The Human Centipede: First Sequence (IFC Films, NR)

Given how close to unmarketable it is in America, it has already made quite a splash.

I’m so glad that first-run midnight movies have made a return to St. Louis theaters. Last year we had Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel’s pretty good Deadgirl, and Tommy Wisaeu’s The Room made its long-awaited St. Louis debut a couple of months ago. Now we have Tom Six’s The Human Centipede, which is really closer to a plain old horror film than it is a cult film, but it’s appalling and only safe to play to a midnight audience, so there we have it.
The premise of The Human Centipede is much like Hostel: two stupid, unlikeable Americans (in this case, both girls) are traveling through Europe, only to be kidnapped by some European nasties and subjected to deep unpleasantness. But where Hostel went in the direction of international relations, The Human Centipede feeds on our fears of psychopathic Germans, who are well known to be the most severe breed of psychopaths. More specifically, our lead girls Lindsay (Ashley Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) break down on their way to a club, get lost in the woods looking for help, and find refuge at the home of Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser), a renowned (and retired) doctor, famous for his ability to separate Siamese twins. Dr. Heiter drugs them, locks them up, and eventually matches them up to a Japanese fellow named Katsuro (Akihiro Kitamura) to make the three of them into one big set of adult Siamese triplets—more specifically, a human centipede, with the three segments of the centipede joined lips-to-anus, so the creature has one long digestive tract.
While I didn’t enjoy watching The Human Centipede (who would?), I’ve had a lot of fun catching up with the hoopla surrounding it. Somehow it has really struck a chord with its audience, with nearly everyone being deeply upset/offended by it, even those to whom it seems targeted (cult/horror fans, presumably). More interesting than that, to me, is the fact that the film really isn’t all that graphic. Sure, the idea is graphic, but its depiction in the film is surprisingly restrained; there’s not much in the way of gore, nudity, or violence, especially as compares to what could have been. While IFC is releasing the film without a rating, I’d’ve been interested in seeing what the MPAA would have with this one. All of the above-mentioned categories are lighter in The Human Centipede than practically any other horror movie to come out in this era of Saw and Hostel films, but what remains is a deep, overriding sense of depravity that will likely stick with you for a while. Adding to it is the fact that it seems like writer/director Six seems to have quite obviously thought about the logistics of a human centipede a lot, and that he gets off on both the concept and the film that he’s made. The end result is like watching a softcore fetish movie.
Regardless of your feelings toward the film, it looks like it’s not going to go away. Given how close to unmarketable it is in America, it has already made quite a splash (hell, otherwise-respectable IFC picked it up, after all), and in the press notes Six says he’s already at work on the sequel, The Human Centipede: Full Sequence. To use his words, he says Full Sequence will have “a 12-person human centipede, and that movie will go full force in graphic details, making part 1 look like my little pony.” Great. Maybe my nausea will have subsided by the time that one comes out. | Pete Timmermann

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