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The Human Centipede - Mark's take

01/05/2010. Contributed by Mark R. Leeper

Buy The Human Centipede in the USA - or Buy The Human Centipede in the UK

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In The Human Centipede, relatively standard mad scientist horror film elements combine with a truly twisted premise. Dutch filmmaker Tom Six writes and directs a horror film with a really tasteless gross-out concept. The film has good production values, but is still disturbing in ways that perhaps no film before it has ever been. This is a film experience for a narrow select audience.

Rating: +0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10

Non-spoiler: As a mercy to the reader I do not reveal what a "human centipede" is.

The Independent Film Channel has a penchant for finding strange and unusual European and Canadian horror films. Last month I reviewed their Mutants and shortly before that was Pontypool. More recently they are showing The Human Centipede which had previously played only at horror film festivals.

Until the viewer finds what the title of this film means, this film is made up of very standard elements, many of which can been seen with minor variation in films from Ed Wood to Rocky Horror Picture Show. Two American tourists, Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie), are visiting Germany and go off looking for a nightclub that a waiter recommended. They don't know quite how to find the place and end up with a flat tire and lost in dark forest.

They abandon their car only to get even more lost until they happen upon a house. One Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) owns the house. Heiter is apparently internationally known as a surgeon who specialises in studying and separating conjoined twins. This image conceals the fact that he is a particularly nasty mad scientist doing medical experiments that might have shamed the SS. It is Heiter's plan use these visitors to make a "Human Centipede", a particularly noxious concept out of a very vulgar joke.

Dieter Laser may not be familiar to most English-language film fans. He was a continuing character in the TV series "Lexx", and occasionally has small roles in English-language films. He actually has a long filmography in German-language film and TV going back to 1969. He makes a very satisfying villain having the sort of face that lends itself well to horror films.

He is chilling giving a dry, impassive technical presentation to his victims telling them what he plans to do to them. He is good and he and a third victim, a Japanese tourist (Akihiro Kitamura), really carry the film. Sadly the same cannot be said of Yennie and Williams, who rarely do anything beyond the obvious or even give us enough personality to tell them apart from each other or even to care to. They are empty and interchangeable.

This film is a logical successor to film films like David Cronenberg's Shivers and Frank Henenlotter's Basket Case films, but oddly shows less and at the same time more of the anatomical horror of those films. No rubber prosthetics seem to be needed for this film but what is done is easily as disturbing.

Probably intentionally this film spills over into self-satire, but Six does have the intelligence to play the film perfectly straight. I suppose it could be called "tongue-in-cheek". The Human Centipede will go down well with the right sort of audience in spite of the fact that so much of the film is in familiar territory. I rate it a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10. The real title of this film The Human Centipede (First Sequence). If not stopped Six intends to make The Human Centipede (Complete Sequence).

Mark R. Leeper

Copyright 2010 Mark R. Leeper

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