeling Molly Shannon and Sheri Oterry in a bad Saturday Night Live Sketch about being in a bad horror movie, all the cliché’s of the genre are here: a stormy night, dark creepy woods, a car with a flat tire, two women too incompetent to change said tire, and a foreboding house secluded in said creepy woods occupied by an even creepier doctor.
The dialogue is appropriately cheesy and there is awkwardly funny scene between the heroines/victims-to-be and a horny motorist after the girl’s car breaks down.
I should mention that the two female characters names are Jenny and Lindsay. I know this not because I checked the cast list but because every line they ever say to one another either begins or ends with one character saying the other character name.
All this almost works on a so-bad its good level, but once they are captured and the surgery is performed the film shifts into Saw-Lite melodrama. Which never quite works in this film because…
- We are never given a reason to care for the two American girls because until this point the characters are portrayed as nothing more than horror movie props.
- It never goes far enough with its concept to be effective on even the most base visceral level.
- Despite the fact that the victims are crying and in distress, they are crying and in distress between someone else’s butt-cheeks.
I think the biggest flaw of the film is that it never truly embraces its weirdness. A concept such as Human Centipede should be allowed to let its freak-flag fly or at the very least make me want to put down my popcorn for fear of throwing it up, but it does neither and as a result if feels neutered and milquetoast.
I can’t help but wonder what the film could have been had someone like Frank Henelotter directed it. In his films such as Basket Case and Bad Biology, Henelotter never lets his films end with their outlandish concepts. He presents his bizarre and grotesque creations in all of their glory and even manages to bring a humanity to his perverse subject matter. Six’s film takes the lazy approach choosing to simply let his centipede stand on its own resulting in a film that has no legs.
Human Centipede will be opening in LA at the Nuart Theater for a midnight screening and other select theaters around the country on May 7th! And will be available on April 30 and available on Video-on-Demand on April 28th.