The Human Centipede

Movie Information

The Story: A mad scientist turns two women and one man into the title creature by surgically connecting them. The Lowdown: A gross-out premise, some bad acting, an hysterically out-of-hand bad guy and a bloody, violent and slightly disturbing finale may provide an amusing 90 minutes for hardcore horror fans -- but others beware. If you throw up, don't blame me.
Score:

Genre: Exploitation Horror
Director: Tom Six
Starring: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura, Andreas Leupold
Rated: NR

Future generations of moviegoers might divide this generation of moviegoers into those who were brave/foolish/curious enough to actually go see The Human Centipede and those who weren’t. This is less a movie than it is the film equivalent of being dared to eat haggis. I’ve awarded it a fairly noncommittal three stars. Is the concept disgusting? Without a doubt. And that may be enough in this case.

I wasn’t particularly shocked—I don’t shock easily and really didn’t expect to be. I was only moderately entertained a good deal of the time, but I saw the film on a screener in the privacy of my living room. I can imagine being significantly more entertained by seeing it with an audience. I’ve had two weeks of watching horror fans at the Thursday Horror Picture Show react to the trailer for The Human Centipede, and they seemed to take it as a spectacularly tasteless and ridiculous joke. Seeing it with that crowd, or even seeing it with an audience overcome with revulsion, I’m betting would be utterly unwholesome fun—in a singularly twisted way, mind you.

The Human Centipede—which we are assured is “100% medically accurate”—is all about a mad scientist, Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser), who has the inexplicable (apart from his assertion, “I hate human beings”) and remarkably inhospitable notion of creating a “human centipede.” It seems he did this once before with three Rottweilers—referred to on the animals’ tombstone (must’ve turned out badly) as “My sweet Three Dog”—and he is ready to do try it with three humans. Now, since they’re to share one digestive tract, there’s only one way they can be connected. I suppose it would be kind of like being anything other than lead dog on a sled team—only a lot worse.

OK, so yeah, people being sewn together mouth-to-anus is reasonably gross, but director Tom Six ups the nastiness slightly by doing something unclear—but clearly unpleasant—to the mouths of numbers two and three of this decidedly shortchanged (in the leg department) centipede, and cutting some tendons in the knees to make them crawl around on all fours. But take this beyond the central idea and envision just exactly what one can do with such a creation. Once you’ve made it/them shuffle around on command, what can they do? Not much.

And that’s the problem with the movie. The three victims—a Japanese man (Akihiro Kitamura) in the lead and two annoying American girls (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie) bringing up the rear—get hooked together by the 30-minute mark and it’s pretty much a case of them being all sewn up with nowhere to go. Well, there’s a gross-out moment when the first segment/human is compelled to answer the call of nature, but whether or not that’s a plus is up to you. These reservations to one side, the film does rouse itself to a moderately suspenseful climax that finally delivers some splattery action.

Is it worth seeing? Assuming you’re up to the disgusting factor, probably for the sake of curiosity it is. Also, it topples over into the so-bad-it’s-good realm enough to be entertaining, especially as concerns the acting—what there is of it. The two girls have no problem debasing themselves for the camera, but they can’t act (despite the IMDb’s claim that Ashley C. Williams graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts). The honors, such as they are, go to Dieter Laser’s mad doctor, who looks like a cross between Christopher Walken and Udo Kier playing Dr. No—and not making a good job of it. But Laser is so outrageously over-the-top bad that he is pretty funny. That may or may not be the intent. There are hints that the movie is a deliberate parody in the earlier portions, but the tone is too inconsistent to be sure.

If you want to be able to tell your friends that you saw The Human Centipede, take note that it’s only down for three shows: the last set of the evening on Thursday, July 8, through Saturday, July 10, at Carolina Cinemas, and a strict policy of no admission to anyone under the age of 18 will be in place. Of course, the shows might be extended depending on how attendance is, but since, at best, this is for specialized tastes, I would slink on down to one of the three currently scheduled shows if interested in catching the film on the big screen. Not rated, but contains nudity, graphic violence, language and a stomach-turning premise.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

17 thoughts on “The Human Centipede

  1. Dionysis

    One has to wonder what kind of mind comes up with something like this. This appears to be one of those films that, once viewed, results in perpetual regret over having seen it. A few other titles come to mind that fit that description for me (i.e. Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS and a couple of others).

    Now that I know what it’s about, I’ll have to pass.

  2. One has to wonder what kind of mind comes up with something like this. This appears to be one of those films that, once viewed, results in perpetual regret over having seen it. A few other titles come to mind that fit that description for me (i.e. Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS and a couple of others).

    Trust me, we stock much much worse.

  3. Dionysis

    “Trust me, we stock much much worse.”

    I would not dispute that at all. Are the titles segregated under some heading like ‘Upchuck Selections’?

  4. Ken Hanke

    Hey, I like haggis!

    There’s one in every crowd. Actually, there’s two, since David Morril e-emailed me the same thing.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Trust me, we stock much much worse.

    And he probably has plans to make me sit through a number of them.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Are the titles segregated under some heading like ‘Upchuck Selections’?

    You know, that has potential. I can see a one to five gag-reflex rating sytem.

  7. Saw the drawing of Doctor Heiter, looks like two people will be eating feces of the other person. That’s quit um, interesting, lol.

  8. Dionysis

    “…what is the best meal that Carolina has to eat while watching this?”

    What’s the old Navy term for chipped beef on toast? SOS?

  9. Ken Hanke

    Justin, what is the best meal that Carolina has to eat while watching this?

    As someone who ends up having dinner there twice a week, I’m gonna throw in my suggestion that the pulled-pork panini would seem the most appropriate.

  10. Justin Souther

    Justin, what is the best meal that Carolina has to eat while watching this?

    The pulled pork nachos somehow seem appropriate.

  11. davidf

    I think I’m much more interested in reading peoples’ reactions to this film than in actually seeing the film. So, you know, I hope everybody who sees this takes a moment to reflect on their experience on here. That would be nice.

  12. I would not dispute that at all. Are the titles segregated under some heading like СUpchuck SelectionsТ?

    I used to be in a New Wave band called The Upchuck Selections.

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