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"The Human Centipede" is the best cult film of 2010

Illustration for article titled The Human Centipede is the best cult film of 2010

The premise is simple enough. A mad doctor has kidnapped three people for his evil plans to create one person out of three, by surgically attaching them ass-to-mouth. With cult movies, execution is everything. And The Human Centipede delivers.


One of the many gems in this bizarro flick directed by Tom Six is its psychotic protagonist, Dr. Heiter, played with fascistic abandon by Dieter Laser (who also played a bad guy on cult Canadian series Lexx). One look at Heiter's gaunt face with its bulging eyes and slash mouth, and you'll feel the crazy. Plus, he has great mad doctor outfits and is a master of the pointy-tongue school of acting. His favorite sport is whacking off to pictures of his dead "3 dog" (yeah - three dogs sewn together, ass-to-mouth) and shooting tranquilizer darts at hapless motorists who've pulled over to whiz on the side of the road. In this way, he begins collecting possible parts for his "human centipede" masterwork.

Illustration for article titled The Human Centipede is the best cult film of 2010

Heiter's plans come to fruition when two utterly useless bimbo tourists get a flat outside his house on a rainy night. Out comes the rohypnol-laced water, and down go Lindsay and Jenny. They awaken in Heiter's basement surgery where he gives them possibly the world's greatest power point presentation explaining how he's going to surgically attach their digestive tracts to form one long ass-to-mouth tube. Nothing here is particularly gory. In fact, the scene is played as dark humor, and the line drawings of the human centipede he shows in his little presentation are off-the-charts freakshow.

What The Human Centipede shares with many other movies in the torture porn subgenre is that it invites a kind of gleeful schadenfreude when it comes to the victims. Of course you wouldn't want anybody to actually have her mouth surgically attached to a guy's ass, but still - Lindsay and Jenny are so annoying, and so abysmally incapable of defending themselves, that you're kind of glad when their whines are drowned out by Heiter's ass-to-mouth alterations. As for the "head" of the centipede, a Japanese tourist named Katsuro - he's a cypher who spends all his time (until the very last scene) screaming about how he'll get his revenge.

Illustration for article titled The Human Centipede is the best cult film of 2010

One of the delightful things about this movie - if I may use that phrase - is that it swerves wildly off the beaten track. Usually your structure for a torture porn tale is something like this: Act One, cute but dumb people suffer car trouble and meet our menacing Big Bad; Act Two, cute but dumb people try to get away in boringly repetitive way while Big Bad laughs mockingly and cuts them up a little; Act Three: After much cackling, at last the Awfulness is revealed and maybe help arrives or maybe everybody dies. So I figured we'd get a little glimpse of our human centipede in Act Three. But no! Heiter does the crazy mouth-to-ass surgery right at the beginning of Act Two. So most of the movie is about Hieter tormenting his "beloved centipede" and about us, the audience, wondering, "Are they really going there? Oh my, yes they are."

Illustration for article titled The Human Centipede is the best cult film of 2010

First Hieter tries to train his centipede to fetch the newspaper the way his "3 dog" did. But Katsuro refuses. Then Hieter basically just marches his centipede from room to room, making weird comments and kissing mirrors and prancing. Oh, and making plans to add another couple of people to the centipede. And maybe remove their voiceboxes this time, because listening to Katsuro yell is really getting on his nerves. There is something brutally, horrifically funny - and despair-inducing - about watching the centipede limp in blood-soaked bandages through Hieter's mansion.


As Katsuro says toward the end of the film, he has lived his life like an insect - focused on himself, abandoned his family. So maybe he deserves what's happened to him. And we already know that Lindsay and Jenny are narcissistic jerks, as insectile as it gets. So the message of this film is just as simple and creepy as its title: Live like an insect; die like an insect.

Ultimately The Human Centipede is going to appeal only to people who enjoy movies in the vein of Hostel and The Devil's Rejects - smart, funny gorefests whose aim is to entertain with nihilism. If you like your genre with a megadose of transgression in the middle, then The Human Centipede will please you to no end. It dares to go where you only dreamed, in your shroom-fueled nightmares.

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You know, I saw this movie.

I had a violently negative reaction to it. It made me wrathful, nauseous, and depressed. I alternately whimpered and screamed at 2 of my friends who weren't as horrified and violently repulsed as I. The movie is truly a blight on humanity.


I'm glad it exists. Anything that can evoke that powerful a reaction is absolutely worth talking about.

I just wish it were smarter. I really don't think the movie is as visionary as this reviewer gives it credit for. The only effective idea in the whole movie is the central conceit of the human centipede. Everything else is purely abysmal — the directing is terrible (we're talking The Room-level bad here), the writing is terrible (there is literally no story, just a series of muffled screams of agony and torture), the acting is terrible, and it DOESN'T JUSTIFY ITS EXISTENCE BY BEING ABOUT ANYTHING.

If this movie had been about anything, ANYTHING, it would have elevated to the "brilliance" that Annalee writes about above. But this movie isn't interested in themes or ideas — it's not interested in asking WHY people would use and degrade each other like this, it's not interested in nihilism, it's not interested in showing the indomitability of the human psyche, it's not interested in showing that people are awful and deserve punishment, it's not interested in how people rise above or submit to hardship, it's not interested in exploring oppression, it's not interested in ugliness or our perceptions beauty or hate or transhumanism or individualism or conformity or class struggle or any vast number of themes the idea lends itself to — it's only interested in shock value and exploitation.

And a concept with this much horrific power needs a grander idea than exploitation backing it up to justify its wretched existence. The Human Centipede doesn't and isn't even remotely interested.

So, in my mind, it's a failure. Though not one that should be wiped off the face of the Earth entirely.