The Human Centipede Movie Review
Written by Daniel Benson
Screened at Apollo Cinemas Redditch
Written and Directed by Tom Six
2010, 90 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Dieter Laser as Dr. Heiter
Ashley C. Williams as Lindsay
Ashlynn Yennie as Jenny
Akihiro Kitamura as Katsuro
Being in this game (reviewing movies) normally means, if you want to see a premier or press screening of a new movie, one has to take a hike down to London. Apparently the media industry doesn’t exist outside of the capital. Certainly no-one watches films if they don’t live there.
So when I got the opportunity to attend a one-off preview screening of The Human Centipede, right here in my home town of Redditch, I jumped at the chance. Ten minutes from home and I’m parked up and heading into The Apollo Cinema, where a surprisingly large crowd is bustling in the foyer as they wait patiently to witness what one UK newspaper described as possibly “the sickest movie ever”. I meet for a quick chat with cinema manager Michael Clarke who, with the help of his staff, has been working hard to make it an evening to remember. A ticket usher is dressed as a gruesome surgeon, resplendent with severed fingers on his bloodied apron. The rest of the staff are decked out in Human Centipede t-shirts bearing the now famous ‘triplet’ diagram.
It’s not what you’d expect from your average multiplex and more like the atmosphere at a film festival. Sure, the London screening got a Q&A with director Tom Six and leading loon Dieter Laser, but here tonight’s first 100 punters got a Human Centipede goody sick bag (containing a postcard, surgery notes and a sewing kit) and a select few also had a winning ticket that bagged them either a t-shirt or a full-size quad poster.
It’s finally time, and we head to our auditorium to see if the film can live up to the hype. Apollo Redditch has every theatre equipped with Sony 4K Digital projectors and screens. They were the first cinema in Europe to have the technology, having been Sony’s test bed for installing the equipment that provides four times the resolution of a standard cinema screen. So we’re about to witness a mad scientist perform surgery in the highest definition possible. Oh joy.
The Human Centipede is a movie that is currently riding a colossal tidal wave of hype and publicity and has inspired everything from a cat toy to the now world-famous Human Centipede necklace. It’s always a recipe for disaster when a film has so much said about it, before general release, as it will very rarely live up to the hype.
For those horror fans that have been living on the moon for the last six months, The Human Centipede is Dr. Heiter’s story. A German surgeon and class-A fruit loop, he was top of his game as a specialist in separating Siamese twins, but in retirement has an overwhelming urge to do the reverse and create his own Siamese triplet, stitched ass-to-mouth. A Human Centipede. Two parts of his project come in the form of a pair of extremely irritating female American tourists, whose car breaks down in the middle of the night. Seeking assistance, they make the mistake of arriving at the doctor’s house for help. Two Rohypnol slammers later and they’re in the basement prepped for surgery. The lead for the chain is an unlucky Japanese guy, hunted down by Heiter with his dart gun.
The film is very much a victim of its own infamy. Stories of people walking out during test screenings and rabid hype over the subject matter raise the expectations to a level that almost could not be met. The concept of what Heiter is doing is completely horrifying, for sure, but if you’ve even a passing interest in horror movies you’ll have witnessed much more gruesome spectacles in the likes of Hostel or Saw. It’s only when you actually start to think about what’s happening, and put yourself in the position of one of the ‘segments’ that the true horror emerges. These victims aren’t just chained up and abused by some madman; they’re surgically attached to each other. Their knee joints have been severed so they have to crawl on all fours, standing is not an option. Their only sustenance comes from what’s in front of them. For Mr Japan at the ‘head’ this is not so bad but segment two has to live off his excrement, and segment three off number two’s number twos.
I had a real problem with this concept. Heiter is a supposedly brilliant surgeon yet he failed not spot the flaw in his plan that number one’s excrement is the waste product from his food after his body has extracted the nutrients from it. It would have next to no nutritional value when it got to the middle and the back end would be getting nothing. It’s a big hole for a film that claims to be “100% medically accurate”. Accurate, maybe, flawed for sure.
When the possibility of escape presents itself to the trio, we see how completely futile their attempts are. Even with the Police searching Heiter’s house they can do little more than shuffle around on their hands and knees, and if help did come to them, what next? Who could live a sane life after what they experienced?
The final scene of The Human Centipede leaves no way out, no happy ending and no silver lining to the considerable cloud that went before it. And while the film fails to score on the gross-out front, it succeeds in planting itself in your mind and making you think about it for some time afterwards. No-one walked out, no-one used their complimentary sick-bag and a few mutters from the departing crowd made it perfectly clear that the preceding hype had disappointed. It’s true, there’s nothing on screen that will perturb modern audiences, but if you give some thought to the events that passed you might just freak yourself out.