HUMAN CENTIPEDE Review. [Fantastic Fest 2009]

Posted by Peter Hall - October 29th 2009 @ 7:00 am

Written and Directed by Tom Six, 2009

There’s no reason you should know this, but the only dedicated THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEQUENCE) post ever on has been one of the most trafficked posts on this site.  Apparently people enjoy reading about a mad scientist that kidnaps three people, cuts the muscle tissue connecting their kneecaps so as to disable leg extension, and then sews the poor souls together in an ass-to-mouth chain in order to create the world’s first Siamese Twins connected by a single digestive tract.  And why shouldn’t it have gotten as many hits as it did?  The plot description of HUMAN CENTIPEDE is, unquestionably, certifiably, smear-it-on-padded-walls, bat-shit insane.  No one may want to see that visual come to life, but they certainly love doing a double-take when reading about it for the first time*.

And that’s appropriate, since reading the plot description is the best thing about writer/director Tom Six’ attempt at making a shocking horror film.  Because without having the advantage of knowing what this movie, hypothetically, has in store, most horror fans would lose interest within the first 10 minutes.  This gateway to the film is dominated by two annoying, spoiled-brat American girls who get lost deep in the woods of Germany.  The acting in this introduction is grating at best, deal-breaking at worst, and unfortunately it takes another third of the film to pass before things begin to get even remotely interesting.

For a movie about turning a trio of people into an ass-to-mouth-to-ass-to-mouth affront to evolution that can’t walk, it’s pretty damned tame at doing what little it can with that glass-ceiling premise.  It’s a pointless movie that has a weak opening, a weak middle, and an even weaker ending that will have you yearning, along with the film’s saving grace mad doctor, halfway through the experiment to kill the ailing abomination and start all over again.

I’m not usually one to complain that a horror movie doesn’t push enough boundaries, but if you’re going to lay out a bare bones plot like HUMAN CENTIPEDE’s, you’re going to need to tear down that good-taste-bad-taste fence you were born straddling.  Instead Tom Six merely wobbles it, incapable of knocking it over or even doing any lasting damage.  The act of defiant insanity we were promised is slowly revealed to be little else than standard-issue insanity that’s come up with a buzz-worthy concept and no coherent vision of how to make it interesting.

The acting is terrible, save for Dieter Laser as Dr. Heiter.  His performance (and awesome name) is without question the most satisfying aspect of the film, as he layers on the weirdness from the first time we see him staring longingly at a picture of three dogs sniffing each others’ butts in a chain.  Beyond him, however, we’re left with the two stock C-grade actresses and a Japanese fellow who does nothing but yell like he’s on an episode of “NINJA WARRIOR”.  And while I’m sure that shooting this movie was a physically uncomfortable experience, none of the actors are asked to do anything too daring; which perhaps could have made up for the fruitless script.

It’s not a total loss of wasted potential, however.  I’ll not spoil anything, but there is one sequence towards the end of the film that almost makes the whole ordeal worthwhile, but it soon squanders what little momentum it has finally gained on a lame, climactic moment that brings about laughter when it should be napalming the audience with shock-and-awe.  When he should be burning down word of mouth forests, Tom Six is busy giving the audience a mild Indian Rug Burn that’s more annoying than painful.  Sure, it lands a memorable jolt to the senses every now and then, but never enough to leave a lasting impression.

I suppose if you have a chronic fear that your rental car is going to break down in Germany and you’re going to then be surgically grafted to a stranger’s bathroom parts, a film like this will hit a little too close to home.  Barring that very, very specific phobia, most people will feel more emotion when they see a regular centipede on their bathroom floor than when they see THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE.

*Not unlike the double-take I did when I found the poster in the upper right and read the citation-lacking phrase “100% medically accurate”.

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comments are closed
  1. November 2nd, 2009 | 9:43 pm | #1

    My house is infested with centipedes, so I’d rather not watch this movie when the real deal is crawling on my ceiling as we speak! Entertaining review, by the way :)

  2. November 3rd, 2009 | 10:19 pm | #2

    “a stranger’s bathroom parts”
    i’ve been amused by the way people describe this aspect of the film (including myself) to avoid sounding dodgy. seems like your review will be more entertaining than the film.

  3. Randy
    November 4th, 2009 | 8:15 pm | #3

    “ass-to-mouth” isn’t that a prono term. What kinda web site are you running now Peter? Get your name on TV and already you’ve sold your soul…

  4. November 12th, 2009 | 10:06 am | #4

    All I’m saying is that when my car breaks down in Germany, I hope I’m in the front of that centipede experiment!

  5. December 11th, 2009 | 9:23 am | #5

    funny, with how creepy centipedes are that few movies have been made about them

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