The Human Centipede (First Sequence)
Review by Jack Foley
HORROR films are often the hardest films to review. My natural inclination is to write off the vast majority as unnecessary, particularly if they indulge in ‘torture porn’ or excessive sexually driven violence towards women.
The more extreme, the greater my reluctance to see them, let alone consider the merits of what they’re attempting to do or say.
The Human Centipede, however, arrives with a high morbid curiosity value attached. Sick even to think about, it nevertheless offers one of the year’s biggest talking points and looks destined for cult status and, even more worryingly, sequels.
Director Tom Six claims to have come up with the idea after cracking a sick joke about a fitting punishment for a sex offender (sewing his mouth to the anus of an over-weight truck driver). He then stuck with the idea and turned it into a movie.
The ensuing gross-fest is as grotesque as its premise suggests, but one that isn’t entirely without merit even if it struggles to display much artistic merit.
Six is a keen horror student whose creation owes much in inspiration to the early work of David Cronenberg as well as Japanese extreme horror. It also wears its B-movie aspirations on its sleeve and possesses a memorable villain.
There’s also a thankful restraint shown towards some of the nastier elements of the centipede, with the operating sequences being kept to a minimum as well as some of the medical practicalities of life as part of the chain.
But that’s not to say the film won’t scar in some ways. It’s hard to remove the image of the centipede from your brain, while the final scene is genuinely haunting (as all good horror should be). For that, at least, Six deserves credit.
In most other respects, he falls a little short. First off, The Human Centipede relies a little too heavily on bog-standard horror convention, with the usual tourists in peril scenario used to drive the film forward.
By having his mad surgeon succeed in his warped desire early on, he also leaves the film with nowhere really to go after the midway stage, and is therefore forced to craft a third act that’s heavy on contrived scenarios (escape attempts, visiting cops, etc) that displays none of the audacity apparent in the original concept itself.
Hence, The Human Centipede is best approached with extreme caution and still isn’t for the faint-hearted, especially during the inevitable moment when one of the chain can no longer hold their bowels. It’s also impossible to recommend to anyone but your worst enemy!
Those that do enter, however, may also ‘enjoy’ Dieter Laser’s perfectly pitched performance as the mad Dr Heiter, as well as taking note of the hapless trio of actors who form the centipede if only to see whether their bravery in taking on the role will be shown up as folly or an inspired career move.
Those that do make it all the way to the end will also perhaps be moved to ponder just where The Human Centipede can possibly go from there. A sequel is in the works, which Six promises will make this original look like “My Little Pony”. It makes you shudder to think.
In Dutch & English, with subtitles
Running time: 92mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: October 4, 2010
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Tom Six interview
- The Human Centipede Photo Gallery