Directed by: Tom Six
Written by: Tom Six
Starring: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie
Released: 2009 / Genre: Horror / Country: UK/Netherlands/Germany / IMDB
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Discover More: Tom Six’s sequel has been banned in the UK because “harm is likely to be caused to potential viewers”. See our top ten films to have driven people crazy.
The Human Centipede was born out of a conversation about appropriate punishments for convicted paedophiles. The concept is interesting in itself but not wholly cinematic if the drama is singularly based around writer/director Tom Six’s bizarre medical procedure. It is especially uninteresting when the principle characters have the personalities of elongated metameric animals of the Chilapoda class – or in other words a centipede. Apt, and perhaps predictably, their fate lies at the hands of a demented doctor who fancies turning them into…well…a creepy crawly. And that is perhaps the film’s greatest flaw – it is essentially no more than torture, delivered in a supposedly medically accurate, clinical fashion, without the right to appeal. That may be suitable for the sick actions of sexual predators, but not three innocent people.
The film begins with Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser), sitting in his parked car by the roadside, perusing pictures of dogs he has managed to surgically attach together. When a trucker pulls up behind him, gets out and squats in foliage nearby to presumably relieve himself, Heiter takes out a dart gun and shoots the man.
We are then introduced to two American women – both attractive, both in their early twenties. They are travelling through Germany and decide to go out for the night. When their car gets a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, and they don’t have any signal on their mobile phones to call for help, they set off in search of a phone. Out of the darkness they come across a house. Unfortunately for them, it is Dr. Heiter who answers the door.
He invites them in, pretends to phone the car rental company, and gives them some water lined with the date-rape drug Rohypnol. The girls pass out and find themselves strapped to a bed on awakening. In a laboratory-come-operating theatre, the two girls are joined by a third – a Japanese man who speaks no English. Dr. Heiter then explains his plan. Renowned for his work in Germany on Siamese twins, the crazed doctor has decided that instead of separating conjoined babies he is going to surgically attach human beings together. In a procedure that will connect the three people by their digestive tract, he proposes forming a human centipede. One of the girls briefly escapes but only enrages the doctor further. Unable to free herself of his clutches he tells her that as punishment she will be the middle piece of his creation.
The Human Centipede has the distinction of holding your attention simply because the concept of the medical procedure is so fascinating in its total depravity. A little like passing a car accident when the urge to view the carnage overrides compassion. But there’s very little substance to go along with the torture. Perhaps it is fortunate that the two American girls aren’t called on to do too much talking (it isn’t long until both their mouths have been stitched shut to a pair of arseholes) because neither can act. Yet, the lack of character in Tom Six’s victims makes the second half of the film long-winded and directionless. The film is also criminally clichéd – from plot details like the flat tire and the lack of phone signal, to the stereotypical character traits such as the maniacal, crazed surgeon, the inept police, the dumb American scream-queens.
But if Tom Six set out to shock he has no problem achieving just that. Certainly, audiences can’t say they’ve seen anything like this before, and certainly not with this level of detail. Admittedly, the shocking, if predictable, climax leaves the sort of bad taste in the mouth the director was presumably trying to achieve. However, given the context of the original idea, The Human Centipede holds some lasting interest, but since this is never alluded to in the film, it is torture without resolution. The problem I have with torture that is not resolved is I never want to submit myself to it ever again.
Review by Daniel Stephens – See all reviews