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The Human Centipede(2009)
During a stopover in Germany in the middle of a carefree roadtrip through Europe, two girls from the US 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, via their gastric system, and in doing so bring to life 'the human centipede'.
For more about The Human Centipede and The Human Centipede Blu-ray release, see The Human Centipede Blu-ray Review
Starring: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura
Director: Tom Six
» See full cast & crew
The Human Centipede Blu-ray Review
Shock, but no awe.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, October 2, 2010
The Human Centipede, the most recent attempt to up the ante of torture-porn extremity, was a moderate international success—if not in box office sales, at least in general awareness—solely because of its stomach-churning, internet-hype-building premise. I won't belabor the gruesome details: a misanthropic German surgeon sews three living, terrified people together, mouth to anus on their hands and knees, to form one long digestive tract—a human centipede. If you're repulsed by the idea of watching something so inherently disgusting, you can stop reading here. Beyond shock value, the movie has no artistic merit, no sociological subtext, no philosophical foundation or moral imperative. It is what it is—a gross-out test of endurance—and that's all it is.
The film starts in familiar horror territory. Ditzy American travelers Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) get a flat tire whilst driving through a German forest…at night…in the rain…with no cell phone reception. So, what do they do? Like any sensible people, they start walking deep into the woods, the first of many implausible dumb-ass mistakes. Inevitably—and coincidentally—they arrive at the sleekly modernist home of the gaunt, impossibly freaky looking Dr. Joseph Heiter (Dieter Laser), a renowned expert in the separation of conjoined twins. One escape attempt and two rohypnol tablets later, and the girls are strapped to gurneys in the basement alongside Katsuro (Akihiro Kitamura), a similarly duped Japanese tourist, while Dr. Heiter—with the help of some charmingly hand-drawn visual aides—explains exactly how he's going to attach them ass-to-mouth. Which he then does. When his creation is finally complete—looking like an obscure pose out of some ancient Vedic sex manual—the crazed surgeon, putting on his best Dr. Frankenstein airs, basks in the grotesque glory of his handiwork. For a while, you'll feel like dry heaving—especially when Katsuro has his first apologetic bowel movement—but once the shock wears off, you're stuck with noses buried in butt- cracks, and not much else.
The schlockmeister behind the film is Dutch writer/director Tom Six, who claims The Human Centipede is "100% medically accurate." This, I suppose, is intended to give us a sense of it could happen to you dread, but the thing is, for all the depravity of its premise—which calls to mind cophragia, sadism, and Nazi medical experiments—the film is surprisingly dull, poorly written, and sorely lacking suspense. (As well as a raison d'être beyond making the audience gag.) This is standard escape from the monster material, and it's not even done particularly well. For one, any potential explosiveness is rendered completely inert when the characters make decisions that run contrary to anything even remotely resembling common sense. I can't tell you how many times I said, "Are you kidding me?" during The Human Centipede, and not out of disgust for what was playing out onscreen, but in response to the blatant illogic of the script. I'm used to characters in horror films making ridiculous choices for the sole purpose of furthering the plot, but those kind of cheap narrative cop-outs are taken to the extreme here. The gore, however— the allure that draws most Midnight Movie fans to this kind of film—isn't. The Human Centipede is nowhere near as explicit as it wants you to think it is, and it's far from the excesses of the Hostel movies. There's very little blood, and the anus-to-mouth contact is discretely—and thankfully—kept concealed beneath bandages. The only thing that keeps you watching is Dieter Laser, who is genuinely terrifying, grinding his teeth in rage.
Thematically, there's not much going on here besides systematic dehumanization and complete hatred of mankind. (And, by extension, the audience. The movie is as misanthropic as they come.) Early in the film, Dr. Heiter, responding to one of the girls, who asks if he has a wife, replies, "I don't like human beings." No other rationale is given for the sick pleasure he takes in his medical deviancy. The other characters are complete blanks as well. We know next to nothing about the two girls, who just seem kind of trashy. (They're not innocents, not by a long shot, but they certainly don't deserve what they get.) Katsuro, near the end of the film, does get a confessional monologue where he admits his failures as a man and questions Dr. Heiter's status as a god-like figure of punishment, but this is as close as the film comes to making any kind of philosophical statement. The movie has one aim—to shock—but it leaves no lingering sting. You don't exit The Human Centipede thinking about what you just saw. You don't care about the characters. You aren't even, by that point, reeling in disgust. (The revulsion peaks with Katsuro's bowel movement. Make it past that and the film has nothing else to throw at you.) You're left, at the end, with a single empty question: That's it?
The Human Centipede Blu-ray, Video Quality
IFC brings The Human Centipede to Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer—if imdb.com is correct, upscaled from 720p source footage— that looks quite strong. The movie was shot on high definition digital video, and while the overall appearance is definitely that of a low budget horror production, the film's fans—and you know who you are—should be pleased by the clarity on display here. Aside from a few errant soft shots, most of the movie is clear and sharp, without ever verging into overly edgy territory. Close-ups are particularly resolved, letting us make out every nuance of the surgeon's pallid, sickly face and see the results of his grotesque handiwork—like the stitches that connect the, um, butt flaps of the Japanese tourist to the cheeks of the first hapless American ditz. There are moments of vivid color—blueish surgical scrubs, green grass, warm skin tones in certain scenes— but in general, the film's palette is intentionally bleak, with a gray/blue cast that dominates the last half of the film. Black levels are capably deep, and while contrast is good, there's little depth to the picture. The footage is very nearly noiseless, though, and beyond some blown highlights—typical when shooting on video—there are no real distractions.
The Human Centipede Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Oddly enough, the film forgoes a full-on 5.1 surround sound treatment—pretty much the standard for contemporary productions—in favor of a somewhat limiting Linear PCM 2.0 track. I really don't get this choice. There are numerous scenes when a surround sound presentation would definitely benefit the film's mood. You can easily imagine rain pouring down all around during the storm, screams from the rears, and directional gunshots when the cops finally show up, but all of these sounds have been sequestered to the front channels, with little attempt at discernable separation. As a result, the track feels too compact and uninvolving, as if there's no room for individual sounds to breathe. This sometimes affects the dialogue, which can sound a bit low in the mix. (Although, there's not much talking going on in the last half of the film, if you catch my drift.) The track also seems slightly compressed dynamically—there is some low-end action due to thunder and the like, but without the .1 LFE channel, it never really rumbles. All of which is to say, The Human Centipede is no sonic showpiece, but it doesn't suffer any fatal audio-related errors either.
The Human Centipede Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Audio Commentary with Director Tom Six
Six spends a lot of time in the pursuit of over-obviously pointing out what's going on onscreen, but it's at least interesting to hear his thoughts on the more controversial aspects of the film.
Behind the Scenes (SD, 9:03)
Straight-up on-set footage, with no talking heads or commentary aside from a brief interview with Dieter Laser, who explains his character's motivations.
Director Interview (SD, 5:17)
I kid you not, Tom Six says his inspiration for the film was seeing a child molester on television and joking to a friend that "they should stitch his mouth to the ass of a big truck driver."
Casting Tapes (SD, 2:04)
If you thought the girls couldn't act in the film, wait until you see their casting tapes.
Foley Session (SD, 4:53)
A behind the scenes look at the making of the film's sound effects, which involves lots of raw meat.
Deleted Scene (SD, 1:31)
Yes, a single deleted scene, of the surgeon doing a silly dance after successfully creating his centipede.
Alternate Posters (1080p)
Click through five poster designs that are all, pretty much, variations on a theme.
Trailer (1080p, 2:23)
The Human Centipede Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Basically, and not to be too crude, director Tom Six does to us what he does to his characters in The Human Centipede: he serves up a cinematic shit-sandwich and tries to make us swallow it. For most, the ass-to-mouth premise will engage a natural gag reflex, but there are others who, for reasons unknown, eat this torture-porn stuff up. I just don't see the point—it's far from filling. Gross-out enthusiasts will be pleased with IFC's Blu-ray release of the film, but all others should steer clear.
The Human Centipede Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence Blu-ray - January 19, 2012
On Valentine's Day, IFC Films will bring The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence to Blu-ray. Director Tom Six's sequel to his Human Centipede focuses on a disturbed, near-mute security guard (screen newcomer Laurence R. Harvey) who decides to create a "human centipede" ...
• The Human Centipede Blu-ray Announced - August 23, 2010
IFC Films, in conjunction with MPI Media Group, has announced The Human Centipede (First Sequence) for Blu-ray release on October 5. This horror movie about a mad doctor determined to create a "human centipede" by some demented surgery has been considered as one ...
The Human Centipede Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
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