“The Human Centipede (The First Sequence)”, written and directed by Tom Six, is being promoted as the most controversial film of the year. It is also being mentioned as the pinnacle of the recent slate of torture movies (often labeled as “torture porn”, a tag that I absolutely despise, despite my similarly intense dislike of the movies that fit into it), because of the extremes in which the main characters suffer. However, all this unwarranted attention seems to ignore the fact that it’s an absolutely terrible mess; take everything wrong with mainstream horror movies today, throw it all together, add in a mad doctor, toss in a completely unnecessary random subtitle in parenthesis, and you have what I would consider one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. And boy have I seen some doozies.
But don’t get me wrong; my disgust with the film has absolutely nothing to do with the graphic nature of the film itself. In fact, aside from one ridiculous scene that clearly shows it’s not “100% medically accurate”, as its slogan states it is, there is absolutely nothing that well-versed horror fans have not seen before. I went in expecting to be confronted with pure evil, to have my high tolerance for violence tested. I wanted to be forced to turn away in agony. I wanted to be disturbed…anything that would show this movie had accomplished what it set out to do. But it’s a no-trick pony; an empty, vapid horror film hiding behind one singularly “original” premise, a premise that admittedly worked (at least for me) in a form of a ninety-second trailer, but that becomes laughable when stretched out to ninety minutes.
I will not waste much time with the plot, mainly because it’s not worth the investment. Lindsay and Jenny are two American tourists on a road trip through Europe. While attempting to go to a nightclub in Germany, their car breaks down. Of course, it’s nighttime, it’s raining, it’s in the middle of nowhere, and there’s no cell phone reception. Instead of staying put and waiting for daylight (or for a passing motorist to help), or instead of walking along the road and perhaps stumbling across a gas station or a busy road, they do something only stupid characters in stupid horror movies do–walk through the woods.
Unsurprisingly, they find a house. Even less surprising is the fact that it’s relatively secluded, and they decide to ask for help. The home belongs to Dr. Heiter, a retired surgeon that specialized in separating Siamese twins. However, the dumb American visitors are unable to pick up on rather obvious signs that the doctor has no intentions of helping them, such as the case when he looks them up and down and asks if they are alone before letting them in. Or when he impatiently asks if they are tourists. But of course they end up in his house and, as sickening as it may be for me to say, deserve everything they get for being so outrageously stupid.
You see, since his retirement, the mad doctor (who is so overplayed by Dieter Laser to the point that I was, at several different points, reminded of Tommy Wiseau’s character in “The Room”) has dedicated his time to the exact opposite end of the spectrum: attaching things together. But not at the hips, the way most Siamese twins are attached, but from face-to-rear, on all fours, thus forming the “human centipede” the title alludes to. He gets his start by doing it to three dogs (which he calls, cleverly, his “three-dog”) and then decides to attempt it with humans. Jenny and Lindsay are the first two victims, and an Asian man is the third (and the leader, chosen for that role simply because he cannot communicate with the other two).
And so the second half begins, in which he attempts to get the “centipede” to be a loyal pet…or something like that. Come to think of it, I don’t know exactly what the point is. The scenes in which the doctor tries to force his new creation into a game of fetch, or locks “it” up in a cage when it’s not in “use”, could be forgiven, and perhaps even effective, if there was some kind of political or social commentary behind the scenes. But the director clearly doesn’t want to be bothered with any remotely intelligent or advanced concepts, nor does he want the film to have any kind of redeeming values. His only desire is to shock us, to gross us out, to make us feel uncomfortable. So then how can I recommend, much less tolerate, a film that can’t even succeed on its own slim merits?
Every frame begs the question: “Why?” What is the point? Why would a doctor risk ruining his credibility to perform these heinous experiments? What turned him to evil? What does he have to gain by successfully completing the operation? Why did I pay seventeen dollars (I took the wife along as well) to watch this? Of course, none of these questions are answered, much less hinted at, and all that we’re left with is a maddeningly clichéd exercise in recycled horror with a few childish attempts to gross-out the audience in between.
Rating: No stars