Directed by: Tom Six
Premise: An insane surgeon kidnaps three people and performs a medical procedure linking their bodies together to make a single gastric system.
What Works: There are different types of horror films. Some, like Jaws, Halloween or Paranormal Activity, provide a “clean scare” very much like going into a haunted house. Others, like The Exorcist, Hostel, and Night of the Living Dead, are more aggressive and actively confront the fears rooted in the socio-economic zeitgeist of the audience. And then there are films like Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom, Men Behind the Sun, and I Spit on Your Grave, which are less interested in scares and much more interested in exploring the depths of human depravity. The Human Centipede belongs in the latter category. This is a film, ostensibly at least, about sadomasochism and the doctorial god complex and literalizes it through an experimental medical procedure. In that respect, The Human Centipede succeeds as an exercise in awfulness and audacity. Despite the reputation that The Human Centipede has already gained as an exploitation film, most of the film is restrained in its gore and most of the horror of the film is based in the ongoing suffering of the patients. For what it’s worth, the film locates its perspective in the victims as opposed to the perpetrator and does keep our sympathies with them as they suffer.
What Doesn’t: Like some of the films it’s comparable to, The Human Centipede does not really get to anything beyond the superficial; it’s hard to tell what purpose the filmmakers are trying to serve. To compare, the realistic barbarity of Cannibal Holocaust raises subversive questions about the ethics of documentary filmmaking and blurs the distinction between the civilized and the savage; Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a character study of a sociopath and puts a very real face on acts of evil. But The Human Centipede, for all of its pretension and ambition, never really gets down to anything beyond the visceral horrors.
Bottom Line: The Human Centipede is a film that connoisseurs of extreme cinema will want to check out. As a horror film, there is plenty here to nauseate but there isn’t very much to take away from it.
Episode: #288 (May 16, 2010)