Posted tagged ‘shock cinema’

Review – The Human Centipede

May 9, 2010

Remember, I generally hate movies.

Following a bit of a hiatus, I’m back.  And what a movie to get things going again!

After seeing The Human Centipede, I had two different, but related reactions: I liked the movie, but I didn’t necessarily like myself after realizing that I liked the movie.

Of course, I was already a little skeptical of myself for wanting to see the movie at all.  The premise of the film is frighteningly simple, shockingly original, and absolutely repulsive.  I might come to hate myself if I actually type a description, so I’ll just rely on the trailer to relate the premise for me:

So, yes, it’s a film about a guy who attaches people’s mouths to other people’s anuses to form a human centipede.  And that’s about it.  There’s really no character development (two of the characters can’t even speak because their mouths are, well, occupied).  There’s not much of a narrative.  There’s no real sense of surprise (the opening of the film makes it clear that the film was made under the assumption that its audience already knows what it’s about).  The entire film is really nothing more than a vehicle for the aforementioned conjoining of mouths and anuses.

And such is the movie’s charm.  I went to see the movie at a sold-out midnight showing and everyone in the theater already knew what was coming.  We weren’t there for the normal reasons that people go to see movies, we were there to see a human centipede.  This wasn’t really a movie, it was a freak-show.

And it delivered.  Sure enough, about half way through the movie, three people are attached to each other via digestive track (which is a fancy way of saying ass-to-mouth).  And, sure enough, it’s pretty remarkable in its own right.

But what was still more remarkable is how many other good things there are to say about the movie.

First, there is the performance of Dieter Laser as the mad scientist who, having retired from his career as a leading specialist at separating conjoined twins, has decided to spend his golden years conjoining things – especially digestive tracks.  Laser seems to revel in the role – giving it a delightful blend of creepiness and tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended) campiness.  The delight he expresses when he creates “my centipede!” and the sense of relief and indignation he conveys when he declares to his misbehaving victim “you will be my middle piece!” are simultaneously repulsive and hilarious.

And this fits very well with the second excellent aspect of this film.  The premise of the movie is, needless to say, disgusting and disturbing.  But the film doesn’t do much to amp up those qualities.  Director Tom Six seems confident that the premise alone will satisfy shock-cinema fanatics, and thus doesn’t try too hard to put terribly graphic images on the screen.  Throughout the movie, the image that probably got the strongest “ewww” from the audience was the shot of Laser’s naked body as he swims in an indoor pool.

Instead of shocking images, then, Six puts his energies into making sure that the film is fun.  And, at almost every turn, he succeeds.  There is a palpable sense of humor running throughout the movie – from the tombstone marking the final resting place of “My Sweet Three Dog,” to the scientist’s moment of slapstick as he crawls along the floor after the human centipede stabs him in the leg.

Even the image of the human centipede itself, rather than emphasizing the gruesome nature of what is going on, instead turns the whole thing into an extreme and twisted form of scatological humor.  Throughout the film I was no more repulsed than I was when I first entered the theater, but I was always thoroughly entertained, from the opening shot of the scientist acquiring his first victim to the delightfully surprising and twisted ending.

All this amounted to a pleasant surprise.  I still think a little less of myself for going to see the movie.  And I’m not sure what it says about me that I enjoyed it.  But I can say that what could have been a couple hours of drudgery mixed with the occasional horrific image turned out to be a hilarious romp through the darkest of dark aspects of human behavior.

At one point, I laughed out loud as the scientist licked a puddle of blood and feces off the floor.  Getting a laugh out of such a thing is either a filmic accomplishment, or a disturbing comment on my mental well-being.  I chose to believe that it is the former.