The Human Centipede: First Sequence

by guest blogger Jerry!

The Human Centipede marks the first time in nearly 40 years of professional film reviewing that Roger Ebert has refused to issue a “star” rating. According to Ebert, “The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don’t shine.”

Strong words, Mr. Ebert. Ebert’s review set the tone for what was to follow – an unprecedented outpouring of disgust, outrage, and occasional praise for a unique genre film that seemed to be seeking out exactly that mix of emotions.

It’s hard to imagine a movie with more horrified/fascinated hype behind it, and in that sense, Ebert is right. The second you hear the title, The Human Centipede, you pretty much know whether or not this is a movie for you. Still not sure? Here, take a look at the poster:

Any questions?

Additionally, Dutch writer/director Tom Six cites Pasolini’s Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom and the works of Lars Von Trier as his inspirations. Yes, that Salo:

FYI: Salo is as disturbing as it gets. Still.

I’m putting all this out there because, rather than just writing a straightforward review, I think the more practical service is to start with a few simple assurances about the movie, to those viewers who suspect this might be their kind of film.

Question: Is there really a human centipede?

Answer: Yes.  The interesting part is that the centipede thing actually happens fairly early on. Though he has a good time leading to, then explaining/demonstrating the surgical process, Six is ultimately more interested in what happens once you’ve built a human centipede.

Question: Is it the grossest thing ever? Will I throw up?

Answer: It is not the grossest thing ever, though you might throw up. If you suspect you’re the kind of person who would throw up at a movie about three people being surgically connected, ass-to-mouth, then you probably will throw up. That being said, the movie isn’t nearly as graphic as it could have been. It feels a little silly pointing out something like how they only show one tooth being pulled, instead of all of them, but there it is – they only show one tooth being pulled (though the one is plenty). In fact, the grossness doesn’t really need to be shown too often – the premise itself is so horrifying that a little visual support goes a long, long way (see above).

Question: Is it a well-made movie? Is it just a P.O.S. with a clever gimmick?

Answer: THC (!) is a very well-made movie. It’s nicely photographed, well-edited, and deliberately directed. The effects are original, realistic, and horrifying, while the acting, though spotty, is effective. Dieter Laser (best name EVER), the award-winning German lead, offers the most over-the-top, completely batshit-insane performance I’ve ever seen of a mad scientist, and I don’t say that lightly. I’ve heard some complaints about the story direction, but for the most part, I think people are just put off by where Mr. Six chooses to go. I do have one general complaint, but I’ll address that in a bit.

I would buy this if you would wear it*

Question: Will I leave the theater totally disturbed? Is there any chance I could enjoy something like this?

Answer: Yes and yes. You will absolutely be disturbed. The movie is skillfully shot and directed, and it exists to disturb you. That being said, you may well enjoy it. THC has a definite, deliberate sense of humor, and while that humor is basically malevolent, it’s pretty damn funny. One example: During the surgical process, Dr. Heiter makes a two-part mistake that raises the funny-ante considerably – he leaves the victims their vocal chords, and he puts a Japanese-speaking (with subtitles) wannabe gangster at the front of the ‘Pede. Hilarity ensues!

*(The above photo is of a THC-inspired necklace, available here. Would an unenjoyable movie have inspired jewelry? I think not.)

"Feed her!"

Question: I like horrifying things – does THC bring it the way I’m hoping?

Answer: THC delivers, and you’ll be pleased. The movie addresses all the, uh, issues you would want it to, including the question of bathroom functions. Fair warning, though. This story does not have the happiest ending (how could it?).  It actually gets to a point where I though it was going to go the full crowd-pleasing route, but it doesn’t – that would be too easy. While well-made and occasionally funny, this movie wasn’t intended to make you walk out feeling good.

Question: Any complaints?

