Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Creepier in Concept: thoughts on "The Human Centipede (First Sequence)"

Ever since it was first announced, Tom Six's horror film The Human Centipede has generated a lot of buzz, both as fodder for jokes and as nightmare fuel.  I know when I first heard the concept, my reaction was "Well, there's one movie I'll never see." 

Ladies and gentlemen, never doubt the compelling power of morbid curiosity.

For those of you unfamiliar with the film, the concept is simple:  a doctor renowned for his ability to separate conjoined twins becomes obsessed with the idea of going the opposite direction, kidnapping people and surgically attaching them to each other, um, how to put this delicately . . . mouth to derriere.   As someone who has a low tolerance for scatological sequences, I was afraid that watching the movie would lead to a constant triggering of my gag reflex.  However, I finally decided to brave it after reading some reviews and comments which suggested it wasn't as graphic as I'd imagined.  So, I decided to brave it.

What was my verdict?  Well, let me start by sharing the following text I sent to TopGun:  "20 minutes into Human Centipede and I'm doubting anything in it can be as horrifying as the lead girls' acting . . ." By the time the movie was over I hadn't really changed my opinion -- some truly, truly horrendous performances out of those two actresses. Meanwhile, the actual horror sequences weren't all that horrific -- or at least, no worse than most slasher films out there these days.  There was only one scene that got to me, and it wasn't graphic at all, relying mostly on my imagination, for which I am eternally grateful. I think that's a key factor in people's "Gee, that wasn't so bad" reactions to the film:  the concept itself caused people to conjure all sorts of horrifying situations in their head, so that when they were confronted with a relatively low key on-screen portrayal, it was nowhere near as disturbing. Which is not to say that this film is for the squeamish:  there's still plenty of blood, and a couple of gross-out scenes.  But on the whole, the movie doesn't quite deliver the degree of disturbance I had expected. 

That being said, I don't want to give the impression that I think the film was a failure, as there were some aspects that kept me intrigued.  Most important was the mad scientist character, whose creepy and deranged behavior propelled the bulk of the film, and his interactions with the post-operative centipede were darkly humorous.  In addition, the big escape attempt sequence at the end had me tense and squirming, so the director was obviously doing something right.

In the end, I'd say it was a flawed, but interesting, film, but one which I wouldn't recommend to anyone without a strong stomach and an appreciation of the macabre.

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