There’s a question about writer/director Tom Six’s prematurely notorious film that I feel nobody is asking: Why the hell is it so funny?
Watching the film for the first time last night, I can’t help but think that the film lives and dies in the minds of viewers, sight unseen. The question becomes not “How is it?” or “Does it contain anything that could be considered artistic substance?” but instead: “Are you the kind of person that wants to see three people sewn together ass-to-mouth?”
I know this is a Halloween blog, and The Human Centipede is no doubt in contention for your holiday viewing time and money, but I think there’s something more interesting going on here than “Should I watch it or not?”
First it must be acknowledged that the film is nowhere near as disgusting as it sounds. The premise (a mad scientist stitches three people together, end to end) is the biggest shock that The Human Centipede can muster for its audience.
But why was I giggling through a movie meant to sicken and offend in the first place?
It’s a bad film, to be sure, but hardly falls into the “so bad, it’s good” category. The film has a slick, polished look but there are a few instances of amateurish filmmaking. For example, it may feature the most obviously fake rain ever put to celluloid (in every shot the rain comes down at two different angles, a flub that becomes even more apparent on the Blu-ray of the film). The film’s protagonists (assuming that you’re not rooting for Dr. Heiter) are among the least likeable in recent horror history, a fact only compacted by the pedestrian level of acting on display. Despite these numerous unintentional goofs, I’m 90% sure that most of the humor is supposed to be there.
Setting aside the premise, The Human Centipede has one thing going for it: The maniacal and bizarre turn from Dieter Laser as the mad German doctor. His motives are fuzzy for wanting to invent the insane procedure (which doesn’t even seem that difficult, as the surgery montage is mercifully brief and runs smoothly) in the first place. With his straight-faced delivery of woeful dialogue and creepily skinny frame, Laser is on a one-man mission to make The Human Centipede worthwhile. His character’s insistence that all visitors to his house have a glass of water (drugged, of course), his scattershot motives (Is he an artist? A killer? A man who’s taken his love of Milton Bradley’s “Operation” too far?) and the way he longingly gazes at pictures of his first experiment, a three-Rottweiler centipede (“Mein Lieber 3-Hund”). These (along with a brisk running time) are the things that help Human Centipede rise above “should languish in DVD hell” to “a deeply flawed, but interesting, curiosity.”
If you’re someone looking to “disturb” yourself: Skip it. If you’re an amateur horror fan only renting it because of the hype: Spend your time on something better. But, if you’re a hardcore horror fan who’s exhausted the rest of your possibilities and dialed-down your expectations enough: Give it a rent, it’s worth a few sick chuckles.
You can find more of Adam’s writing at his blog, Brain Tremors.