Review: The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)
6 10

PLOT: Two American tourists traveling across Germany have their car break down in the middle of nowhere. Seeking shelter in the cold, rainy night, they happen upon the sinister Dr. Heiter, a world-renowned surgeon who has some very, very strange plans for his new guests.

REVIEW: In the early going, THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE benefits from the audience's anticipation of its queasy central premise. The knowledge that eventually you'll be seeing three people sewn together ass-to-mouth brings a certain amount of anxiety - even for this hardened horror fan. In that sense, the entire opening twenty minutes or so is lent feelings of dread and morbid curiosity that it doesn't have to work very hard for, because on its own, the beginning is wholly unremarkable.

A rather standard horror movie commences when we meet Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie), two American girls on vacation in Europe. We find them, two vapid party girls in bad make-up, in Germany, where they plan on going to a nightclub for the usual dancing and debauchery. (These are the kinds of chicks you wouldn't be surprised to find in a "Girls Gone Wild" video.) Of course their car breaks down in the pouring rain, and they're forced to wander off into the creepy woods, looking for help. Their "help" comes in the sinewy form of Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser), who strikes an immediately unnerving figure. "I don't like human beings", Heiter says not two minutes after meeting the girls. They'd be better off in the woods, don't you know...

All this is, as I said, pretty standard stuff. But as a person who has walked into this movie knowing what it's about, you're already on edge. By the time Heiter has captured and drugged the girls, as well as brought in a third unlucky traveler - Japanese drifter Katsuro (Akihiro Kitamura) - you're in full fledged "do I really want to be here?" mode, but also not quite ready to look away. Surely you've got the fortitude to make it through the big unveiling...

And that big unveiling is one of the film's best moments - a nightmarish scene made oddly amusing by Laser's over-the-top reaction to his horrid accomplishment, The Human Centipede. At first, he's like a nurturing parent, urging and encouraging his child's first steps. This segues into full-blown merriment, as Heiter twistedly brings out a mirror for his victims to reflect upon their ghastly predicament. By the time he's crying and kissing his own reflection, the scene has achieved a fever-dream pitch, and all you can do is stare with jaw hanging open...

But part of the problem with THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE is... it really doesn't have anywhere to go. (Pardon the pun.) We're never really sure why Heiter has done this - excepting the fact that he's completely out of his mind - so there isn't an even greater piece in his plan to fear. All we really know is, he seems to want the tri-person to be his pet; he tries teaching them (it?) to fetch a paper, keeps them locked in a kennel, feeds them out of a bowl... Yes, it's quite bizarre, but it isn't really scary. There is disgust to spare, however. (I can still hear Heiter screaming "Feed her!" echoing in my head. Gross.)

It's Laser, however, who makes this a little more than just a freaky concept. The actor, looking like an unholy combination of Christopher Walken and Udo Kier (but somehow creepier than both), is a snake-like and evil presence. With eyes that dart back and forth, a smile that slowly slinks across his long mouth, Laser is sure to become the character actor du jour real soon, as his Dr. Heiter is a truly hateful - but memorable and compelling - film villain. While the others do admirable work in their, um, awkward state, it's hard to gauge how much of their misery is solid acting and how much is just a natural reaction to having your face stuffed in someone's ass for a long period of time. We don't know enough about, or spend enough time with, the victims to be truly engaged in their plight, so it's the ghastliness of the situation that tugs at our sympathies. Then again, the ghastly situation is doing most of the work.


Extra Tidbit: THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE airs on Video OnDemand on APRIL 28th, and opens in limited release on APRIL 30th.
Source: AITH



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