October Horrorshow: The Human Centipede

The air is finally crisp here in the big city. The last gasp of humidity fled with the coming of Autumn, and in its place came the sounds of screams carried on the wind. For it’s October, when movie screens and television sets across the country run red with blood. It’s the month of Halloween, and to celebrate, it’s time once again for the October Horrorshow — time to dedicate Missile Test to watching and reviewing horror films. And we start out with a real winner.

I watched this entire movie. I could not regret that decision more. I was hoping for something — any unexpected or tragic event to occur while the film was running that would enable me to look away. Car accident outside. House fire. Power outage. Meteorite impact. Terrorist attack. Stroke. Aneurysm. Anything at all. Because I just could not turn away from this sick, sick movie. And that is my fault. My fault alone.

Written and directed by Tom Six, The Human Centipede is the story of a surgeon with a dream. Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser, in a hell of a performance) is obsessed with an idea he first tried out on his beloved Rottweilers. Using his unmatched surgical skill, Heiter dreams of creating a single creature by attaching multiple people mouth to anus, creating the human centipede of the title. It’s as disgusting as it sounds.

His victims are a pair of American tourists, Lindsay and Jenny (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie, respectively), and a Japanese man, Katsuro (Akihiro Kitamura). After waylaying these poor people, he shows them his plan in the most disturbing overhead projector presentation in the history of cinema, and I was left thinking to myself, “If I was in this situation, tied to a hospital bed, about to be operated on by a maniac and made into a human centipede, I would hope I’m the first in the chain.”

Heiter completes his terrible task, and the audience is forced to watch it. Then we are forced to watch him treat his creation like a pet. We are forced to watch Katsuro (the most fortunate of the three, being the head of the centipede) eat food like a dog and then shit into the mouth of the person behind him. Nothing is all that graphically done with special effects. Mouth and anus are strategically covered with bandages, so a viewer never sees anything after the surgery, but that doesn’t make things any less unpleasant for the viewer. It probably makes things more unpleasant, as there isn’t anything a viewer can point to as totally fake. Tom Six did that right with this movie. Sometimes the things a viewer doesn’t see are more effective than the things they do. Also, despite the subject matter, The Human Centipede was filmed quite well. It was obviously made on the cheap, but was not cheaply made. Six and cinematographer Goof de Koning appear to have put a lot of thought into each shot, and the effort paid off.

But is it good to be effective at creating a disgusting movie? Is it good to be effective at filming an idea that was best left in someone’s head, never to be shared with the likes of man? If unsettling imagery was all Tom Six was after with The Human Centipede, then mission accomplished. The ick factor engendered by involuntary scatophilia is a true skin crawler. But I didn’t want to watch this. I’ve sat through disturbing films before, the standout being Eraserhead. But that film was gorgeous, despite how hard it was to sit through. I feel my cinematic experience is more complete having seen it. But The Human Centipede? No. This movie did nothing more than ruin my afternoon.

Yet, as much as I hated watching the damn thing, now that it’s done, now that the light of day is shining through my window once again, I feel good. Not just about the fact the film is over. I appreciate that this movie has reminded me there are good things in this world, and that life can be enjoyed. I’m not completely joking here. I started writing this review with nothing but total revulsion in mind. I’ve had dentist appointments that were easier than sitting through this movie, and I was prepared to treat this review as such. But now, as I near the end, all that hate is flowing away. Make no mistake, though. This movie stinks, despite the skills of the filmmakers. So what is this feeling? Is this what kidnapping victims feel after they escape? What soldiers feel after they live through a firefight? Am I going to be telling stories about The Human Centipede to my grandchildren? “I’d never do it again, but I’d never trade in that experience for anything. It made me the person I am today.”

Go to hell, Tom Six. Keep making movies, though. Just, no more centipedes, please. I understand you made a sequel. Stop it. Move on to something else.

I can sit through Alien: Resurrection a hundred times before I ever see The Human Centipede again.