Friday, 3 September 2010

The Human Centipede: First Sequence (2010)

Once in a while a film will come along that captures the imagination of a nation. Sometimes it will be about the power of a child's imagination, or the triumph of the human spirit against impossible odds. Sometimes, just sometimes, it's the story of a crazy German surgeon who wants to (spoiler) stitch three tourists together ass-to-mouth in order to create a human centipede. Seriously, I don't think I've ever heard so much buzz about a low-budget horror film before this one. We're talking a Snakes on a Plane level of unwarranted internet buzz. When people are making Human Centipede themed video games and jewellery, it's clear that things are getting out hand. Hopefully nobody got any Human Centipede tattoos, because that might be a hard one to explain to your grandkids.

The main characters are these two dumb girls who are on a road trip through Europe. During their brief stay in Germany they decide to go to a nightclub which is way out in the sticks for some reason, and before long they get a flat tire in the woods, no cell phone coverage etc. After getting harrassed by a fat German pervert and bitching and at each other for a while, they decide to walk through the muddy forrest in their stiletto heels to find help. Eventually they stumble across this sweet house in the middle of the forest, and it just so happens to be home of the crazy surgeon. I mean, we know this guy has already been kidnapping people in the area for use in his experiments, and these two just walk right into his house. Worst luck ever. This is why everyone should learn how to change a tire themselves.

This surgeon is really creepy guy. Apparently he used to specialise in the separation of conjoined twins, so his house is plastered with photographic prints of conjoined twins. That's a warning sign right there. When a guy like that asks if you want a drink, you should politely say "No thanks" instead of asking for a glass of water and then obediently gulping it down when he seems way, way too eager to get you to drink it. Next thing you know you wake up in a basement laboratory with some Japanese tourist, and a mad scientist is patiently explaining how he's going to stitch you all together ass-to-mouth like he's about to perform a tonsilectomy.

I quite liked the absurdity of that scene too. You've got to laugh when you see the looks on their faces after they realise what he's planning, especially the Japanese guy since he can't speak English and has to glean information from the doctor's hand-drawn diagrams. I mean, that's a situation you don't find yourself in too often. I also liked that he used an old-school overhead projector, as with Powerpoint there's always that temptation to use whooshing text and cartoon clip-art. Would have spoiled the mood I think. One of the girls makes a last-ditch escape attempt before they go into surgery, a good effort but I don't know who they think they are fooling because we know she's going to be centipeded. We saw the preview.

The doctor puts the girl who tried to escape in the middle of the centipede as punishment. You might think that being at the end of the line would be worse, but I don't know if eating shit that somebody ate and shat out would be worse than eating ordinary shit. Either one is pretty bad I guess, but the girl at the end gets really sick so I guess the girl in the middle has the last laugh after all. The two girls are pretty annoying, so I think they made the right choice putting the Japanese guy at the front of the queue. His acting might not be any better, but since he only speaks Japanese it's not as noticeable to my delicate Gaijin ears.

I know what you're thinking. Surely he would need to stitch together 25 people for a true human centipede, since as it stands his creation only has 12 legs. Well actually centipedes don't necessarily have exactly 100 legs, and can have anything from a few dozen up to a few hundred, so a 12-legged centipede is not too far beyond the realm of possibility. However, centipedes always have an odd number of leg-pairs, so if he was going for biological accuracy he should have stitched on an extra pair of arms, or at least cut a pair off. But to be honest I don't think he thought things through that much. You'd think as a highly-respected surgeon he'd realise that this human centipede thing was a pretty bad idea from the get-go.

It's never really made clear exactly why he wants to create a human centipede, but the film implies that they are a replacement for his beloved "3-dog", a canine centipede he created from his pet dobermans. He even keeps a picture of his 3-dog on his bedside table. This is borne out in the way he treats his "human centipede" after the operation, ordering them to come on command, fetch newspapers and eat out of a dog bowl. It's like, dude, I have a name. Three names, actually. There's not really too much of a plot beyond this either. There are a couple of escape attempts and the doctor has to deal with the dumbest cops in Germany. I won't spoil the ending, but let's just say that the main girl has a pretty bad day. I'm not sure how they expect to do a sequel, and judging from the subtitle they clearly do.

To be honest the film is executed with a lot more restraint than you'd expect. The surgery scene is graphic but brief, and afterwards their mouth/asses are tastefully obscured by bandages. This is clearly a case of your own imagination being worse that whatever they show on-screen. That's not to say you should show it to your grandmother though. I mean, this is a movie about a bunch of people being stitched asshole-to-lips so that the each person shits into the next person's mouth. That happens in this film. Just so we're clear.

I should also note that the production values are pretty good and the actors aren't too terrible. The crazy surgeon is the role that Udo Kier was born to play, but I guess he was busy so they got this guy Dieter Laser instead. He has a pretty awesome name, but he's also really good in this role, hamming it up in all the right places. When he is teaching his creation tricks in the back yard he is almost crying in joy, and that's what I liked about this film; it wasn't a miserable, grimy Saw-like experience. There's a rich, dark vein of black comedy running right through this film, like dog food through the digestive tract of a human centipede. You need that kind of levity in a film like this.

A lot of films with a premise this crazy are let down in their execution, but I can honestly say that I got exactly what I expected from a film about a bunch of people being stitched together ass-to-mouth. I doubt it will be on any of my top ten lists, but it was pretty entertaining for what it was.

No comments: