TIM LINCE: Human Centipede

Starring Dieter Laser, Ashley Williams and Ashlynn Yennie. Directed by Tom Six. Released July 2010. Certificate 18. Genre – Horror.

My thoughts before

A COUPLE of weeks ago I was intrigued by an article in The Sun, which I was cautiously reading over someone’s shoulder on the train to work, about a horror movie that is ‘the sickest movie ever made’.

For anyone interested, the article is here (although the headline basically says everything): http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/2975987/Is-this-sickest-film-ever-made.html

Anyway, it is claimed that this story (about a depraved mad doctor in Germany, who once separated conjoined twins and now wants to do the reverse) is the most sick plotline ever conceived in horror film history (although there’s a few I can think of that go beyond that).

Intrigued nonetheless, I sought out to watch this beast – last year’s breakthrough in the genre was Paranormal Activity and I thoroughly enjoyed that experience (although didn’t find it ‘that’ scary).

The previous year’s success in the genre was [REC] and again that was a genuine terrifying experience.

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So third time lucky, as I hope new innovations and ideas arise; although the old school gore-fest with a mad doctor are both worryingly clich� but also refreshing to see in this decade.

Will this be the scary film of the year?

One reviewer, the acclaimed Pulitzer winning film critic Roger Ebert no-less, refused to offer the film any stars and stated:

“I am required to award stars to movies I review. This time, I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don’t shine.”

There’s a few films I’ve thought similar things about and that isn’t a bad thing particularly for those horror movies yearning to be the blackest and sickest of them all.

And with a synopsis that sounds truly wretched this could be one that will scar my mind.


THERE are many images from movies that will stay with me for a very long time.

The naked scab-ridden old woman that Jack Nicholson inadvertently hugs in The Shining, the sight of a young boy with a dripping knife in his hand at the beginning of Halloween, the big twist at the end of Saw…

But none come close to the initial shock of ‘the’ main image from Human Centipede.

After a shaky and seen-it-all-before first half an hour, featuring two American tourists who’s car breaks down in the middle of a spooky forest and who go looking for a house to get help, it picks up when Doctor Heiter is finally introduced.

Menacing from the get-go, with a face that was born to play mad doctors, actor Dieter Laser skulks on screen in a performance that is the standout of the whole film.

He lures the girls in, drugs them, ties them to a bed and gets to work in his operating gear on his sick fantasy (a replacement for the unseen but horrible sounding pet of his called ‘three-dog’).

The girls are sadly joined by another tourist, who together form the complete trio of the ‘human centipede’. The name should roughly describe what his sick operation results in and the mental image will either intrigue or sicken (or both).

Sadly, director (and writer) Tom Six seems to have thought up this image of a ‘human centipede’ and then, well, that’s about it.

Once the disturbing image sinks in (yes, you do see it) the film can’t ever match that moment (that happens about halfway through) where you see the results of this operation.

The doctor then attempts to train the poor creation and as that fails (oddly the victims aren’t particularly willing to be his sick mutilated pet) the film can’t really recover.

As police knocked at his door to enquire about missing people near his home, and his crazy demeanour soon gives him away, I was relieved.

This film relies on the shock factor of the surgery and the sheer terror of the situation involved. And it sounds odd to say this, but once any truly terrible image in a movie becomes the standard then it doesn’t become scary any longer.

Once I got my head around what was happening, as truly sick as it is, I realised how unrealistic it is and that it was fictional and literally couldn’t happen in this world.

Many horror movies split up their terror, so it can’t sink in like this, but with Human Centipede you are given the time to swallow the terror and let go of any initial fear.

The film also seems to have reached the pinnacle of sick too soon. The Saw series always attempted to get ‘sicker’ and more bloodthirsty as the films kept coming but I really can’t think how worse this could get.

Though apparently director/writer Tom Six is already filming a sequel. Hmmm.

As a movie, as with anything based around one single image or idea, it wasn’t bad for a horror movie – it was very much like early David Cronenberg (in it’s sheer lack of hope) or those sick Japanese films you read about but rarely actually have the stomach to watch.

Who should watch this?

Those with an hour-and-a-half to spare for something that will offer nothing more than messed up images will certainly be satisfied (although the bleak ending leaves little discussion afterwards).

There’s little gore (for those that like that kind of thing), as the budget only allowed assumed titillation of was going on, but just a hopeless tale of a mad doctor who had long gone over the edge of sanity.

This is truly only for the horror fanatic who somehow appreciates the starkest and worst in humanity. For us normal folk it’s one to avoid.

American cinema audiences of this have shown (with many running out and literally vomiting) this isn’t about making you scared in the way that the best do (Paranormal Activity, [REC] and The Descent the most recent examples) but just uncomfortable and regretful.

And personally I don’t see that as a good thing.

But I guess those horror fanatics will love it so it ticks certain boxes, I suppose.

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