Answer: Leaving aside any possible objections to the premise, my only complaint about THC is that it takes a lazy writing shortcut that I’m sorry to see return to the horror genre. I’ve seen so many impressive, disturbing, original horror films lately, but they keep getting to a point where the characters involved have to make a series of retarded, unbelievable, completely unrealistic choices. I’m talking on the level of “Don’t go up the stairs!” Or “Don’t go investigate by yourself! Call for back-up with that walkie-talkie ON YOUR BELT!” Recent movies that I’ve otherwise liked that made this choice include Inside, Splice, and THC. Come on, you’ve got this great premise, wonderful/willing actors, great FX, just give me the tiniest bit of realism when it comes to character choices, and I’m with you to the end. I mean, these are obvious works of fiction, just don’t insult me and your characters by being that lazy with your storytelling!

OK, so hopefully the above answers your questions about whether or not this is a movie for you. Now I’m going to move into SPOILER TERRITORY, so please stop reading if you don’t want to know anything else about the movie. For those of you who won’t be seeing the movie, or have already seen it, let’s talk about a couple of good and bad things.

SPOILERS BELOW!

First of all, I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed Mr. Laser’s performance. He’s basically playing the most evil Nazi doctor in the world, and he damn well knows it. When cops start showing up at his house to investigate, he doesn’t even pretend to not be a mad scientist. In fact, he seems to actually play up his mad-scientist persona in front of them, like he enjoys the reaction he gets.

I was also won over by the humor, god help me. I love it that the answer to the question, “what do you do once you’ve built a human centipede,” is…. you train it to fetch your newspaper, of course! And to eat from a bowl, and to control itself when one segment has to relieve him/herself through the mouth of the next.

I’d also like to point out, for the record, that the shit-eating sequence of the movie isn’t technically that, at all. According to the diagram, there’s one intestinal system running through all three segments of the centipede, basically in a straight line from the mouth of the first, to the anus of the last.

Here, take another look.

This means that although the first (and second) segments do need to push when the food reaches the end of their system, the aren’t technically pooing in the next person’s mouth. They’re just pushing the food through the tube, which happens to run through the mouth of the next segment. It’s a small difference, but important!

Finally, was anyone else disappointed that they didn’t engage in a full on, ground-level centipede war with the Dr.? I mean, they disable his legs, get him on the ground, then they’re both crawl-circling each other, weapons drawn, and I’m all “Holy shit, they’re going Crippled Masters on us!” But then, of course, they don’t, instead getting super depressing and disturbing.  Oh well.

END SPOILERS

It’s been a few weeks now since I saw The Human Centipede. Make no mistake about it, THC is stomach-churning, disturbing stuff, and it has earned its outrageous reputation. But as the initial shock fades, I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I’m enjoying the memory of the movie. It does have its flaws – uneven acting, some highly questionable decision-making by the characters –  but ultimately what I remember is that this is a smart, skillfully made, extremely dark and occasionally funny horror movie, with an original and provocative premise. Films like that are in short supply, so if you have the nerve, I encourage you to see it.

One final note: Yes, Tom Six is planning a sequel. Rumor has it that we’ll be seeing a 12-person centipede!

Dutch director Tom Six wasn't born in Texas, but he got here as quick as he could.

Akihiro Kitamura, Ashley C. Williams, and Aslynn Yennie, back on their feet.

(editor’s note: You can read more of Jerry’s DIH posts here, and check him out with Two Star Symphony!)

Advertisements

16 Responses to “The Human Centipede: First Sequence”

  1. This is a great review! I’ve heard no honest accounts of THC (only ‘Holy god what must it be like to be the girl on the end??) so this is really good!

    One of my favourite things about your blog is that you watch and eloquently summarise horrible movies so that I don’t have to. I’m not sure I could bring myself to watch this (I also felt that way about Deadgirl, especially after reading your entry on it) but now I feel much better informed! And not gonna lie, kind of relieved about the shit-eating sequence.

  2. THC, what a great acronym. I have to admit I skimmed because I want to see it for myself, but I’m glad that you didn’t totally dismiss it out-of-hand, because I was afraid that I either would hate it or couldn’t hang. But I’ve seen Salo, although I did have to take a break due to gagging.

