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Everyone needs a hobby. Hitler was a painter, Mussolini a violinist, Hussein’s was plain and simple torture, and I love watching movies. But what about Germany’s most acclaimed and celebrated surgeon for separating Siamese twins? Here is a guy with one of the most high pressured jobs in existence, having the lives of two human beings in his hands each and every time he goes to work, cleaning up what some would say are God’s mistakes. So what could he possibly do when he arrives back home? Watch some tv? Dabble at the piano? Play with his dog? If you spend your entire existence fixing the monstrosities that only a higher power could be responsible for, the next logically step in your evolution would be to become God himself, to create your own brand of horror. And that is exactly what Dr. Heiter sets out to do once his precious triple dog concoction passes away. It was time to elevate his game and finally attempt The Human Centipede (First Sequence).

I know you know about the controversy and uproar making its rounds on the internet involving Tom Six’s new brand of horror. Supposedly the most disgusting tale ever put to celluloid, many have become entranced by the idea of this beast, only to completely walk away once experiencing the trailer or delving a bit deeper into plot details. I’ll be honest, though, I was afraid that if I read too much about what actually goes on in the film, I’d chicken out and never see it for myself. Perhaps I’m just as insane as Six for coming up with a film treatment as disturbing as he has; maybe I’ve finally become numb to cinema and its attempts to instill terror, knowing all I see is fake and simply a story being told; or, and I’m sure almost all of you will stop taking anything I say seriously now, it just isn’t that bad. With all the hard-R, Michael Bay produced horror remakes being made with decapitations left and right, limb removal, rape, and blood-letting running rampant, some may say what happens when three kidnapped young adults are artificially connected via their gastro-intestinal systems is tame in comparison.

Does that make what Six has created in The Human Centipede alright? Of course not. The man has a demented mind for sure, but why should we be vilifying him for it? Doesn’t everyone out there, intelligent enough to realize most of what Hollywood churns out is redundant drivel, beg for new and original ideas? Well, let me tell you something, this surreal trip into the insane asylum of a brilliant surgeon’s warped and twisted mind has never been done before. And what’s its reward? Society’s esteemed group of critics give it no stars and no redeeming value, the industry scares producers out of even letting the MPAA rate it, (I honestly don’t think it’d get higher than an R except for the prudish and politically correct nature of this country), and it becomes relegated to VOD status by distributor IFC Films. The ‘unrated’ quality will only help drive more college-aged kids to check it out, hoping to see something risqué and inappropriate—exactly what they will, but also more if they look beyond the shock value and delve into the characterizations of this predator/prey dynamic. We are so quick to dismiss due to graphic use of human torture and disfigurement, we don’t give it a chance to be a film worthy of our time.

Dieter Laser does whatever is necessary to make the role of Dr, Heiter memorable. His look is a cross between Lance Henriksen and Udo Kier—the scratchy, deep voice and weathered face of the former and the cool, steely, remorseless delivery of the latter, immensely enjoying what it is he has accomplished. This is a feat of scientific revelation and, according to the tagline, 100% medically accurate. Come on now, you have to see the humor underlying this thing by that line alone. The joke is on you boys and girls, the stigma of what’s happening over-powering what’s actually shown. Laser is certainly a monster, devoid of compassion and a self-proclaimed hater of human beings. But he isn’t out to maim God’s disgusting creatures; they are merely his tools for creation. What luck for the two American tourists happening to stumble upon his humble abode one night after getting lost in the woods and acquiring a flat tire. Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) are both very attractive and very naïve young women, assuming everyone in Europe will cater to their lack of speaking anything other than English. Does that mean they deserve what is to follow? I don’t think anyone does, not even Katsuro (Akihiro Kitamura), the Japanese man rounding out the trio with a guilty conscience.

At first I saw the two girls as eye-candy, merely adequate actresses and nothing more. But what A-lister would ever agree to be in this film? Yet as the movie progressed and they were no longer able to speak—their mouths were full, so to speak, after the surgery was complete—I really found them to be effective. We watch as Laser calmly goes through the procedure with nicely drawn transparencies, peering at the horrified, tear-streaked faces of the victims, screaming and writhing in hopes to break free and wake from this nightmare. There are a few money shots of scalpels cutting flesh and blood spilling from an arm ripped of its IV, but everything else is done off-screen—even an insolence whipping by the pool, the shadows and sounds all we get. We don’t see the good doctor put mouths to asses, (remember, they connect into a centipede via digestive tract), just the clump of bodies underneath a clinical sheet after or the trio upright with bandages covering actual connections. The stitching used to attach them are gruesome and crude, the reactions to bowel movements authentic and gross, but besides some blood or puss once one gets an infection, the gore is seriously less than what I experienced in the newly re-shot Texas Chainsaw, Friday the 13th, or Nightmare.

No, the only thing Human Centipede has that those others don’t is an antagonist without supernatural strength or origin. I guess realism is the true point of fear; that line people aren’t willing to cross because their brains aren’t able to accept it as fantasy. If I can liken the film to anything, it would be Eli Roth’s Hostel series. There was a duo of films—both more graphic than this—playing with the relationships between sadistic, seemingly common folk and the innocent victims in the wrong place at the wrong time. Only in the face of true horror, events unfathomable in the safe little bubble you go about your daily lives inhabiting, can you begin to imagine all those things you did wrong before this instance of pure, unadulterated punishment. Why have you been given this karmic retribution? What did you do that angered your God so immensely?

Katsuro has his moment of revelation, right when it seems he has a chance to get away. But what if killing the man orchestrating this brutality makes him no better than his captor? Perhaps they all did earn their fate—we don’t know their pasts and thus can’t judge ourselves. All we can do is watch as their humanity is stripped away. Dr. Heiter leaving them to give up or do what they can to prove to themselves they are still human. The finale is a bleak denouement to the quick burst of violence before it as a result, showing how helpless being caught in the middle with no place to go can be. Lindsay becomes a stand-in for the film itself in that way, both seemingly trapped in this horrific, quiet end. Yet Six is already at work on The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence). I don’t have a clue where he will be going with it, but I’ll let it be known now—I’ll be there to watch and see. Maybe that says more about me than the movie, though.

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) 6/10

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photography:
[1] Dieter Laser as Dr. Heiter in THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE directed by Tom Six. © 2009 sixentertainment. An IFC Films Release
[2] Ashley C. Williams as Lindsay in THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE directed by Tom Six. © 2009 sixentertainment. An IFC Films Release

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