Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Film Review: The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009)




A friend of mine posed a philosophical question to me once. Here is a snippet of that conversation…verbatim:


“If I shit peanut butter…like, if whenever I ate food, I didn’t shit feces but peanut butter —no poop, whatsoever, just pure, delicious, creamy peanut butter— would you eat it?”

“It’s just peanut butter?”

“Yeah, like, you eat food and shit poop; but when I would eat, it would magically turn into peanut butter.”

“So, your digestive system would somehow turn the tacos you ate into peanuts and then mash them and turn them all into peanut butter?”

“Yeah, pretty much. I don’t know the exact process, but…whatever.”

“Do I have to eat it from your ass?”

“No, you can have it on a sandwich.”

“Where’s the jelly come from?”

“It’s just regular Jelly from the jar. I only make peanut butter…so would you eat it?”

“No.”

“But it’s real peanut butter!”

“Yeah, I got that…still no.”

The Human Centipede is not unlike that conversation. If you watch it, be prepared to have a similar discussion with someone you love.

Now you probably are aware of what this movie is about already, if not from other reviews then from the title, but for the uninitiated: Three dimwitted tourists traveling Germany’s countryside, get caught in a reclusive mad-surgeon’s obsession with creating a new…pet…to keep him company.


Now, the first part of the movie has all the expected elements a film like this would typically have. There’s two naïve American girls partying it up (or attempting to) in unfamiliar territory, acted (or attempted to) by Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie; a creepy euro-trash antagonist with a quasi-Nazi fetish played chillingly by Dietrich Laser (no relation to the American Gladiator of the same name) and a flat tire (played convincingly by a Michelin Radial in an un-credited cameo appearance).

Thankfully, after all these clichés have had the chance to play out, the film takes a turn for the absurd and the movie finally starts getting interesting. We’re introduced to the third tourist, a Japanese man, passionately performed by Akihiro Kitamura (a male lead who only speaks Japanese in the film). He and the two idiot girls, having been drugged and held captive, are shown a quick little presentation, wherein the mad Dr. Heiter’s sinister plan of attaching their mouths to each other’s anuses (in an effort to make one shared digestive tract, no less), is detailed with various procedural drawings on an overhead projector.


Now, I don’t want to give anymore away, not that there is much more to say about it. Reportedly, Tom Six (writer and director) came up with the idea after joking about punishing child molesters by attaching their mouths to the assholes of fat truck drivers. Which I don’t find funny at all, seriously, why punish the fat truck driver? It’s unfortunate, that in this day and age, people still make jokes about fat truck drivers. Do you know how tough it is for a fat truck driver to drive a fat truck all day and night with the added burden of being fat? Never mind having to sit on a pedophile’s face for 12 hours straight while doing it…but I digress…

To be honest, I had a bit of trouble reviewing this movie. The whole film is revealed entirely in the title. It doesn’t deviate at any time. There are no sub-plots. There’s really no character development, whatsoever. There isn’t even any social commentary (Tom Six’s irrational dislike of fat truck drivers notwithstanding) or any substantial motive why the good Dr. Heiter would even want to do such a horrendous thing (aside from him missing his Sweet 3-Dog, which, coincidently enough, is my M.C. name…it’s such a small world).

So, while everything shown in film stays in line with the story, it may be due to the limited content as opposed to just good story telling. The strengths of this film, rests in the ideas that aren’t normally in a movie such as this was touted as, mistakenly enough.


This is about the horror of creation as opposed to death. As a matter of fact, I don’t consider this horror at all; this is science fiction. Like all mad scientist stories, Dr. Heiter has a serious God complex and is trying to create something (in his opinion) glorious. And just like Victor Frankenstein, Herbert West, and Seth Brundle before him he is ultimately (inadvertently) destroyed by his own creation (but can you blame him? Taking care of a human centipede takes love, patience and discipline. If you don’t believe me then try it yourself:

Given the subject matter, it’s no surprise that most people are disgusted when they hear about the premise, let alone actually sit through the entire film. But it’s really not that bad or gratuitous. The cinematography is well done and the pacing keeps you interested, especially once you get past the first act. The tone of the film is grim but humorous; it’s evident that the tongue is kept firmly in…ahem…cheek. Dietrich Laser and Akihiro Kitamura’s performances were superb, and only stood out against the obnoxious performances of the actresses, who you only start caring about when they’re face deep in assholes and unable to speak. Oh and the soundtrack was good too, but for some reason this little gem didn’t make the cut:


All things considered, this could’ve been a much darker movie. Not to say it’s all anilingus jokes and butt…er…cups. The ending is full of despair; it’s just nowhere near as disturbing as it could have been (but believe me the movie is still fucked up and ‘taint me just talking shit neither).

The filmmakers showed great restraint in showing and sparing the viewer the gory details, which I think was smart given the absurdity of the plot. I read that they were planning on making the sequel extremely gory and were going to show everything they could, which I feel is a mistake. Because, while you will be disgusted with Human Centipede, you won’t be able to help yourself chuckle at least once; nor will you be able to help yourself sympathize for the victims of Herr doctor’s sadistic ambitions.

It’s sad that due to such a bizarre, surreal, and frankly juvenile idea (and yes, the scatological implications) most people will not watch this movie. And while I did like the movie, it’s a shame that they didn’t take the film further in one of the many directions it flirted with. Is it a psychological thriller similar to Silence of the Lambs, Seven or Psycho? Is it a character study of Dr. Heiter like There Will Be Blood was of Daniel Plainview? Sadly, it’s none of these things. It’s just a twisted gimmick that, while entertaining, could have potentially been a much more substantial film.


It does make you wonder though; would you be take the front position or would you eat the peanut butter?

I give this film 6.5 old-pervert-stare-downs out of 10

‘till next time…

Thomas



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