REVIEW: Cinema Release: The Human Centipede [First Sequence]

Film: The Human Centipede [First Sequence]
Release date: 20th August 2010
Certificate: 18
Running time: 92 mins
Director: Tom Six
Starring: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura, Andreas Leupold
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Studio: Bounty
Format: Cinema
Country: Netherlands

Few would have thought that a joke between Tom Six and friends would ultimately result in the film that has provoked worldwide debate over its release and certification.

Much to their frustration, Jenny (Yennie) and Lindsay’s (Williams) car breaks down en route to a nightclub while on vacation in Germany. Stranded on a dirt road with zero phone signal and little sign of help arriving, the two Americans venture out on foot to find help.

Saved by the presence of a house in the middle of nowhere, the women they are relieved and thankful when Dr. Heiter (Laser) offers to call for roadside assistance. Unbeknown to them, their fortunes are in flux and, with the arrival of a third person, ultimately doomed to becoming part of a psychic surgical experiment to create a human centipede…

The first thing noticeable is the story, or occasionally lack there of. Narratively, the film is a lot like the slasher works of the 1980s, with young women isolated in the middle of nowhere. Unlike those films, Six preferred to disregard the idea of building the tension gradually to the point of frenzy, like Jaws, and opted to allow the storyline to serve the visual display that he is about to dish up - and it works. Much has been made of the surgery in this film, and whether it attracts you or repulses you – ultimately, if you’re watching the movie, you’re watching it for the purpose of seeing what it’s all about. Giving that, as a rationale, they have managed to create a positive out of a negative - a complex narrative that builds slowly towards the creation of a human centipede would no doubt leave the audience frustrated and resentful.

Laser (as Dr. Heiter) is a tall intimidating figure who carries himself as if he is sculpted from true evil. His disregard for human life is wonderfully balanced with an unspoken past he dangles in front of the camera in the moments of solitude. The explanation scene, so outlandish that it could just as easy raise a wave of laughter as a chilling silence is pitch perfect, always menacing and clinical without appearing hammed up - a veritable Brian Cox as Lector rather than Hopkins. The weak line performance wise are the Ashleys (Williams amd Yennie), though mainly Williams, as their delivery is always heavy, their dialogue (which is suspect at times to begin with) lands flat, and their gestures and mannerisms are a painful reminder that the content of the film most likely scared off actresses of a higher calibre. Thankfully, and this is in no way meant to be misogynistic, once they’re stitched together, this is no longer an issue, and the film can genuinely stand a chance of improving.

The actual surgery is handled with a real balance and maturity. A lot of the media hype related to this film would paint a picture of it being nothing more than graphic ‘shock cinema’, in the style of the video nasties that were rife a generation ago. In fact, the only signs post-operation of their joining are some fresh scars along the cheek. That’s not to say that there aren’t some truly difficult scenes to sit through. The removal of sections 2 and 3’s teeth will always get a wince from those who have ever been to a dentist. The movement of the centipede when Heiter is training them can also be difficult at times to watch, but only during the close ups.

The cinematography adds to the atmosphere of the film in every aspect. Though not always as flashy as it promised, a delightful light flare during an early scene promised a visually stunning film. These moments of great style are infrequent, with Six preferring to allow the cinematography, like the narrative, to play servant to the horrific set pieces that the film is punctuated with. The look of the film, alongside the lead’s performance, is played straight and is clinical. All precautions are taken to prevent the film from lapsing into a hammed up gore flick of little merit or mood.

Though the film has its faults, mostly in the unimaginative set up for the main body of the narrative, it also has a lot going for it. The Human Centipede is actually quite an old fashioned horror film that has sutured together the key elements in any film of its genre, and then pushes it out a little further than most are comfortably used to. DL

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