Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009) Oh, This Ought To Be Fun To Write About

I recall first hearing about The Human Centipede (First Sequence) a couple years ago and thought it was an interesting idea:  crazy doctor attaches people at sensitive areas to create one big digestive tract and therefore, a "human centipede."  I imagined it would be something strange, something that would have a hard time making the rounds because really, who'd want to be the distributor who put out something that over-the-top?  Well, IFC Films - as they often do - took the chance and put out this movie here in the United States, and honestly, its bark was worse than its bite.

You'd think that a movie like this, with its wild medical horror premise, would be a big, insane, bloody mess.  It's actually nothing of the sort.  The idea of what's happening to the victims in the film is actually worse than the execution.  Kind of like how the idea of getting punished when you're a kid is often worse than the actual punishment.  The movie isn't what you think it is.

It goes a little like this (some minor spoilers abound):

Two American tourists in Germany, Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie), find themselves stranded when their car breaks down.  They stumble across the abode of a real "people person," Dr. Josef Heiter (Dieter Laser), who drugs their drinks and confines them to his homemade basement hospital room, which they share with a trapped trucker (Rene de Wit).  Dr. Heiter proclaims the trucker an unfit "match" and quietly kills him by poisoning his IV.  He kidnaps another hapless guy, a Japanese tourist named Katsuro (Akihiro Kitamura), and sets about creating his special science project for the Mad Scientist Science Fair.  Lindsay almost escapes at one point but is captured.  Her punishment?  To be the "middle section" of the creature Dr. Heiter wants to create - one with one continuous digestive tract.  Yeah, you do the math.

The operation goes as planned and Dr. Heiter has his creature.  He tries to train it to bring him the paper and otherwise be obedient, but come on.  Would you want to take orders after all that?  Before long, Jenny appears to be dying of blood poisoning, with her stitches becoming infected.  Heiter contemplates bringing in some new "segments" just as a pair of policemen show up to question him about some missing tourists.  Heiter is less than honest and just a tad quirky.  He grows a couple of brass ones and actually slips the policemen some of the same knockout drug, although only one ingests it.

The three tourists try to escape, nearly making it out the window after incapacitating Heiter for a time.  Then Katsuro loses the last bit of his mind and takes the glass-shard-to-the-throat way out.  The police return and have a fatal showdown with the crazed Heiter.  Jenny finally succumbs to her infections, leaving Lindsay alone, the middle segment, with everyone dead around her.

That's pretty much it.  It's not overly gory, and the disgusting parts are more hidden or implied rather than "in your face," not to be funny about it.  Okay, that was a little funny.  Anyway, like I said, it's the idea of what the operation is, what it means, and how it plays out that is more stomach-churning than what you actually see.  Don't get me wrong:  this isn't a heart-warming family movie to which you could gather the kids around and eat popcorn and then discuss life lessons when it's over.  It's a gimmick movie and there's no bones about it.

I didn't find it terrible, nor did I find it amazing.  The best part of the whole thing, believe it or not, was the suspense.  Writer/director Tom Six actually does a fine job creating tension in such scenes as the attempted escapes and the final showdown with the police.  Simple but effective use of set and lighting as well as timing made for some very good scenes of suspense that had nothing to do with how disgusting anything was.  The other part I found quite good was the villainous lead of Dr. Heiter as played by the spooky-looking Dieter Laser.  Laser looks emaciated, harsh, and mad in the eyes - he plays Heiter to the hilt.  You truly want to see him get his - just a completely amoral character who only wishes to please his own mega-twisted fantasies.

Bottom line:  The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is not a movie they'll show on ABC Family any time soon.  If you're angry that it exists, well, then don't watch it.  The sequel is apparently everything the first movie isn't and more, and I'll thank the numerous reviewers who threw themselves on the proverbial grenade and watched it.  This first film is not as bad as you might think, but not the end-all be-all of horror films.

Plus, it doesn't really help to watch it just before you go to the hospital for a couple nights.  I was watching everyone who came into my room suspiciously.

Thanks, medical horror movies.


  1. A friend brought this video over months ago~apparently, a bootleg copy as there was no DVD case. I had my reservations and my friend seemed apologetic after we figured out the premise of the movie, however, after watching it, I agree with your assessment.

  2. I heard it best described as "it's not what you think, in a pretty good way." Then I heard the sequel described as "exactly what you think, in not the best way."

    It's definitely a unique premise!

  3. I love Human Centipede! Not because it's a great movie (because it's not) but because it's just so much fun.

  4. It's definitely a crazy concept - I can only imagine the pitch meeting. It's well-filmed but it didn't really blow me away.