Does anyone not know what a human centipede is by now? I was going to start this review on the basis that everyone would already know what one was. However, for the sake of doing this review somewhere close to properly, I’ll give you a brief rundown.
Have you ever wondered what it’s called when a bunch of people kneel down in a row and have their mouths sewn around the backside of the person in front? Well, that’s a human centipede.
It’s fascinating idea and so, naturally, I assumed the film that it featured in would be rubbish. Don’t pretend you didn’t. That doesn’t mean I didn’t want it to be good. I did. I just suspected it would be a cheaply put together piece of nonsense, partly because I suspected that the mind warped enough to come up with the idea would not be a mind capable of writing and directing a good film, and partly because I assumed it was made for about £20, as I couldn’t imagine anyone funding a film based around the idea of mouths being sewn to bottoms.
Happily, I’m an idiot who was wrong on both counts, and the film is actually pretty good.
It starts out with a couple of dozy American girls getting lost while looking for a fancy German nightclub. If they’d only stayed in their car and not wandered into the woods! They stumble across a rather flash looking house and knock on the door, desperate for help. The owner answers, invites them in, drugs them and sets about attaching them to another person he’s kidnapped.
There are some shenanigans involving escape attempts, begging for mercy, tumbling into swimming pools and rather nasty surgical procedures along the way. The question is, will the girls avoid becoming part of a human centipede?
So, what’s so bloody good about it then? Well, the idea of a human centipede is probably the reason anyone is going to watch this film. It’s a cracking idea, to be fair. Here’s hoping it puts an end to the traditional dance floor conga line. The coolest thing about its presentation here is that, should the director be believed, it’s 100 per cent medically accurate. It’s genuinely possible to create a human centipede (if not necessarily possible to sustain one). Do you know what this means? We’re only a set of wheels away from being able to create a human roller-centipede.
It’s an idea that seems to leave everyone asking a different ‘what if’ question. My question was ‘what if the one at the front farts? Does the one on the end eventually fart? How long would it take to pass through?’ Other people I watched the film with asked more interesting questions like ‘what if someone vomits?’ and ‘what if they get knocked onto their back(s)? Are they stuck, like a turtle?’
We also wondered if there would be people actually willing to do this if it was for reality television. My theory is that not only could you, but that you could probably get low level celebrities to do it. We could all vote for who gets to go at the front.
As we’ve already established, there’s more to this film than just the idea. The cast are actually pretty good. Particularly Dieter Laser as Dr Heiter, who looks a bit like a possessed Mr. Bean. Think less wacky lunatic or mad scientist type and more Nazi doctor who has disappeared into his idea and become disconnected from humanity. Or just think of him as a right bastard. Either way, it’s a committed and unnerving performance.
Perhaps this is a flaw in their performances, but the annoying American girls, lifted straight from about a million other horror movies, aren’t actually that annoying. The characters are thin and (if you don’t want spoilers skip to the next paragraph now) they can’t talk as, for much of the film, their faces have been carefully sewn into buttocks, but they’re pleasant enough and I found myself hoping that they would get away.
That being said, they probably were a bit too sexy. It’s one thing to show me a human centipede – it’s another to show me a sexy human centipede. That might actually be a taboo too far.
Horror fans will be pleased to know that the effects are pretty good and seem to be all real, physical effects. No CG. I know that the world has changed and that’s not how most films are done now, but it looks really good and really adds to the feel of the film.
However, before all of this praise goes to the head of the centipede, there are a few problems with the film. The ending felt more like a chore than a part of the story. It’s perhaps due to what I think is the real problem with The Human Centipede. For me, it conforms too strictly to horror genre rules. I liked the few they threw in at the beginning, but they keep coming and eventually end up shaping the story.
I think if you’re already asking your audience to accept the idea of people being forcibly attached to each other and consuming each other’s excrement, you can probably get away with some audacious plotting too. As it is, the film is stuck in ‘good’ territory, using its unique shoes to walk us through very familiar territory.
Still, you’re going to need to see The Human Centipede. Everyone else will have seen it and you wouldn’t want to be left out. It’s the most interesting formulaic horror film I’ve seen in a while.
Not having seen The Human Centipede before, I was expecting a film that looked significantly cheaper than the one I actually got. The Blu-ray is appropriately pretty looking and sounding and features a wealth of bonus features.
The extra features menu might just as well say The Tom Six Show. Although the disc features a decent amount of content, it’s nearly all about the charismatic Dutch writer/director. It might have been nice to get some other people from the production involved, as the guy only has so many stories about the production to tell and we end up hearing a lot of them on multiple occasions.
That being said, if you’re going to focus the spotlight on one person, you could do worse for a subject than Tom Six. Although it’s hardly surprising that the guy who came up with the idea of The Human Centipede is a bit eccentric, his exuberance and passion are clear and enjoyable to watch or listen to. His commentary on the film is suitably entertaining and his interviews are great (although, perhaps tellingly, the most entertaining one sees him with actor Dieter Laser for company).
Also included is a making-of featurette, which runs at a little less than ten minutes and is made of random clips from various points of the production. There’s a deleted scene, which is suitably odd but ultimately would have made no difference to the film. There’s some casting footage and some clips of a foley session, where some of the film’s sound effects (seemingly all with meat) were recorded. Although both were kind of amusing, they’re very slight inclusions.
The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is out now on Blu-ray and available from the Den Of Geek Store.