I suppose the most logical way to approach this review is to first discuss the controversy surrounding this movie. Just two weeks ago, CNN did a feature story on The Human Centipede, asking if it was the “most disturbing movie ever made?”
But let’s add a little context, shall we?
The plot is nothing new. On a dark, rainy night, two American girls get a flat tire on a back road in anywhere Germany. Because this is a horror flick, the girls make the brilliant decision to walk through the woods instead of sticking to the road. They come across a lone house. Knock on the door. And are “welcomed” by a fantastically creepy German nut job (Dieter Laser).
The acting by the girls is awful. Plain and simple. But when one of them tells Laser that they are visiting from America, they way he slowly replies, as if offended, by asking, “You, are… tourists?” makes you know you’re in for one hell of a ride.
We soon learn that Laser is a mad scientist, obsessed with re-creating a failed “pet” project he constructed with three of his dogs. He drugs the girls, ties them to gurneys in his darkly-lit basement, kidnaps a Japanese fella and away we go.
Once all three subjects wake up, Laser delivers a monologue so chilling, so matter-of-fact, that it is easily the best moment of the film.
(Okay, this is where it starts to get bad, and to describe the controversy, I’m going to have to give away crucial plot elements. Read at your own risk.)
With no detail left unsaid, Laser explains that he wants to slice the subjects’ knees so they can’t walk, then attach one person’s mouth to the lead person’s anus, then attach another person’s mouth to the middle person’s anus, forming one long digestive track, thereby creating a human centipede. (For further analysis, see below).
That’s the worst of it. It isn’t blood and guts that makes The Human Centipede so revolting, but rather your imagination. When the man in front begins to apologize to the women behind him, explaining that he has to go poo poo, we finally get what all the fuss is about. Sure, that’s gross, but come on… it isn’t that bad. Definitely not the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen on film. It’s not like we see shit oozing out of the seams from the girl’s mouth.
As a critique based solely on cinematic merit (even by horror-film standards) The Human Centipede really isn’t that good. Its interiors are well shot, but it isn’t going into any history books. So that got me thinking, what’s with all the buzz?
The seemingly never-ending rape scene in Irreversible is infinitely worse than anything in The Human Centipede (for the record, I called Irreversible one of the 20 best films made in the first decade of the 21st century). Salo is a film so repulsive, it defines shock cinema (for the record, no one needs to see Salo. Ever). Moments in Antichrist, Requiem for a Dream, and American History X can’t top The Human Centipede at its most grotesque moment.
In short, The Human Centipede is gross, yes, but it isn’t that gross. CNN headlines may peak your interest, but I’d say stay away. If you want to be disturbed, rent one of the movies I listed above. Either way, The Human Centipede should give new meaning to the expression, “take your head out of your ass.” Bottoms up. D