Tom Six's film The Human Centipede: The First Sequence is a well done first feature from a filmmaker, but is it the most disgusting film ever made? Simply put, no. The biggest problem with this film is the hype machine behind it. "A friend of a friend saw it and nearly threw up," or "people walked out of the theater because it was too disturbing." We've seen this happen before, more recently with Eli Roth's oeuvre from Cabin Fever to Hostel 2 or with the Saw series. Torture porn is made to feed the darkness within, the unconscious or conscious part of ourselves that wants to see the body opened up and put through ghastly horrors. The thirst for this type of horror is not new only the special effects that make them possible are. Torture porn is a direct reflection of our social climate since the Iraq war began and we started seeing leaked decapitation videos streaming online. It is humanities ability to fictionalize what they don't understand so as to make sense of it. This is the reason for horror, it is the great filter.
Does Human Centipede take this a step further, does it dig into our worst fears? Unfortunately it does not, especially when we've already seen a film like Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom. Salo was released in 1975 and was created as a satire of fascism. It featured people as sex slaves, forced to empty their bowels in a cauldron and eventually eat the feces stew. It also showed what happened to these young men and women when they slept with each other and not the owners of the establishment - - close up castration. There's also the E. Elias Merhige film Begotten from 1990 where we see God being born into a bloody mess and eventually disemboweling himself with a razor. I Spit On Your Grave shows us twenty-one minutes of rape followed by twenty-three minutes of revenge including another castration. Irreversible shows a man's head bashed in with a fire extinguisher. William Lustig's Maniac gives us the showmanship of Savini with a shotgun blast to the head. All of these films and many more provide us with a glimpse at absolute horrors and rightfully establish themselves as landmarks of the cinema macabre. The Human Centipede never gives us what our demented eyes want to see - - an anus and mouth stitched together.
The concept is great, a demented German surgeon who once specialized in separating Siamese twins now has made it his life goal to create a perfect triplet. Doctor Heiter is filled with a hatred for humanity and his philosophical waxings are simple but effective, his treatment of his patients once they're transformed is that of a dog trainer. Once Heiter is in this stage of behavioral training the film actually picks up and we're given some of the best lines of the film. There's the "lick my boots," which just seams very German, but when the lead section of the Centipede has to defecate which means it will pass into the second section we get the best line in the film: "Feed her!" Other than this scene, the film retains a slow pace that doesn't help the story. We get the slowest chase sequence ever, a botched police investigation, an incredible suicide, and an ending that at once feels hopeless and wonderful but given time the viewer realizes it isn't as nihilistic as one would wish for this caliber of film.
In the end we enjoyed this film, but not for reasons we previously believed we would. Under the pretense of 'most disturbing film,' it fails, but as an interesting new take on the mad scientist genre that was abandoned after the fifties it delivers.