FILM REVIEW The Human Centipede (First Sequence)
Come on and do the conga
PG * 92 mins * 20 August 2010
Director: Tom Six
Cast: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura, Andreas Leupold
The Human Centipede arrives on a tide of word-of-mouth notoriety and yes, it is indeed gross and nasty. Putting it in perspective, though, it’s less grueling than, say, Antichrist or Audition. Unlike them, it never disguises its roots in horror comics, Grand Guignol and the kind of cruderies that a group of eleven year-old boys might come up with. Like, “What if a mad Nazi scientist sewed three people together? Like, these people were down on their knees end to end, so the people behind had their mouths sewed up to the…” (Okay, we get the idea – Ed) “And so when the person in front had to…” (I said, we get the idea – Ed)
Two American women touring Germany… dark and rainy night… flat tyre… house in the woods… “Have a drink”… secret basement… aarrghh! The opening scenes could come with their own laugh track, especially when we meet the centipede maker (a shark-eyed Dieter Laser), who might as well wear a t-shirt with I AM A TEUTONIC PSYCHO written in letters of blood. And then the second act comes, the nastiness sets in and you’re left to, ahem, spit or swallow.
Assuming you’re still with the film, this is where it pays off. The nastiness is real, but largely psychological – you see far less than you might expect, and the stagily low-tech execution of the centipede brings a note of dark poetry to the torture chamber. The in-your-face wrongness – the Dr Mengele echoes, what happens to the women – only adds to the sense of manipulation and mindf***ery, while never breaking your engagement with the “Let me out of here!” shenanigans unspooling on screen. It’s no shock classic, yet it lingers in the mind, prompting weird thoughts like, “Would I go in the front, middle or back?”