Horror movies, perhaps more than any other genre, have become ripe for redundancy. Blood-thirsty psychopath here, deadly virus outbreak there — you know the drill. This problem seems responsible for the latest school of horror-movie making, the gore-grossout, less about concocting taut, thrilling plot lines, more about fake-blood-drenched attempts at making the audience lose their lunch. Enter, Human Centipede, a much talked-about flick about a German doctor’s plan to stitch together three humans (ahem) ass to mouth. With such a plot, it was easy to assume this movie would be another in a long line of films aimed at your stomach instead of your head.
It begins with, what else, Lindsay and Jenny, two obnoxious New York City girls on a trip in Germany, who seek out a nightclub in hopes of rendezvousing with a cute boy. But, oh no, they get lost! And their tire pops! And they don’t know how to change it! So, they stumble through the woods in their negligee nightclub clothing, landing at the house of Dr. Heiter, in hopes of using the phone to call for help. But Dr. Heiter has other plans, of course, and sets his trap, offering them water spiked with Rohypnol.
After bringing in a loud, angry, Japanese tourist — Katsuro — Dr. Heiter has his subjects. While keeping them restrained in a makeshift medical ward in his basement, Heiter reveals his plans. A world-renowned doctor who made his name separating Siamese twins, Heiter now aims to conjoin, creating one being via three connected digestive systems. (Which he succeeded in performing on his “beloved three-dog,” recently deceased.)
Upon hearing their disgusting fate, Lindsay makes a foolhardy attempt at escape. Bypassing any opportunities to use the phone, she attempts to drag out her now unconscious friend, and is caught. The movie is only halfway through by the time Heiter succeeds with conducting the operation, so after he unveils his creation, the question is begged: where can this possibly go next?
Heiter treats them as his three-dog, training them to do various tasks with a few reprimands in between for resistant behavior. There is, still, the obvious gross-out of (ahem) the digestion process, the most disgusting scene, during which Heiter screams “Feed her!” and “Swallow it, bitch!”
Things pick up a bit when Heiter discovers that poor Jenny, stuck at the end, is dying of blood poisoning (while Lindsay suffers from constipation, presumably not wanting to shit in her friend’s mouth, a nice touch), and minutes later two policemen arrive at the door looking into the disappearance of tourists whose cars are left in the area. Heiter prepares his best preying mantis routine, eager to swap one of the cops for Jenny.
For such an original idea, though, the rest of Human Centipede‘s attributes are rather plain, including the ending (horrific though it is). This is true especially in regard to the characters of Jenny and Lindsay, who embody typical “female in a horror flick” stereotypes. They spend most of their time on screen screaming, whimpering and without clothes on (or in wet clothes, if they’re wearing them). Katsuro is the only one of Heiter’s victims who sees any character development — though granted, he’s also the only one who can actually talk for the second half of the film.
Human Centipede does benefit from the strong performance of Dieter Laser as Dr. Heiter, who no one will want to run into at night after viewing this, as well as from its few jabs of unexpected, dark humor. As for gratuitousness, the film was surprisingly (and thankfully) devoid of it, with camera cutaways and conveniently placed bandages that concealed most — though not all — of what would have been vomit-inducing.
In the gesture of favoring concept over gore, Human Centipede‘s stereotypical transgressions are forgivable. But if writer/director Tom Six does go forward with his plans to turn Human Centipede into a trilogy featuring bigger centipedes and, presumably, bigger grossouts, it may be best to favor one’s stomach and pass on the sequels.
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