Every now and then someone asks why I like horror films so much. I respond for a variety of reasons, but one perspective I use is as a writer. As a writer, if I’m in another genre, I need to engage my audience before anything else can happen. If I’m writing a comedy, for instance, it’s almost impossible to start off a movie with a gut-bursting scene, because no one knows who these people are, and what the situation is and until they do, they’re not going to laugh. I think of a Fish Called Wanda and it’s a full 20 minutes until it gets really funny, because they have to set the table first.
Horror is different. You can engage an audience in the first minute. They may not know who these people are, or where they are, but you do know that they’re in a bad situation and you wouldn’t want it to happen to you.
The Human Centipede is maybe the only film I know of in recent times, that engaged people just with description. Just the idea of the film was so upsetting, that it marketed itself. There was a lot of outrage and battle lines were drawn. Writer/Director Tom Six rubbed people wrong apparently, and this film was considered cinema trash.
But they are wrong, kinda.
Human Centipede 2 is reprehensible trash. It is a mean-spirited, sadistic and pointless film that shouldn’t be watched by pretty much anyone. It exists only to debase people and for little else.
The original Human Centipede film, however, is a really good film that is a spiritual descendant to every 30’s and 50’s mad scientist film ever made. It taps into the very essence of what horror is. It is a lot less visually graphic and a great deal more tense, than I would have imagined and its a very original idea.
Two American girls break down and become guests in the house of a retired surgeon Dr. Heiter, who earned quite a bit of wealth separating conjoined twins. It is immediately apparent that Dr. Heiter is quite mentally ill, but it is impossible to anticipate what the implications of that are.
He captures them, revealing a couple of other people that he has also kidnapped. Then he reveals his scheme. He intends to connect them all into what he envisions as a separate creature. He will connect them, mouth to rear end to form one long digestive tract, and he will remove the connective tissue in their knees so they will be permanently bent at a 90 degree angle at all times. They will be a ‘centipede’ of sorts, crawling around together as a team.
At this moment the audience and the characters are simultaneously horrified. It is immediately obvious that these people are going to die, because this is not a sustainable idea. It is obvious that Dr. Heiter does not care. It is immediately obvious that Dr. Heiter knows what he’s doing and is literally doing this because he can and for no other reason. And worst of all, you realize that Dr. Heiter thinks he’s making a ‘centipede,’ a completely different creature, when all he’s doing is maiming and hurting human beings.
Dieter Laser is a revelation as Dr. Heiter, displaying the most bone deep contempt for humanity I’ve seen in a while. A touch I particularly loved was that when the police or other external people interact with him, no matter how he tries to hide it, they quickly realize that he’s insane. He’s too far out there to come back. (I often think, if there were a Hannibal Lector, he’d probably be too crazy to interact with people for more than ten minutes before they figured out something was terribly wrong.)
I have to applaud the investment of the other actors, Ashley Williams, Ashlynn Yennie and Akihiro Kitamura. I don’t know how long the film took to make, but this demanded a lot from them and its not like they got wealthy or famous from it. But if its any consolation, they were part of a really scary film.