Tom Six’s The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is all bark and no bite, conjuring up an admirably cringe inducing premise before blowing it all with an hour and a half of awful acting and incessant silliness. Things aren’t helped by the fact that director Six shows very little eye for atmosphere or visual composition, the cinematography seemingly aiming for a relentlessly bland and sterile glow. The film does muster one decent five minute burst of stalk and slash (or more aptly stalk and shoot) action, but leaving that competently executed exception aside and The Human Centipede is a terror free dullard of a motion picture.
Upon failing to follow basic directions to a nightclub, tourists Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) stumble upon the domain of Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) in a bid to find automotive assistance. However after drugging them it becomes obvious that Heiter has other plans, namely surgically attaching the two girls in a mouth to anus position along with another captured soul to create a beast he calls “the human centipede”. Sadly that’s about it. The plot grinds to a standstill for about half an hour at this juncture, until in the final 20 minutes a duo of inept policeman arrive looking for the missing American women. Heiter is proud of his creation but has no desire to get caught, thus denying all knowledge, but the law enforcers aren’t convinced and are certain the mad doctor has a part to play in solving their case.
Deiter Laser is abominably bad in The Human Centipede. The actor has a range of over 60 films in his expansive CV but this is the first time I can recount seeing him, and his interpretation of villainy here does not leave a good impression. It’s a ham-fisted and ridiculously overblown performance, far more likely to solicit laughs than chills. His performance only has one insane dimension at its disposal, a fault that further expedites the picture’s descent into undiluted tedium. Williams and Yennie really bring an amateur hour vibe to Six’s movie, whatever rock the Dutch filmmaker found these two under would have been better left unturned. Neither has the acting ability to make even a single line of their dialogue sound believable (not that it’s Shakespeare they’re working with), so conjuring up any subtle character nuances or underlying feelings of sympathetic vulnerability are out of the question. Finally as the front part of the centipede Akihiro Kitamura gets some unintentionally hysterical dialogue, but like his female co-stars is totally unable to convert his screaming victim into an engaging human character.
The project isn’t really graphic at all; some poorly rendered prosthetic gore is all that audiences are treated to. However more important than that is the disappointing lack of suspense, something that Six completely negates to assess after his crazed bad guy has completed the diabolical surgery. There is a sequence around the halfway point that draws some tension from proceedings, in which one of the victims is pursued around Heiter’s house by the disturbed medical professional. Six actually uses the camera efficiently at this juncture and composes at least one memorably unsettling shot, but after that things revert to normal and the picture returns to the same flat and uninspired tone as before. The actual visual of the centipede itself is gross, but not in an overly visceral or sickening manner, anybody with at least a passing interest in the horror genre is certain to have witnessed worse.
The film’s subtitle suggests that sequels are on the cards (a fact confirmed by Six himself), but given the final outcome of this monotonous bilge it’s hard to see how the director is going to have that unfold. The police induced shootout sequence at the film’s climax wraps things up in a fashion not terribly befitting of other instalments, something that seems sensible given the atrocious standards exhibited by this wasteful schlock. The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is a tiring and attention seeking abomination of a film, desperately wanting love from the gore hounds and yuk enthusiasts of the world, but never getting close in execution to gaining their respect or admiration. The movie actually had me laughing more heartily than several recent Hollywood comedies, and seeing as for the most part that really wasn’t the point; it’s hard not to hold it against the film. The Human Centipede isn’t just a frustrating letdown; it’s a colossal dud of a feature.
Director: Tom Six
Cast: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura
Runtime: 90 mins
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