19 May 2010

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

Written & Directed by: Tom Six
Full credits at IMDb

For a while, the only thing the two skanky, spoiled, excruciatingly obnoxious American princesses (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie) charge-carding through Germany in The Human Centipede have to worry about is the alarming number of clichés in which they're mired: they’ve been invited to a party by a stranger (this is how tourists end up in hostile hostels!); they’re lost in the woods; the car has a flat tire; they don’t have cell phone service; it’s raining; a pervy geezer is harassing them; and they’ve ended up on the porch of an isolated house, asking the Walkenesque madman who lives there if they can—oh, brother—use his phone.

It would seem easy to see where this is going, but that’s the one trick The Human Centipede has up its sleeve. Writer-director Six uses this long string of clichés to provide a false sense of security-in-predictability from which he can violently wrest the audience by revealing the homeowner’s mad intention. You get what the title promises: this misanthrope with an eerie reptilian grimace, like the Lugosi villain from an Ed Wood movie, is the world’s premiere Siamese Twins-separator (he’s played by Dieter Laser, who could be the next Christoph Waltz if he found more respectable material); now retired, he’s consumed with a desire to do the opposite: to sew mouths to anuses, creating one creature with a united gastric system. A (gulp) human centipede.

That roofie in the girls’ water glass isn’t for rape, then, and his intention isn’t murder. Truly, it’s a fate worse than death. And thus Six fashions a darkly comic twist on the horror movie, in which survival is never at stake and that’s what’s so frightening. Death would be a gift, or at least preferable to remaining conscious but unable to speak, forced, literally, to eat shit. Unfortunately, The Human Centipede—though in this installment, it never gets past dodecapede; in the upcoming sequel, it should double (vigintiquadripede?)—has nothing to say beyond this one joke, even though all the nationalities at play (the head is Japanese, the middle and tail are American, and the mad scientist a Kraut) would seem to hint at something else, something WWII-y perhaps. They’re not, though, and as it becomes clearer that the movie has nothing to say and thus nowhere to go, it becomes a slog to wait for it to wrap up. There are no more surprises after that second act shocker. The violence here might be more suggested than the literal bloodsoakings of the American franchises (and French standalones) it sends up, like Saw and Hostel. But at least those torture porners have potent political subtexts, which I’d take over tastefully depicted brutality any day. Grade: C+

Watch the trailer:

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