In what context is The Human Centipede (First Sequence) necessary? Some movies are made with the intention of sending a message, while others are made purely for entertainment; the more I try to figure out which category this movie falls into, the more confused I get, for it doesn’t seem to belong to either one. What message could it possibly be sending? That suffering is even more unpleasant than death? Thanks, but I already got that from Downloading Nancy. In what way is it entertaining? Because the filmmakers have found an entirely new way to shock and disgust the audience? Just because I’ve never seen anything like it before doesn’t mean I’m going to enjoy looking at it. It also doesn’t mean that it should ever have been shown in the first place.
This movie fails on a level even more basic than those of setting, character, pacing, and visual appeal – that of the underlying concept, which is so spectacularly bad that nothing the actors did or said could have saved it. It’s not something I wish to describe. I will say that the director consulted a surgeon to ensure that the concept was “100% medically accurate,” a measure that proves just how out of touch he is with today’s horror community. Absolutely no one will care how medically accurate it is. All that matters is, is it scary? Yes, but not in the way you’re thinking; it scared me to think that this could be the next frontier in horror filmmaking, that audiences may someday only delight in content so sickening that it transcends campy fun and becomes an endurance test.
It opens with two characters who are not characters at all, but merely expendable female victims with no discernable personalities and no sense of depth. Their names are Lindsay and Jenny (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie), American tourists vacationing in Germany. In a cinematic twist of fate that even thirty years ago wasn’t original, they get lost in the woods on the way to a nightclub and subsequently get a flat tire. Naturally, there’s no cell phone service in the middle of nowhere, so they’re forced to wander through the woods until they find someone who can help. Lo and behold, there’s a house off in the distance. They knock on the door just as it starts to pour rain. The door opens, revealing the wizened Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser), whose creepy, piercing stare and low, harsh voice should have been enough of an indication for the girls run away.
Lindsay and Jenny are invited in. Heiter, who just happens to speak fluent English, offers them each a glass of water, which they accept. They drink up, unaware of the fact that their waters have been spiked with the date rape drug. Are they really so clueless that they forgot the cardinal rule of not accepting a drink from a stranger? Of course they are – they’re bound by an unfortunate convention of horror movies, namely that female characters automatically must be naïve and helpless. When they awaken, they find themselves strapped to stretchers in Heiter’s basement/laboratory/operating room. In due time, they’re joined by a kidnapped Japanese tourist (Akihiro Kitamura), who throughout the film does little more than scream obscenities in his native language.
What does Heiter want these three for? Does the film’s title not tell you everything you need to know? The surgical procedure required to make this possible is described in excruciating detail, although I’m not sure why since I don’t think anyone would be interested in the process so much as the results. And what of the results? Let’s just say they give a new meaning to the word “excessive,” not only in terms of physical appearance, but also in terms of how Heiter forces them to behave once the procedure is done. This isn’t horror so much as an exercise in depravity. By the time it was all over, I felt empty inside, not only because of an ending in which absolutely no one wins, but also because I had been denied of anything that could be considered entertaining.
This movie has to be seen to be believed, which is not something I recommend you try. The more I think about The Human Centipede (First Sequence), the more amazing it seems that it was made, and before that written, and before that conceived of. It’s not bad in any usual way; it achieves an entirely new level of badness, one so unpleasant and extreme that it might actually be worth seeing, not because it’s any good, but simply because you may never see anything like it again. I take that back – writer/director Tom Six is already at work on The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), which he promises will “go full force in graphic details, making part I look like my little pony.” Now I really am scared.