  3. Awesome review. Well, the half that I read. I want to see it, so I skipped the spoilers. This all kind of reminds me of a slumber party chainsaw movie that had the greatest tag line ever: “It’s everything you think it is.” I do believe that this tag line would work for this movie as well.

  4. Thank you so much for the blog compliment, Sarah! This review was actually written by my friend Jerry. Q: Didn’t he do an awesome job? A: Yes, yes he did.

    Fantastic review, Jerry! You handled this material like no one else. I loved the Q&A followed by spoilers format, and your photo captions never cease to delight me. Dammit, you need your own blog. You’re too freaking talented and intelligent to only post every now and then!

    Thanks for writing the review! We’ll watch it together on DVD, no doubt.

  5. i was really scared to read this review, so thanks for going easy on a wimp like me, jerry! AND for answering the questions i was dying to ask (but again, without seeing the movie. I WILL NEVER SEE THIS MOVIE), specifically the food tube. that’s a relief! well, a small relief, but still.

  6. Fred & James Says:

    I’m proud to say that we were the only people brave enough to actually go with Mr. Ochoa to experience THC in full, big-screen glory for a midnight showing at the River Oaks theater. When he called and said no one else was willing to go see a horror movie about people sewn mouth-to-ass, I said, “We’re gay men…just another day at the office for us.” That being said, this movie did disturb me and James is hard at work on our THC Halloween costume. No he’s not. Yes he is. “Feed her!”

  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Meredith Borders, Meredith Borders. Meredith Borders said: Jerry did the unthinkable and reviewed Human Centipede for your ewwing pleasure. You know you're curious. http://tinyurl.com/2dlsjzf […]

  8. Jerry, you have done me a disservice. Cause, um, you were supposed to make me NOT want to see The Human Centipede? And now . . . I sort of do. I mean, I sat through Deadgirl (which is awesome, First Sarah! To distinguish you from Second Sarah, who I met, well, second); some felching is hardly going to be that troubling.

  9. Matt and I came to the same conclusion at dinner (weird) last night: we both really want to see THC now. Maybe because of the acronym, to be fair.

  10. Thanks for all the positive feedback on the review! I’m so pleased I’ve piqued some curiosity. Also, I had a feeling what everyone really wanted to know was about the poop-eating situation, so glad I could help explain that, as well.

    To those who are cautiously interested, if you could sit through Deadgirl, Inside, Martyrs, etc., then you can handle THC. Personally, I still find Inside the most difficult to watch of this new generation of horror films.

  11. and the best? Probably the best.

  12. Yeah, as far as pure horror goes, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything top Inside. Though again, the lazy-writing horror shortcut shows up in that movie, and it actively detracts from the overall experience for me. Even so, Inside still stands supreme among the new crop.

  13. I know, now I’m totally jealous that I didn’t go see this with you. I can’t wait for it to come out on video. I didn’t think Inside was more disturbing than Deadgirl. Deadgirl was more like “oh man, what are they going to do next” kind of uncomfortable while Inside was a “I can’t sit still because I have no idea what’s about to happen” kind of uncomfortable.

    Which one is THC? I guess I’ll have to watch to find out. I skipped the spoilers.

  14. this is sick and stupid i cant belive why someone would want this. why does he want this anyway? all it is its someones head stuck 2 someone alses ass if u look at the canvas behind him it had conjoint twins thats probs why he might be gettin revenge

  15. What a unique concept of a film, I found the film really good and the 1hr 30mins flew by. I actually think there should have been more ‘relieving themselves’ scenes as we never saw lindsay do it into her friends mouth!!
    I never gagged at any of it, just turned away when he cut though the knee as i dont like seeing scapel cuts.
    All in all a great odd film and lets hope for a follow up… :-)

  16. AngieAustinsUterus Says:

    Now that the sequel has been completed, it is rumored that the “final sequence” will be huge. But, now that the elements of surprise and shock are gone, will it have much impact!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: