This is one of those films where you can immediately tell whether you have interest in the film just by looking at the title. The Human Centipede (First Sequence). It’s where a dude attaches other people and forms them into a centipede-looking creature. Still interested? Then by all means, take a gander at this film. There are quite a few caveats that you should take note of when watching, but one thing shines so brightly above the rest that you can more or less enjoy the film on its own terms.
Literally the film is basically just an execution of the eponymous premise, but there unfortunately is quite a bit of uninspired set up. We’ve seen this story before- two pretty best friends (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie) are traveling during the summer, driving through Europe and looking for parties, booze and hot hookups. While traveling at night, their car breaks down, and they stumble upon Dr. Heiter’s (played by a pitch-perfect Dieter Laser) humble abode. Heiter drugs the girls, and the next morning the Doctor ties them to hospital beds (along with a kidnapped Japanese backpacker portrayed by Akihiro Kitamura ) and tells them of his plans to surgically attach all three of them and keep them as some sort of deformed creature to parade around. And then Heiter makes good on his plans. There are occasional scenes of tension and conflict as the centipede attempts to escape, not to mention the introduction of two detectives trying to find the missing Americans, but the ending is not hard to predict. This is a situation where no one wins in the end. Story-wise, it isn’t particularly engaging until the big surgery happens and after that, it never really hits those highs again. There’s really only one standout in this film, and his name is Dieter Laser.
I’ll say it right now. Dieter Laser was born to play Doctor Heiter. He crafts what is quite possibly one of the most horrifying and yet strangely compelling villains ever in a film. Just about every scene with him shines because Laser is an absolute master at his craft. When Heiter utters to the girls “I despise human beings” early on in the film, he says it with such fervor and contempt that you can’t help but believe the man. When Heiter tells of his plans to his audience via a crude slideshow, explaining in detail the surgery process over the patients pleas of mercy, it’s the work of a sick, maniacial, disgusting human being. And when Heiter sees his creation and cries tears of joy, I knew immediately that this is a character that I would not soon forget. The film is not only made watchable because of Laser, it’s entirely enjoyable and darkly humorous to boot.
I’m extremely glad that the director Tom Six made this film as a sort of disgusting horror comedy with emphasis more on the latter than the former, because a serious version of this film would never work, either from an artistic or commercial perspective. It’s never truly graphic (though there are some brutal scenes of surgery, violence and yes, poop humor) and it never truly takes itself completely seriously, which is a good thing. I found myself laughing throughout the film, and I’m pretty sure that’s the director’s intention. Technically, this film is not particularly good. At best, you might say that it’s serviceable. The acting (Laser aside) is passable, the script is competent, the direction is workmanlike. But Laser truly is the glue that holds everything together. Without him, this film would never have worked. He is just so manicially, bizarrely compelling that it makes you want to see just what crazy shit he might think of next, which is half the fun of this film. Obviously there are people who want to see this film and people who are repulsed by the simple premise of Centipede. For the latter, move on from this review. For the former, I am here to tell you that The Human Centipede never truly makes good on its potential, but if you take it for what it is and you revel in the gross, dark humor of the film, you’ll absolutely enjoy it, possibly even more so than I did.
Now, I have another question to pose to you guys. Dieter Laser for Best Supporting Actor anyone?