Review: ‘The Human Centipede (First Sequence)’

Warning: This review contains mild spoilers and contains disturbing subject matter. Read at your own risk.

Tom Six is one sick bastard, and that isn’t necessarily an insult. The Danish filmmaker wrote and directed The Human Centipede (First Sequence), one of the most visually disturbing films I have ever seen. I almost had to take a break while watching it, and that has never really happened to me before.

The Human Centipede takes place in Germany. Dr. Heiter is a maniacal ex-surgeon who became world renowned for separating Siamese twins. Now he is obsessed with connecting things, and his first experiments are on his three Rottweilers. A tombstone on his property is engraved with “My sweet 3 dog,” a foreboding sign of things to come.

He is ready to start experimenting on humans, and much to his delight, two unwitting victims literally come knocking on his door. American tourists Jenny and Lindsay get lost on their way to go clubbing, then get a flat tire. While they are trying to decide what to do, they are approached by a gentleman in a Mercedes, who doesn’t speak English and starts making lewd gestures toward the gals.

Jenny and Lindsay decide to walk through the woods in a rainstorm, and after failing to find help, the two turn on each other, bickering and feuding. Just then, they see the lights from a house. They run shivering and wet up to the front door. Dr. Heiter, the creepiest-looking man ever, answers the door.

I would have taken one look at the lunatic and hightailed it out of there, but this is a movie, and people do stupid things in movies to nudge the plot along. Jenny and Lindsay don’t find it odd that he wants to know if they are alone, and enter his house. A giant piece of artwork featuring conjoined twins hangs on the wall, but again, the girls don’t seem to notice.

Dr Heiter, as played by Dieter Laser is scary as all hell. He is campy and terrifying all at once, and ridiculously over the top. He is perfectly cast for a cult film. The doctor fetches some water for the women, and adds a little something extra. Next thing they know, the girls wake up in a makeshift surgery room next to a male prisoner. Everyone is strapped to a medical gurney and sedated.

The man next to Jenny and Lindsay is told that he doesn’t “match” and is disposed of, soon to be replaced by a Japanese man who does not speak English.

The next time the three awake, Dr. Heiter explains his intentions to them, using crude stick drawings to represent the three of them. He wishes to join the three of them together, via their gastric systems, into one continuous organism. This will require him to surgically attach them to each other, mouth to anus. This in turn requires dental extractions, jaw surgery and severance of their patella ligaments (so they can’t fully extend their knees, and must remain in the kneeling position.)

The very explanation is enough to make you queasy. There is so much to find horrific about their plight: the pain, the degradation, the quality of life, becoming a science experiment. Its all grotesque. But the gross-outs don’t stop there. Dr. Heiter does indeed join the three, and it is truly a perverse sight.

I think (and hope) that the film was intended to be campy. The scenes leading up to the house are cliche, and horribly acted, almost as if they are meant to elicit laughter from the audience. Perhaps this is Six’s attempt to ease the viewer into a false sense of security before the horror starts, but for whatever reason the tone (and acting) change for the better once they reach the house. As I mentioned, Dr. Heiter is played as very over the top, but I think that is how the character was written.

Everyone asks me why I seek out and watch these types of films. I always have, it’s partly morbid curiosity, but frankly I am fascinated by some of the things people come up with. Yes, its gross, depraved, and serves no purpose, but it is still art. I admire people who take chances, and Tom Six is at the top of that list right now. I didn’t love or even like the movie, but I am glad I saw it (though my stomach is not.)

I hate to say I admire this type of film, because that is definitely not what I mean. I admire the ingenuity, the creativity, and the imagination behind the concept of a film like this. I also admire Six for having the balls to execute his idea (disgusting as it may be) and bring it to fruition. It’s not often that I feel queasy from reading a film description.

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is not for the squeamish, or the judgmental, but it does serve as an example of a vivid imagination. It won festival awards at Screamfest and Fantastic Fest, and boasts that it is “100% medically accurate.”

Human Centipede is out in limited release, but it is also available “On Demand” thanks to IFC. Here is a link to the IFC website for information.

  • Joe blow
    May 20, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Ok well I didnt want to read the review until I have seen the movie. I have to be honest, im not looking forward to watching it but yet I am intrigued. I guess Ill be back when im done watching this. My prediction is that im going to turn this off within 30 minutes.

  • Quatic
    May 4, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    I understand this film as a Christian metaphor for the mystery of the trinitarian nature of God – for God is three people, and yet one person. Also it captures suffering as Jesus suffered on the cross.

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