Are You Ready Human Centipede
If you're reading this because you've heard of the grotesque cult classic in the making entitled The Human Centipede (First Sequence) and you're still curious, chances are it's for you. You're not put off by the premise -- not too much, anyway -- because deep down inside your morbid curiosity trumps all, and besides, you don't want to let Dutch director Tom Six's mad scientist horror flick pass you by. (Don't worry -- it's On Demand) After all, as a journalist friend of mine said to me, thus prompting me to follow through on my decision to see The Human Centipede with my own two eyes, if you don't see the film, how can you be a part of the conversation?
One week and many restless hours spent in troubled contemplation later, I still don't know if I made the right choice.
As a film journalist, of course, watching The Human Centipede was the right decision. It's already one of the most whispered-about, blogged-about, hotly debated movie events of 2010, and having seen it I can at least say with authority that maybe I shouldn't have seen it after all (the reason being that I'm a grade-A horror movie wuss, a cover-my-eyes, slink down in the chair, gore-averse, shake-me-when-it's-over kind of movie watcher). I can warn those of you out there who would be, like me, perhaps better off watching that documentary about adorable multi-culti babies than the body horror exploitation flick where a crazy German sews three hapless tourists together, mouth to anus to mouth to anus. (I will admit that watching people's reactions when you describe that premise never gets old. Hey, I sat through it! I should at least get some enjoyment out of the experience.)
Over the weekend the critical community also wrestled with The Human Centipede . At Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently has a mid-50 percent rating, which really means more that it's divisive than absolutely bad; some critics call it brilliant, some call it dull, and others simply couldn't abide its unabashed depravity -- though most agree that for an admittedly horrifying horror film involving mutilation, torture, and coprophagia, it's relatively well-made and less gory than anyone expected.
The truth is, those polarized reactions -- it's good, it's bad, it's whatever -- matter less than the fact that most folks come away from The Human Centipede changed. For example, I stumbled shell-shocked out of my screening in a daze, questioning my very faith in humanity. (And I'd already seen Furry Vengeance that week. Talk about a traumatic few days.) New York Magazine 's David Edelstein had a similarly violent reaction, writing in his review that director Tom Six 'forces into our mouths what he forces into the mouths of his female characters.' Critic friends like CHUD's Devin Faraci, on the other hand, seem to have channeled those squirmy, unsettling feelings into an overall positive experience ('a masterpiece of perverse originality'), while folks like Jeanette Catsoulis of the New York Times gleefully pinpoint the film's ideal demographic: ' A must-see for coprophiliacs and spanking enthusiasts .'
Genre fanatics in particular will probably appreciate Six's originality and willingness to go dark, and the amusingly cavalier way in which he seems to relish disgusting his audience. And if those are things you value in a movie -- along with visceral, gut-turning ideas that most normal (and yes, boring) people would find both morally reprehensible and revolting -- then by all means, dig in. I hope you come away from the experience a more enlightened human being. You may even lose weight from vomiting, especially in one notorious scene in which the mad Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) barks 'Feed her! Feed her!' at the remorseful Japanese man (Akihiro Kitamura) at the head of the conjoined human monstrosity.
But what of you folks on the bubble? Curious to see happen what you already probably know will happen, because you've read all about the good doctor Heiter and his poor three-person man-made house pet? Nothing has been left out in what you can find written about the film online; spoilers in this case seem only to spur on more interest and build more buzz, and this is a film where knowing is half the battle (of sitting through what happens onscreen). If you're of a delicate type of constitution -- and we wusses know who we are -- you might want to sit this one out, unless, of course, you're in the mood to challenge your limits.
Because The Human Centipede is nothing if not a challenge, a confrontation, an endurance test, an experiment in the ongoing desensitization of our collective good tastes. And perhaps more to the point, it's only just the beginning; whether it's the inevitable wave of filmmakers who will follow in Tom Six's wake, pushing boundaries that he's obliterated with his '100 percent medically accurate' monster of a movie, or Six himself, who's already promising a sequel -- The Human Centipede (Full Sequence) -- this is the tip of the iceberg of what gross-out horror cinema promises to become. Hold on to your barf bags.