Humour, Repulsion, and Depravity: The Human Centipede

Deadly Movies Reviews | ‘The Human Centipede: First Sequence’ (2009)

The Human Centipede goes for a morning stroll

Dutch director Tom Six’s ‘The Human Centipede’ has been making waves and causing Chinese whispers about its content ever since it debuted on the festival circuit last summer. It’s limited and sporadic theatrical release may not have aided the movie financially but it has helped increased the air of intrigue and mystery (for those who managed to patiently avoid watching it online). As almost any horror fan will know by now the film is indeed about a deranged surgeon’s experimental operation to create a composite human creature out of three hapless victims, linked mouth to anus. A truly bizarre and disturbing concept indeed.

The movie is an odd mix of dark comedy and body horror which at times are perfectly complimentary and at other times horribly jarring. German actor Dieter Laser is on fire as the crazed Dr Heiter, seamlessly switching between comic moments of ludicrousness and terrifying moments of menace. He delivers a true cinematic sinister villain, one you will never forget. The black comedy elements of the film are largely contained in the opening 30 minutes, thereafter, when the surgery begins, the film takes a turn for the decidedly disturbing. Playing heavily upon peoples basic human primal fears of the body, body mutilation, and revulsion at the ‘other’s’ body. There are some truly stomach turning moments that will have even the most hardened gore hound struggling to hold down their dinner.

It’s not so much that this is a gory movie (there are some close up surgery scenes) but rather that the body horror digs deep into the audiences’ personal boundaries of body violation, a violation that is indeed torturous and a fate worse than death. Some will probably find humour in the ridiculousness of the scenario of seeing three humans stitched together ass-to-mouth, but if you ask me that’s probably a bit of personal censorship, using humour to hide from the sheer disturbing nature of the victims ordeal. The fate of the trio is very disturbing and nauseating.

All four leads come out of this with their reputations raised; Laser is superbly creepy, the two American girls (Ashley Williams and Ashlynn Yennie) who make up the middle and end section of the ‘centipede’ do ditzy horror victims and tortured victims equally well, and Akihiro Kitamura is on powerful form as the top section and mouth piece of the trio. One imagines that shooting the centipede scenes must have been especially grueling. In the end the film does rely heavily on the ‘centipede’ gimmick, take that away and the rest is highly generic. However the gimmick is as disgustingly disturbing as it is rememberable. ‘The Human Centipede’ is all in one a darkly funny, harrowing, repulsive, and admittedly brave piece of cinema. A film that will certainly make more enemies than friends and is an exercise in endurance and curiosity.

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2 thoughts on “Humour, Repulsion, and Depravity: The Human Centipede

  1. I haven’t seen this one yet, but have read up on it. Disturbing indeed.
    Dreaded Dreams
    Petunia Scareum

  2. Obviously, the premise is utterly horrific, but its handled about as tastefully as could be hoped for. In many respects, its really a quite conventional horror film, not the absolutely revolting, demented freak show one half expects to witness as one begins to view it. Its disturbing (it kind of has to be, considering the premise), but its not nearly as “bad” as some people probably assume. Its not a great film, but I enjoyed it (mildly). Its worth checking out.

    I hated the two actresses, and the characters they played. Perhaps that was intentional ie., to make them two extremely unsympathetic, stupid bitches, so as to make their fate a little less unpalatable. Or maybe the characters they were playing are actually considered reasonable portrayals of how young American woman do/ought to behave, in which case, civilization is doomed. I’m too old & married to have much contact with women in their early 20s, so I can’t quite be sure which it is.

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