Image via WikipediaWhen The Human Centipede by Tom Six was first recommended to me, I was sure that it was a joke. "No, really. What's it about?" It is the kind of plot that is almost too ridiculous to comprehend. Can you really make an entire film around... that?
Yes, you can. Of course, just because you CAN do something, doesn't mean that you SHOULD. But they did anyway, and the result is one of the most grotesquely hilarious films I have seen in years.
There is no denying that this is a bad movie. This is the kind of movie that serves as the poster child for trash cinema. The next time some politician or infotainment host decides to raise the battle cry against the disgusting horror films corrupting America's youth, they will no doubt be waving around the DVD case of The Human Centipede as they scream for strict censorship laws. I don't even think I'll blame them when they do: this is not the kind of film you watch if you aren't into these kinds of films. This isn't even the kind of film that you admit to being into. I hate to throw the phrase "guilty pleasure" around with reckless abandon, but in the case of The Human Centipede, I think it is more than justified. This film is the dirty little secret you only admit watching and enjoying to those sick, twisted individuals that share your bizarre taste in cinema.
The plot is incomprehensible as it is simple. Doctor Heiter is a medical professional with a burning passion for experimental surgery, a very unpleasant bedside manner, and a skull way to large for the rest of his head. Famous for successfully separating conjoined and Siamese twins, the good doctor is now obsessed with joining things together. Heartbroken from the death of his freshly-joined three dobermans (his "Beloved Three-Dog), Heiter desides to step things up a notch and join three humans. This becomes possible when two teenage twits on a European vacation get a flat tire and stumble upon the anal-retentive (in more ways than one) mad doctor. They are the perfect victims: it is hard to feel much sympathy when the girls stumble upon a creepy German doctor with a bulging cranium and pictures of deformed fetuses on the walls, then gladly accet when he tells them to sit and offers them drinks. Two glasses of Rohypnol water and one dart-gunned Japanese drifter later, and all of the ingredients for a Human Centipede are ready and waiting. Let the good times roll.
How does he join them? I thought you 'd never ask. His brainstorm involves crippling the knees so the three can't stand up, and then surgically connecting all three people ass-to-mouth, creating a conjoined monstrosity with one continuous gastronomic passageway. That's probably the nicest way to put it. If you are having a hard time grasping the concept, fear not; the good doctor explains it all in great detail to his helpless victims, including visual aids shown on an overhead projector. Personally, I thought he would have done a better job with a PowerPoint presentation.
If this sounds like a spoiler, it really isn't. The revelation of this creation doesn't mark a climactic ending, but merely kicks off the second act. Your reaction will probably be like mine; a quick glance at a watch, followed by the dim realization that there is still an hour of this to go. This is where the film pays off, as we get to watch Heiter actually interacting with his new creation with the mixed emotions of affection and frustration you would expect from a new pet owner with irrational expectations and a monstrously skin-stretching skull. I'm not kidding, his head is huge. It actually distracts from the Human Centipede. Dieter Laser, the man behind the freakish head, makes the movie. His emotional outbursts, creepy delivery and crazed expressions never fail to delight, and there isn't a moment that you don't believe in the character. When Dr. Heiter actually weeped at the unveiling of his creation, I couldn't help get a little teary-eyed myself. My favorite part is when he takes the Human Centipede out on the lawn for training. I'm sure it will be yours as well.
The genius behind The Human Centipede is that it is not overly graphic. You'll probably see more blood and gore on an episode of Grey's Anatomy, speaking of abominations of nature. What sets this film apart is the human cruelty and anguish of the mad doctor's victims, who are quite conscious and alert throughout the entire film, even if only one of them is able to speak after the first act. The film isn't shocking as much as it is disturbing, and it gets even more disturbing when you find yourself laughing at it. Yes, this is the kind of film that actually makes you feel dirty for watching. That's what horror films used to feel like. I kinda enjoy that.
This is not the kind of film that many will feel comfortable recommending to friends or family members, but just remember, it is all in the interest of science! Plus, The Human Centipede is also a great educational experience for the young ones; before your family viewing, quiz your children as to which part of the Human Centipede they would prefer being. After the film, compare their choices with the inherent realities displayed throughout the story. This is not only a great example of critical thought, but also teaches the lesson of being careful what you wish for.
Speaking of Careful Wishes, I should probably point out that a sequel, The Human Centipede (The Full Sequence) is due out next year.