(2009) Horror. Starring Deiter Laser, Ashley Williams, Ashlynn Yennie and Akihiro Kitamura. 92 minutes.
There are two kinds of horror movies nowadays; gorefest flicks that go right for the throat and give you a healthy dose of blood and guts, and more psychological horror films that leave a lasting impression and prove that what is implied is sometimes more shocking than what is shown. "The Human Centipede" falls somewhere in the middle, delivering some enough viscera to appease the splatter fans while providing a truly horrifying premise to really make you squirm in your seat. It's not a great film by any stretch, but it offers a level of originality that is not often seen in horror films today. Part horror, part twisted fetish movie, this is unlikely to be a movie you'll forget anytime soon.
The center of the movie is Dr. Heiter,a reclusive former doctor who was once a respected surgeon specializing in the separation of Siamese twins but now devotes his time to his obsession - combining animals to make one cohesive body. As luck would have it, two American tourists happen upon his house one rainy night and he decides to keep them for his experiment. Add in a Japanese tourist he kidnaps and he's ready to unveil his masterplan: to create a human centipede. How he achieves this is really the most horrifying aspect of the movie; he plans for them to all share one digestive tract, with the person in the front eating, passing waste through the middle person and finally out the end of the back person. This requires two of the people to be surgically grafted, rectum to mouth, and their knee ligaments are severed so that the cannot stand up. The bulk of the movie is the surgical procedure, with the rest being devoted to the mad doctor "training" his human centipede and their attempts to escape.
As horror movies go, this is one of the more interesting ones that works on some levels and doesn't on others. The production is above average for it's type, especially considering that oddities like this are typically low-budget European or Asian exploitation or Arthouse films, so it obviously has a bigger budget than most. The acting by the three "pieces" of the centipede is patchy at best, especially the Japanese male who has been given some incredibly bad dialogue and who spends the bulk of the movie screaming and shouting nonsensical banter. The best performance of the movie comes from German stage actor Dieter Laser, who plays an effectively creepy villain akin to a more unhinged Hannibal Lecter. He is an imposing presence and his facial expressions and manner of speaking really add to the level of discomfort the movie gives off.
In truth, the film is far less graphic than anything you would see in an Eli Roth or a Saw movie, but there are some cringe-inducing scenes nonetheless. The real horror comes in the form of the situation that three unfortunately people find themselves in, both before and after the procedure, with the mad doctor explaining to them what is going to happen and seeing their anguished reactions. Trying to imagine yourself in such an ordeal is really where this film hits the mark, and it will definitely leave an impression on you long after you've seen the film.
For all it's strengths and faults, I enjoyed "The Human Centipede" and I can see it becoming a cult classic 10 years from now. With a sequel being made already, it is likely to have a good following among fans and draw the ire of film critics and parents for years to come. The originality of the plot and the shock value are enough to make this an easy recommendation for horror fans who are looking for something a little different.