Thursday, January 28, 2021 11:42

Human Centipede – the First Sequence (2009)

As I mentioned during my review of the other instantly-notorious film of this year, A Serbian Film, it is next to impossible to go and see The Human Centipede without having prior knowledge. In fact, I bet anyone reading this will already be familiar with the plot in all its gruesome detail, so I am going to dispense with a conventional review, instead posting some of my reactions and why I thought the film was a genuine gem.

I finally saw the film last weekend. I was hoping for some grimly-ludicrous body horror in the style of Frank Henenlotter. Well, the film didn’t have anything of the self-conscious wackiness of Henenlotter’s best work after all. The relationship between the grotesque and humour was rather different; the film takes the audience into some pretty grim territory and deliberately focuses on the (much) more intimate details of such an operation – there’s no escaping the niceties of bodily function, and this ties in with the film’s clever exploitation of medical horror, fear of doctors and medical procedures. But this is offset with just enough black humour to lull the viewer into a false sense of security. Dr. Heiter’s photo of the ’3-Hund’, for instance – and the vision of him sitting in his car looking wistfully at it – comes just before he kidnaps another centipede segment to take back home (and the framed photo of the animal(s) in Heiter’s bedroom forces the ludicrous back into the film at a surprising juncture!)

The plot is simple enough, but novel, and the film plays with expectations, using a tried-and-tested set-up (lone females, car and phone trouble) to launch into something definitely unconventional. Expectations are also frequently ditched altogether, especially at the close of the film where we are forced to accept an ambiguous open ending.

But the film utterly belongs to, and is carried by the wonderfully-named Dieter Laser as Dr. Heiter. Looking like Christoper Walken on crystal meth, he is a prepossessing figure with a brilliant air of menace. The guy deserves to take his place in a roll call of best sinister doctors of the screen – I really enjoyed his performance.

So, I was worried that The Human Centipede would disappoint me – it didn’t. It’s a genuinely original piece of filmmaking and I look forward to seeing what they come up with for the second sequence.


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