Every so often I enjoy reviewing movies, especially horror movies. The Horror genre, whether it be in books or movies is one of my guilty pleasures. When I'm not lurking around the book review blogs or commenting there, I am also making my way around the Horror blogs and websites.
One of my favorite horror blogs is the Vault of Horror, run by B-Sol. His knowledge of expertise of the world of Horror is vast.
Each year a movie will be released that will be on the mouths of many, usually because it is shocking or disturbing. More often than not, it is usually one from the Horror or Science-Fiction genre. Some of these from the past few years that gained such buzz have been- The Audition, Saw, Hostel, Cabin Fever, Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, The Descent and District 9. Now there is a new movie out that is on it's way of becoming a cult classic.
Synopsis: During a stopover in Germany in the middle of a carefree road trip through Europe, two American girls find themselves alone at night when their car breaks down in the woods. Searching for help at a nearby villa, they are wooed into the clutches of a deranged retired surgeon who explains his mad scientific vision to his captives' utter horror. They are to be the subjects of his sick lifetime fantasy: to be the first to connect people, one to the next, and in doing so bring to life "the human centipede."
This is the only movie in my recent memory where I watched the trailer and almost became ill while watching it. Entertainment Weekly gave Human Centipede a B+ and said, "a surgical-nightmare exploitation film that has no pretense to anything beyond making you go, ''My God, now that is gross.''
Because my stomach was squeamish, I knew I wouldn't be seeing this movie in the near future (or possibly ever) but because the buzz behind it is very strong and I do love to promote the strange and wacky, a.k.a. The WTFckery, I asked B-Sol if he would be kind enough to review The Human Centipede for me. He said a resounding yes:
Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts: The Human Centipede Rises Above the Gross-Out Marketing Hype
By Brian Solomon
It seems like every year there is at least one controversial horror flick that grabs the attention of fans with its edgy subject matter and potentially over-the-top levels of depravity. We recently got movies like Inside, Grace and Martyrs, and the big one so far this year has been the infamous film from Dutch writer/director Tom Six, The Human Centipede. I’ll admit I was at once repulsed and morbidly drawn in by the film’s astonishingly grotesque concept: An insane doctor surgically attaching his victims mouth-to-anus so that they are connected via the digestive tract. You do the math, folks. It’s not a pretty picture.
Yet there’s an interesting backlash going on now with regards to the film touted for its shocking nature for so many months. As stated by my colleague Alison Nastasi at HorrorSquad far more eloquently than I ever could, this backlash seems to say more about the viewership than about the movie itself. Specifically, some horror fans have been complaining that the film is not as graphic or explicit as they had hoped. Apparently there are a lot of people out there very upset that The Human Centipede did not specifically show a simulation of a mouth sewn to an anus directly on camera.
The Human Centipede is the kind of film that will send non-horror fans screaming from the room and vowing never to talk to you again for showing it to them; yet it seems to be the kind of film that leaves a lot of died-in-the-wool horror fanatics somewhat unimpressed. Admittedly, thanks to the film’s marketing machine, a lot of people were going in expecting something far gorier, along the lines of the movies mentioned earlier. Instead, what they got was a movie that was very surprisingly restrained and careful in what it depicts, choosing to create an air of dread rather than completely gross us out.
Granted, the very concept itself is still utterly revolting. Yet most of it is implied, and even the most intense moment of scatological unspeakableness is much more about what you don’t see than what you do. Who would have though that a film with this subject would be this sophisticated? But it is.
German actor Dieter Laser plays the deranged surgeon Dr. Heiter, whose ultimate goal is to do the opposite of what he spent his career doing, which was separating conjoined twins. Heiter is a deliciously diseased movie maniac in the grand mad scientist tradition, and it was a pleasure watching Laser play him with such histrionic relish, channeling the sadistically sinister aura of Nazi experimentation in the process.
His two female American tourist victims, played by Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie, on the other hand, were pretty annoying horror clichés, and the material they were given to work with never really rises above the level of stuff we’ve seen a million times before. Humorously enough, as Andre Dumas of The Horror Digest points out, the script helps solve this problem by making sure the characters’ mouths are sewn shut halfway through the picture. In all seriousness though, the one thing I did appreciate about the performances here was the way in which the friendship was portrayed so poignantly. There isn’t a hint of the expected cynicism here, and the moments in which the women desperately hold hands are quite moving.
And then there’s Japanese actor Akihiro Kitamura as the poor unfortunate soul who joins with our two female protagonists as the “head” of the human centipede. Without speaking a word of English, Kitamura, no stranger to the horror genre, comes quite close to stealing the movie, and one defining character moment late in the film left me transfixed as I watched it.
Did I expect a bit more from The Human Centipede? Yes, but not in the depiction of gore or explicit bodily functions. Rather, the film suffers a bit from a structural perspective. Without giving too much away, Dr. Heiter’s experimental procedure takes place fairly early on in the movie, and it seems about halfway through that Six couldn’t quite figure out what to do with his characters next. It meanders a bit, and it’s only the utter shock of what’s being portrayed on screen that prevents it from crossing over into tedium.
In a nutshell, The Human Centipede is an intense horror film that is short on plot, but long on shock. It may not be as graphic as it was sold to the public as being, but that does not take away from the fact that there is insanely horrendous stuff taking place, and it’s depicted with a level of emotional realness that doesn’t allow you to check out and merely have fun as a distant viewer, as, say, a slasher film might. Rather, if you understand what you’re in for, which is a very psychologically based film, it can be a very upsetting experience (which for a horror film, is meant as a compliment.)
The Human Centipede was marketed as a debased, almost obscene spectacle, but instead, the actual product is all about disturbing the viewer on a deeper level. If you’re looking for a 90-minute gross-out, stay away. A relatively strong stomach is still preferable, but that’s not finally what the movie is all about. If you’re interested in gut-wrenching of the figurative kind, then you just might be pleasantly surprised.
You can find B-Sol on his blog at Vault of Horror or at Twitter
And if you dare to watch, The Human Centipede movie trailer: (don't blame me if your stomach revolts)