When I told someone that the next film I was going to review was The Human Centipede, their reaction was one of horror. “How can you watch that?” they asked “that movie is nothing but an exploitation film. It has no redeeming qualities and is no better than a snuff film.” This may be true, I thought, but I am uncomfortable making any sort of judgment of a film before I have seen it. Besides, the film has been the talk of horror circles for it’s gimmick and actually (as horror films are supposed to do) makes people uncomfortable. The difference between good horror and bad horror is what about it makes us uncomfortable. Good horror affects our minds, and makes us relate to the characters and their situations. Thus, we become more horrified when we realize that such things could happen to us. Sometimes, we even look for such events that happen in our own society and notice that the director was not too far off. Bad horror relies on a gimmick and offers nothing about the human existence. It treats human beings badly for the sake of treating human beings badly and has nothing to say. To put it bluntly, great horror affects the brain, bad horror affects the stomach.
So, is the film an example of a good horror film? Well, frankly, it is nothing but an exploitation film. It has very few redeeming qualities and….you know, I really should listen more.
The film starts out with the classic “tourists being kidnapped scenario,” this time with Lindsay (Ashley Williams…wait, isn’t this the character from Evil Dead?) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) being kidnapped by the surgeon Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) after their car breaks down. Heiter used to be an expert on separating conjoined twins. Now, he wants to turn the girls into a new creature, a human centipede. How will he do this? By….
OK, you probably already know. For those who don’t, it is this procedure that has earned the film so much controversy. Basically, he thinks that he can create a creature with a single digestive tract by sewing one person’s mouth to another person’s…please tell me that you know where I am going with this.
First, I am going to give credit where credit is due. Dieter Laser’s performance is wonderful; he possess the right amount of creepiness necessary for the character. I am not sure how much of a compliment that really is, but he is the one thing about the film that goes right. He plays Heiter with one part Boris Karloff, one part Udo Kier, and one part Josef Mengele. In greater hands, this man can become one of the great horror actors. Too bad Tom Six’s hands are the wrong hands. He basically treats the material as a child eating a bug would; he does it to shock people and show how disgusting he can be. Read his interviews and you will see what I mean. He seems joyous about the fact that he is being politically incorrect, rather than meditative. He seems almost pleased that people walked out of the theater in the middle of his film. That is a first. Normally, films need to be seen in order to be understood. But with that statement, Six shows what he really wanted to do. He created a film simply meant to shock. I guess it succeeds very well in that regard.
Look, I should not wave my finger at someone just for showing shocking things. Anything, if done in the correct manner, can be worthwhile. Antichrist and Hostel two very graphic films – and I would still recommend them to people. They have a point and manage to transcend horror and show items about the nature of humanity. The Human Centipede lacks that sort of connection. It is absolutely serious, indicating that it wants to be treated seriously, but then shows nothing about humanity or the victims or anything else that makes us care about what is happening.
And that is the biggest problem with the film. The film had me constantly asking one question: what’s the point? Usually, I judge a film based on what it sets out to do and whether or not it accomplishes it. This film sets out to make people uncomfortable. That is not a good enough reason for it to exist. There is absolutely no medical benefit to creating a human centipede (the declaration that the film is “100% medically accurate” is laughable) and the doctor never bothers to explain why he wants to create this sort of thing. I have an idea; why not make it about hubris? Or punishment? Or a test to see how long emotional bonds can last? There are some things that could have been explored in this film. But nothing is. And that is what dooms the film. I can’t even call it art for the same reason that I cannot call a carnival sideshow art.
So, instead of filling my head with wonder and filling me with insight, the film just made me uncomfortable and tense. It answered no questions, asked nothing about the world we live in, and is just obsessed with it’s own, disgusting gimmick. Something good may have come of this, but not in the hands of someone as demented as Tom Six. The man does not need a career, he needs help.