REVIEW: The Human Centipede

Two female American tourists, a flat tyre, no mobile phone reception, a house in the middle of a dark forest, and a mad German doctor with a penchant for experimental surgery. The set-up for The Human Centipede isn’t what you might call earth shatteringly original. However, in terms of the body horror that unfolds, writer/director Tom Six’s film initially holds out a promise of some unique revelations, or at the very least, revulsions.

Following the capture of the two ‘damsels in distress’ and an unfortunate Japanese male, Dr Heiter (a specialist surgeon in the field of conjoined bodied) soon reveals his dastardly plans for the creation of a triple-torso being (joined anus-to-mouth), a human centipede.

If the prospect of watching three humans bound together via a single gastrological tract seems like your idea of a gore-filled sadistic trip then sadly you’re going to be disappointed. Despite the grotesquery of the premise, The Human Centipede largely shies away from any explicit depiction of bodily harm, particularly when it comes to the actual medical procedure. And from that point onwards the film’s lack of direction becomes increasingly apparent.

While eschewing the ‘pornographic violence’ common to much of contemporary horror cinema (see my article The Spectre of Violence), The Human Centipede seems equally devoid of any political critique. In fact, Six seems content to simply place his post-operative being in a variety of pseudo-degrading scenarios but none that reveal any substantial thought or underlying social commentary.

Perhaps the strongest indictment of The Human Centipede is that the film’s central conceit would’ve provided a veritable wellspring of sub-textual possibilities. The appearance of Six’s triple-bodied form recalls imagery of the stacked prisoners at Abu Graib, while the coprophilic, cross-cultural and gendered implications of the centipede lend themselves to various critical explorations (political imprisonment, torture, consumerism, globalisation etc.).

Ultimately though, The Human Centipede seems utterly disinterested is any deeper engagement with its tri-part creation beyond an adolescent fascination with eating shit. If that is the extent of Tom Six’s cinematic imagination I won’t be rushing out to see the film’s sequel (supposedly premised on a twelve-bodied centipede) due for release next year.

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3 Responses to “REVIEW: The Human Centipede”

  1. Jewel Tabor says:

    You can definitely see your enthusiasm in the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate reviewers like you who aren’t afraid to say what they believe.

  2. Yee D. Huntsman says:

    That sucks 🙁

  • Head to Head – The Human Centipede | Quickflix® DVD & Movie Blog — March 26, 2011 @ 1:35 am

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