There are few films that can cause disgust and revulsion simply from their basic concept alone and truly none that can stand at the level of The Human Centipede: First Sequence in terms of sheer gut-reaction to the plot itself. In the seven years since its release the film has inspired two sequels, a slew of controversy and become a prominent pop-culture reference. So I decided it was time to revisit the iconic film that started it all.
The plot centers on Lindsay (Ashley Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) two young American women traveling through Europe, currently stopped over in Germany. A flat tire and no cell reception send them wandering through the woods at night in search of help. Unfortunately for them, the first house they come across belongs to retired surgeon Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) who just so happens to be looking for a couple of healthy, young victims to help him with his demented new experiment.
Horror movies have been around since the inception of cinema itself and after countless entries in the genre, it is very rare that a genuinely original idea comes about. While the concept of innocent victims being held prisoner and tortured by a madman is not in and of itself new, the idea of surgically connecting them via the Gastric System (i.e ass-to-mouth) is an inspired stroke of demented genius. With this film writer/director Tom Six has created a movie that is not only incredibly creative and original but also a significant, landmark film in the genre itself.
So, clearly the concept is excellent but a solid concept is only worthwhile if executed properly. From a technical standpoint, the footage quality indicates that this is clearly an indie film as it doesn’t have the rich, beautiful cinematography of say A Serbian Film. That being said, the film has everything it needs to tell it’s twisted story and Six wisely chooses to limit most of the action to a single location. It also delivers on the practical gore effects which are simple, realistic and very effective. I should also note that this isn’t a very gory movie by horror standards and Six allows the concept itself to do the heavy lifting, making the fact that many people are so shocked by it all the more impressive.
Now, there were a few minor issues that I feel could have been addressed to greatly strengthen the film. The primary being that there is a point where a character is trying to escape the house, pre-centipede, and walks by phones multiple times without even attempting to use them. I also felt like the female leads used each other’s’ names in conversation way too much so that it became distracting, which is kind of Screenwriting 101. Very minor complaints to be sure, they simply stand out more because the film is so tight otherwise. The story overall is very well paced and keeps the tension up without getting bogged down in filler scenes or unnecessary exposition.
Both Williams and Yennie do give solid performances and really sell the fear in what must have been a very physically uncomfortable shoot. Although, I did feel that their scenes prior to meeting Dr. Heiter didn’t really rise above average. Speaking of the mad doctor, Laser absolutely steals the fucking show as Heiter, giving a stunning performance positively dripping with menace. I cannot imagine anyone else playing that role and he is a big part of what makes the movie so successful.
In conclusion, this is a film that every horror fan should see and a stunning example of creativity, originality and a filmmaker with the balls to go way beyond the comfort zone of typical movie goers. We need more directors like this who are willing to be daring, provocative and not give a fuck about acceptance from the mainstream because that’s the kind mindset it takes to produce real, significant art.