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'The Human Centipede': How gross is it?

May 1, 2010 |  8:05 pm


To discuss "The Human Centipede (First Sequence)," the shock-horror film that opens this weekend in New York and on demand everywhere before coming to Los Angeles next week, is to describe a movie that might ring the ears of a more sensitive soul. Or almost anyone else.

If you haven't been combing horror websites, which have been enthralled and/or repulsed by the premise for the last few months, here's the basic idea: "Human Centipede" features a retired surgeon in Germany (played with creepy brio by the aptly named Dieter Laser) who captures a Japanese playboy (Akihiro Kitamura) and two American party girls (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie) and then surgically connects them together so they share one gastric system. Visualize the grossest version of what that might look like and you may come close.

The film has been a sensation at horror-centric film festivals, winning two prizes at Austin's influential Fantastic Fest last fall. A sensation of a certain kind, that is. Even when screened for audiences in the mood to be grossed out, director Tom Six's particular breed of body horror causes hardened gore aficionados to squirm and ask, "Did I really need to see that?" (The film's poster boasts the rather outlandish claim that is "100% Medically Accurate!," which is rather hard to, um, swallow.)

So how provocative is it? 

"Centipede" is at once arduously rough to sit through and compelling. There's a real film hidden beneath the hooky idea. Although Six certainly includes plenty of viscous discomfort for those who want it, he is also at times disarmingly discreet, such as the way he chooses not to overexpose his female actresses even as they spend most of the movie in little more than tiny swaths of gauze. 

The queasy-making aspects of the film's premise make it easy to overlook the fact that Six has also crafted a film that focuses as much on the humanity of the victims as the simple grotesqueness of the centipede, so that each straining suture becomes a small battle of morality and will.

Perhaps the most disturbing moment in the film comes when the surgeon first explains his experiment, his crude diagrams -- destined to wind up on a T-shirt, we imagine -- more unsettling in some ways than anything that follows.

So how did Six, who has made three features in the Netherlands, go about crafting something this stomach-turning?

"The basic idea I always had was, I knew, something that people would talk about," Six says, "but of course it's also a very sick idea and very strange and very absurd. So I really made sure to tell the story the best I can, with some commercial sauce over it, so it would be for a bigger audience as well."

Of course, plenty of people will hear the premise and want absolutely nothing to do with the film. "It's definitely really hard to describe it to people," actress Williams said. "That's been the hardest thing I've had to do, to really convince them to come see it. I'm pretty good now at conveying that it's not exactly what you think it is. ... People who have not seen the film at all are assuming it's like torture porn or it's like '2 Girls, 1 Cup,' but when they actually see it they realize it's a really intelligent film and it's actually beautifully shot."

This summer Six plans to start shooting "The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)," which he promises will feature a 12-person construction. (Oh, joy.)

"Of course there have been women angry with me that I was woman-unfriendly," Six says of the post-screening reactions to the film. "But that is totally not what I meant in the story. At festivals people have so many interpretations of what it's about: the Second World War, other people say it's related to politics or Japanese and American companies or Hollywood filmmaking -- all these crazy ideas. It's really funny."

-- Mark Olsen

Photo: Dieter Laser in "The Human Centipede (First Sequence)." Credit: IFC Films

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What hype and utter bs! This film did not contain any graphic violence or nudity, much less real suspense, plot or decent acting. Saw had more of all and I didnt even really care for that film. I wasted $6 and an hour and a half of my life on this garbage expecting some new take on the horror genre and what I got was just fail. Hell, the Nightmare on Elm Street remake was better. Im so sick of paid journalists trying to create buzz over films that arent worth the film theyre printed on.

I just watched The Human Centipede, written and directed by Tom Six.

This movie follows one man’s journey to make his dream come true. Of course, his dream is to create something completely pointless and vile… a human centipede composed of people on their hands and knees going ass to mouth.

To say that this film is disturbing would be an understatement, and yet a movie tackling man’s desire to modify, mutate, and control nature can’t help but to be disturbing. A nose job might not be ass to mouth, but we can all conjure up images of nose jobs that are abominations of nature. A cow pumped full of steroids may not be as visually shocking as someone’s face sewn to someone else’s ass, but we are all finding out that the effects can be just as destructive. While Frankenstein showed us the woes of trying to be god, to conquer death, this film shows us the pointlessness and vulgarity of playing god just to play god, altering nature just to prove we can.

Despite the depravity of the subject matter, this film is visual storytelling at it’s best. Effects are not overplayed. Every shot serves a purpose. The acting is meaningful. Moreover, without giving anything away, the ending is gritty, real, and elicits sympathy without any need to apologize.

The Human Centipede is not for everyone, but it is for anyone who understands that a movie doesn’t have to feel good to make you feel good.

Okay, I have seen plenty of horror films that, while being utterly gross, still were highly unoriginal. This was one of the first movies I have ever seen that actually conveys different. At the same time, it still has the typical dumb-chicks-in-horror-theme, but that's okay because what it lacks in acting, it makes up for it all with medical accuracy, complete psychosis, and it just being genuinely disturbing. I did enjoy the movie just because of the fact that someone would take a step out of the box and make thier own version of what horror is or should be. This is not for the weak stomached, however, because it does get pretty graphic on what you have to infer. Other than that, If you can handle this kind of a situation, like me, then by all means give it a chance. This movie inspired me to get into the medical field. No, not that I want to attempt something so inhuman, but beacuse if I can handle something as sick as this, I can handle anything....

Scariest movie of the year? Are you kidding me? This movie is laughable. Hostel was grosser. And hostel is by far not the worst thing I've seen. Sure the idea of it is good, but how the movie was done sucks. theres no blood or gore or anything to make you say eww. It's not scary, it's funny. I couldn't even watch the whole thing because I was bored out of my mind.
The real world that we live in is sicker and more disturbing. Instead of watching this movie, take a walk and look around.


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