During a hangout with one my pals I was asked if I had seen a movie called The Human Centipede. I replied that I never heard of the film. My friend quickly booted up the trailer on his phone and I watched the preview of The Human Centipede. During my cinematic experiences I have seen all kinds of scary, gross and twisted things on film but I had never even heard or imagined a concept so gruesome.

The plot centers on Lindsay and Jenny (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie, respectively): a couple of American tourists bumming around Europe. While in Germany the girls decide to go meet up with some guy at a club. They catch a flat in the woods and search through the trees for a sign of help. They find the home of Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) and though he seems like a whacko from the start Lindsay and Jenny prefer to wait it out with the recluse indoors rather than sit in their car during the rain. The good doctor then drugs the girls and drags them both down to his cellar / laboratory.

The girls awaken in hospital beds with their arms and legs strapped to the bed railings. They also discover a third party, Katsuro (Akihiro Kitamura), also strapped to a bed as Dr. Heiter begins to explain his plan for them. Okay. Are you sitting down? If you’re on the squeamish side you probably better sit down and grab a paper bag. Here we go…..

So, Dr. Heiter explains how he was one the foremost physicians when it came to successfully separating conjoined twins. He suddenly reached a point in his life where he wanted to reverse the process by joining individual bodies into one organism. His great idea was to create a “human centipede” with Katsuro serving as the “head”. The second person (aka Lindsay) would then be joined to Katsuro by attaching her mouth to his anus.

Yes. That is not a typo. Lindsay’s mouth was to be attached to Katsuro’s anus. And then Jenny’s mouth would be connected to Lindsay’s anus. The three would be surgically bonded in that way and would also share a digestive track. That means that Katsuro would eat the food and it would travel to Lindsay’s mouth via Katsuro’s back-end and then Jenny would be fed from Lindsay’s rear.

No major spoiler that Dr. Heiter achieves his goal and creates his Katsuro-Lindsay-Jenny hybrid. The horror comes from watching this “human centipede” as Dr. Heiter attempts to train it like a new dog. The viewer also gets to watch and see if the three victims are able to escape from their hellish predicament.

I’ve seen Freddy Krueger turn a girl into a cockroach in A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988). I’ve seen people walk around skinless in Hellraiser (1987) and Hellraiser II (1988). I actually laughed my butt off while watching Natural Born Killers (1994). What I’m saying is that despite the crazy movies I have seen I actually had to prepare myself for The Human Centipede. I read reviews from people who rented the movie for their home viewing pleasure (or displeasure) and I cheated by reading the plot on the film’s Wikipedia page. Finally, I rented the flick online because I just had to see this outrageous shtick for myself.

As deplorable as the concept sounds The Human Centipede was surprisingly sterile. The gore was scant. There was a little trickle of blood here and a little vomit there but nothing you would need a mop for. The centipede, the star attraction of the film, is also tastefully done. They all have on diapers that stay amazingly white throughout the ordeal. I’m assuming that off camera Dr. Heiter changed their bandages to prevent his new baby from getting infections. Lindsay and Jenny’s heads are covered up enough so you don’t actually see their mouths attached to the anuses but the medical staples going up their cheeks help to partially illustrate what it probably looks like when ones lips are sewn into the butt-hole of another person.

I’ll admit that I was relieved that Tom Six (director) and his crew didn’t take it further into the “vulgar zone” than it needed to go. Just the suggestion of these people joined in such a way was stomach churning enough.
If they had showed the physical linkage under the wrappings accompanied by the alternative food processing I probably would’ve stopped the movie and knelt down to pray at the nearest porcelain throne.

I will echo the recurring gripe amongst other reviewers about the simplicity of Jenny and Lindsay’s capture. They astonishingly broke every “scary movie” rule in the book. It was almost as if they were asking to be mutilated by a psycho. They got a flat in the middle of the night and instead of waiting in the car until daybreak they walked through the dark woods to take refuge in the first house they could find. They accepted a drink from a stranger without looking at the drinks being poured. Oh, and Lindsay miraculously manages to escape but that attempt doesn’t last too long. Obviously, these two lovely ladies skipped the Scream movies and paid the price.

What was very interesting, in hindsight, was how easily Dr. Keiter was able to subdue his victims. We’re talking about one wiry guy that might’ve been easily overcome by a good shot to the temple with a blunt object. But one after another underestimate the doctor’s killer instinct and find themselves done in by a tranquilizer dart or a well hidden syringe. I suppose if the “centipede” wasn’t so disoriented by pain they could have somehow united and tackled the doctor. Like so many movie monsters Dr. Heiter just seemed to be blessed with a lot of luck and oodles of stamina.

Another aspect of the plot that annoyed me afterwards was Dr. Heiter’s reason (or reasons) for wanting to create a conjoined human being. Was it some bizarre solution to world hunger or a nagging need to produce something that would make him a medical genius? That really isn’t specified. I guess for this genre of cinema there wasn’t any significant reason needed. We just required a guy daffy and malevolent enough to treat humans like lab rats so he could fulfill all the nasty things that most of us would never do because most of us are too afraid of going to jail.

There was some grumbling about the acting especially from Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie but I actually thought they did well as far as conveying the high anxiety and terror of learning what was in store for them and then the anguish they show while bonded together in that terrible fashion. Williams, Yennie and Akihiro Kitamura were very good sports for enduring such an unusual role. I read that a lot of actresses turned down the parts once they read what it entailed. So, kudos to the performers who made the “centipede” a reality. It should make for a very unique note on their resumes.

I also gleaned from my small bits of research that due to the buzz (positive and negative) that The Human Centipede created Tom Six is already at work on the next chapter of what might possibly become the next “torture porn” franchise. I read that another “centipede” will be made and that it might possibly consist of twelve people.

The Human Centipede, the film, is less awful than it sounds. The sight of the “centipede” is jarring at first but aside from that the bulk of the horror is psychological since most of the physical gore is in short supply. The story is a downward slope to getting those three people conjoined and then it’s about thirty minutes of Dr. Heiter tormenting them until the sad conclusion to the tale. Say what you will about the weak plot and the cheesy acting if you want but The Human Centipede left a mark on me. It really traumatized me there for a day or so. It has been such a chore trying to scrub the images of that girl sewn to that guy’s butt.
Bottom line (whoops) if you dare to check out The Human Centipede I think you’ll find that the concept is much more graphic and horrific than the film itself. Yet it is one of the most unsual and genuinely unsettling horror movies to come out in awhile.

Special features on your DVD or Blu Ray rental (or purchase) include the official trailer, deleted scene, behind the scenes featurette, interview with Tom Six, casting tape, Foley Session, alternate posters and director’s commentary with Tom Six.

Rhymes With: Hostel (2005), Hostel: Part II (2007), Turistas (2006), Autopsy (2008), Train (2008), Motel Hell (1980)