By: Addison Wylie
There are subjects that filmmakers tackle, there are subjects that filmmakers don’t want to talk about and then there’s The Human Centipede. A movie that grasps a concept so inane that it would be a suicide mission for a director to want to display this kind of a movie to audiences. Tom Six’s The Human Centipede is utterly ridiculous from the get-go. Six was out to make the ultimate feel sick movie of the year featuring a script that challenges a taboo no one has ever thought of before, suspenseful scenes that will have his audience at the edge of their seats, as well as characters that you’re either supposed to root for or not but the villain will be a malicious beast. After shooting it, having the film go through post-production and now having the film to show to audiences across the globe, Six has made a laughably bad, mean spirited horror film that is sure to build a campy cult following.
Two girls named Lindsay, played by Ashley C. Williams, and Jenny, played by Ashlynn Yennie, have embarked on an adventurous road trip across Europe. When driving in Germany, the car suddenly gets a flat tire in a secluded area surrounded by forestry. Both in a tizzy, the two friends decide to search for help but there is no luck. After walking and walking, Lindsay sees a house up ahead. The two girls run up to the front door and begin knocking to find that the house is owned by a mysterious, older man. Little do they know, this obscure man is Dr. Heiter, played by Dieter Laser. Heiter is a well known surgeon known for separating Siamese twins. However, dabbling in separation procedures, Heiter has begun to have fascinations with bringing things together. After experimenting on animals, he decides that Lindsay and Jenny will be the perfect patients to test his latest idea; connecting human beings. How you ask? How do I put this politely? By sewing someone’s top orifice to another’s bottom orifice, therefore, connecting their digestive systems in order to make the first human centipede.
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Tom Six seems to have a fascination with horror. You can sense his passion behind the camera as he tries to create a suspenseful mood and disturbing environments. What Six is unaware of is that he has no knowledge as to how to set up alarming moods in the first place. Let’s break down Six’s directing methods as well as his writing techniques (that’s right, he wrote this too). In a scene where Dr. Heiter is explaining his madcap plan to his patients, Six thinks he is scaring his audience by showing projected drawings of fleshed out stick people as well as making Heiter explain, in his extremely thick accent, how he plans to connect the human beings. What happens is that the audience does feel uncomfortable but the situation becomes comedic because it shows how much thought Heiter has put towards this experiment. Heiter doesn’t really seem evil. Sadistic, sure, but overall he just seems bored with life and he’s looking for something to do. That isn’t scary. Six showcases here that he doesn’t have the ability to create a psychologically unstable character. By having Dr. Heiter say ridiculous things while mugging towards the camera, just makes the audience laugh at how pathetically flat the character is. Also, by making Heiter out to be a man who likes to prolong and drag out his kills and make his victims think they have a chance of getting away, the audience never feels worried towards the victims. We know the victim isn’t going to get away, we know that Heiter is around the corner. This kills any suspense Six is trying to create in his film. It feels as if Six loves to discuss about a subject instead of showing it which is actually on the path to creating a picture in someone’s imagination. However, he makes the mistake of telling too much and, by setting this in a modern day, non-fantastical environment, it kills any creative impulse an audience member is beginning to have. The tagline to the film even states that this procedure is 100% medically possible. So what? Six is trying to hint that anyone can do this to anyone. I don’t say this often but I think I can speak on behalf of everyone living and breathing that absolutely no one has ever thought of performing a task such as this to someone else. Stabbings get such a big rise out of people in horror movies because it’s something that could actually happen to someone in real life. Even possessions or ghosts, for instance. No matter if they’re real or not, horror movies like The Blair Witch Project or The Ring leaves most of these fantasy elements to the viewer to “fill in the blanks” and, thus, this scares us too. No one in real life is ever going to sew my mouth to someone’s behind in this perfect detailed manner. Not a regular Joe and not even the most brilliant mastermind surgeon, and therefore, the premise of this movie doesn’t scare me.
The film is disturbing though but not in the sense Six has in mind. The film actually might reflect Six himself. I’m not one to make snap judgments and I’m not a psychiatrist by any means, but Six’s screenplay and directing methods are quite misogynistic. I’m surprised his relative and producer, Ilona Six, didn’t pick up on these hints throughout the film. The centipede is made out of three people; Lindsay, Jenny, and an asian man named Katsuro, played by Akihiro Kitamura. Six writes in the script that the man will possess the head of the centipede while the two women be the lower half. At first, the audience may be cheering because the two girls are given terrible, screeching lines to say and their characters are ditzy characachers. With their mouths sewn, they won’t be saying any dialogue. However, it’s worse. For the latter part of the film, we hear the girls sobbing and screaming, all in a muffled matter. In addition, at one point, Katsuro is going to be forced to eat and he’ll have to excrete. Where’s the waste going to go? Let’s just say in once scene, we see one of the girl’s reacting with disgust as Katsuro releases his stool. The film maintains a campy, unintentionally funny quality throughout the first act or so by being so pathetic, it’s funny. Once we get scenes like these and numerous other scenes where the women are forced to walk on hands and knees like a dog while being tortured makes me, as an audience member, uneasy. I start to think about the actors and how degraded they must feel and it takes me out of the film. I know The Human Centipede is just a movie but, on set, Six would’ve had to direct the women to behave like this. Maybe the actors needed to read the script a bit more carefully before accepting a role that represents them as a human toilet. However, most of the blame falls on Six for even conjuring up this worthless, sick idea and adapting it to film.
Surprisingly, I have something good to say about the film. The film is lit very well throughout and my hat goes off to the lighting team. It’s just too bad that Goof de Koning, the cinematographer, loses some of the effect with his ability to not frame shots correctly. Now, with all this said, if you happen to see this film with a large rowdy crowd, the experience, at least for the first half, is a lot of fun. People are gasping and wincing, people are laughing, everyone is having a good time. It’s when that last act starts to materialize and Six leaves us with a grim, shoddy ending that the crowd starts to become disappointed. If given the chance and you still want to embark on the Human Centipede experience, go with cautions and have a blast with a midnight showing of the film. It’s just too bad that it’ll make you want to take a cold shower afterwards with your hand clasped over your face in astonishment.