Monday, August 29, 2011

The Human Centipede An Exercise in Team Building

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

The Human Centipede is a film that I actually had a chance to see on the big screen when. I was covering the 2010 Toronto After Dark Film Festival. It was the closing night film that played after the killer-tire film, Rubber. At the time my cousin, who had taken in Rubber with me, was adamant that he had no desire to Centipede. Based on the disturbing trailer, I really could not argue the point as horror is not everyone’s cup of tea. Even I had reservations about whether I would be able to stomach the film on the big screen. So instead of seeing the film, we opted head over early to the festival’s closing night party and grab a few drinks.

Although I passed on the film at the festival, The Human Centipede is a film that I knew I would get to eventually. I just had to work my way up to a little slower than other horror films. The premise of the film is essentially summed up in the film’s title. The story centers around two American tourist in Germany, Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie), whose car breaks down one night in the middle of woods. Seeking help the women come across the home of Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser), a mad surgeon with a knack for stitching things together. Unbeknownst to Lindsay and Jenny, they are about to become part of Dr. Heiter’s most ambitious experiment to date, the first ever living human centipede.

After finally viewing the film, I can honestly say that the most startling aspect of The Human Centipede is that it is not as graphic as you would expect. This is not to say that the film does not feature some disturbing moments, it does, but it is not as gory as you think it would be. Hearing Dr. Heiter proclaiming “I know definitely you are the middle piece!” is scarier than actually seeing the centipede in action. In many ways the most chilling aspect about the film is idea itself of a human centipede. Just thinking about the logistics of it still makes me squirm.

The performances in the film tend to fall into two groups, extremely over-the-top or adequate enough for the confines of the film. In the first group is Dieter Laser who completely reveals in the absurdity of the premise. Laser plays Dr. Heiter very large and gives the film an almost comedic tone. At the other end of the spectrum, the rest of the cast. Yennie and Williams do everything required to maintain the unsettling tone of the film. Granted their characters are rather one dimensional and, due to how events unfold, their performances rely more on the physical rather than the verbal.

The actor who best transcended the two different performance styles was Akihiro Kitamura. Although his character, Katsuro, does not speak any English in the film, Kitamura gives a performance that makes you actually care about what happens to his character more than the others. The Human Centipede is not the type of film that asks for the viewer’s to care about the characters all. It is more concerned with making the viewer as uncomfortable as possible. To which the film succeeds to a certain extent.

Director Tom Six does have some solid ideas, but do not always come together smoothly. The Human Centipede would have benefitted more had Six played up the cerebral chills. Also, a toned down performance by Laser would have helped in making the film scarier. In the end, The Human Centipede is a film whose premise is far more chilling than what actually appears on screen. I must admit though, after viewing the film, I am very curious to see how the sequel will unfold?

The Human Centipede is part of our "The Must See List" series.


  1. It lost me at the title alone. I do not want to see the actual incarnation of the human centipede. The mental image alone makes me shudder.

  2. @JBT - There are apparently two sequels coming down the pipe. So expect more disturbing mental images to come in the near future.

  3. Agree completely CS. For me this film (which I did get to see on the big screen) floundered between three modes - occasionally scary, gross, and so bad it's funny. There are some legitimately terrifying, well shot sequences, but it's just so absurd that it takes away from that. And yes, the premise is more disgusting than anything you actually see.

    I will say that the ending, although really dumb, is kind of haunting

  4. @Tom – The final moments of the film was one of the best parts of the whole production. As the film movies along, you do not think things can get any worse but once that ending hits you realize that the torture just got increasingly worse.

  5. In terms of the performances I thought it was pretty handy the two girls got their mouths stitched know if you've seen the film. As soon as their limited range was constrained to creeping around on hands and feet Laser could take centre stage. But as you say, he's over the top and could have been more restrained. Despite its central idea, I don't think the film has much more going for it - it's very cliched, there's the one-dimensional performances, and I hate the ending. Torture movies aren't a favourite of mine but they are even less palatable when the protagonists can't get their revenge.

  6. Btw, I love the title of this post!


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