Apart from the actual premise, The Human Centipede movies have two unique qualities. Firstly they are the only occupants in the incredibly empty sub genre known as poo-horror, or at least I can’t think of any other horror movies so preoccupied with shit. And secondly, they are unique because they seemed to have been made to appeal to absolutely nobody.
Its that thought that sat in my increasingly depressed head as I staggered through the pair of them in the wee small hours of Sunday morning: Who the hell would want to watch this? There are some very weird films out there, and there are an endless supply of tastes. Lord knows I have seen all kinds of crap in my time, but not this kind of crap. I’m not knocking the quality of the Human Centipedes – certainly the first one is a very well made movie – I’m literally talking about the crap on screen here. The Human Centipede (First Sequence) came out six years ago and has taken me this long to see for a reason. I can watch cannibalism, castration, beheadings and disembowelings and there is a certain twisted pleasure I can get from all those trashy movies. But what is appealing about someone shitting in someone else’s mouth?
Oh, I’ve just worked it out. The pleasure is the non pleasure of it: its is so gross and revolting that its very repellence is what makes people want to watch it. Well that’s the idea I suppose. You could say the same thing about a hundred other gross out movies, and I’d agree. This, however, just leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.
Maybe its just me. I’m really not a big fan of poo, so I hope this sub genre stays pretty small and doesn’t become the break-out trend of next season when Part 3 comes out. If I had my way humanity would have found away to stop pooing altogether. Maybe that’s what the mad, bad Doctor in The Human Centipede is trying to do. If so he’s going a funny way about it. He is putting poo to good use though. By sewing three people arse to mouth he is ensuring that the middle and the back are getting all the nourishment they can out of the front end. I’m not entirely sure they are getting enough mind as (SPOILERS) the back end dies from poisoning, or her wounds, or just a lack of nutrition of being third in line in the food chain. Who knows. Also the Doctor is reducing the amount of poo in the world as he’s effectively slashing poo by two thirds, as it only comes out of the back end. And that’s got to be good for the environment.
As I’ve already said the first film is, if we, or at least I, ignore the poo-factor, a very well made film. It looks pretty good and builds up some solid tension in the first half of the film. Also despite fact the subject matter being waaaaay extreme, it is actually fairly tame. This is mainly because the, er, action, happens in a sealed area that the camera can’t get to. We are just left with the actors reactions as they swallow their front parts meal whilst the mad Doctor stands over them screaming “Feed her! Feed the bitch!”.
If all this sounds a bit beyond the pale for you then please do head straight into The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence). You will soon be reminiscing about the gentle, sedate times you had in part one. How it built up to its horrors. How it had suspense. How it had a beginning, a middle and an end, and I don’t just mean the three parts of the human centipede.
The second film is, quite frankly, beyond mental. The plot, and I say plot in the loosest sense of the word, takes place either in an underground carpark, a seedy flat or an squalid warehouse. None of these places have any windows whatsoever. It is like a world which is cut off from the rest of us with its twisted character and filthy walls, living out its terrible existence beyond the realms of daylight.
The main character Martin, unlike the previous film, is not one of the victims but the perpetrator. If you don’t mind me mixing my species similes, he’s a ratty little toad of a man. When we first see him you almost want to feel sorry for him. He’s an incredibly short, rotund, possibly simple, little fella who sits squarely at odds with what is acceptable in modern society. However any sympathy you have quickly evaporates as you realise that, in a ludicrous bit of modern meta, he is obsessed with The Human Centipede (First Sequence). He watches it at home, at work, he has a scrap book dedicated to it, he even wanks off to it. His dream, it seems, is to create his own human centipede but this time instead of three people he wants to do it with twelve. Well you’ve got have ambitions haven’t you?
The rest of the film consists of Martin capturing the various people who he comes across and kidnapping them so he can use them to make his centipede. He’s hardly careful about it though. Most of his victims are people who have parked their cars in his car park. Unlike the debonaire doctor in the first film he doesn’t bother using anything as sophisticated as drugs to kidnap them. Instead he just shoots them in the leg and batters them over the head with a crowbar. He finds the warehouse to keep them all in, and even then when the landlord asks for a holding deposit he just kneecaps the guy and adds him to the, er, segments.
Martin’s approach to surgery leaves a lot to be desired too. Whereas the doctor was a renowned surgeon who creates his monster with precise cuts and perfect stitching (well not quite perfect but it was a new procedure, give the guy a break), Martin’s tools consist of an old steak knife, a pair of pliers and a claw hammer. When it comes to attaching his victims together he totally cheats and uses a staple gun.
It is as gross as you think but the more Martin slices and dices and smashes and staples you almost have to admire what director Tom Six is doing here. He’s creating a form of art out of the grotesque. Okay maybe “art” is pushing it, but Martin is a horrible little man that most people pay no attention to, so he is able to make his hideous fantasy a reality without anyone noticing enough to stop him. In First Sequence the doctor can barely kidnap a couple of girls without the police showing up. Here, Martin has a dozen victims (plus a few he just kills for the hell of it) and no one bats an eyelid. Its like Tom Six: he made the first film about this mad, mad idea and found some controversy, so here he makes an even more extreme and relentless development of that idea, and whilst I watched it I didn’t even care enough to feel sick.
Okay well that’s not entirely true. Full Sequence is presented in a rich black and white but was apparently shot in colour. Six was told that it would never, ever get released like that so he switched it to monochrome. I think it helps in some ways. Whilst all the gore and shit might have been to much even for me, in black and white I became numb to the horrors very quickly and it wasn’t as tough to watch as the first one, despite have so much more graphic imagery. Also being in monochrome all these squalid locations gave it a weird nightmarish quality which reminded me of early David Lynch, but with more shit obviously. And not good or anything.
I think I preferred the second film though. Other than the subject matter, the first one is clearly a stronger movie in the traditional sense with its proper story structure. The second film abandons such crazy notions as character development or plot in favour of its relentless pursuit of depravity. You’ve got to admire Tom Six’s commitment to these extreme form of what counts as a high concept movie, at least in his eyes.
I’m not too sure I admire Tom Six’s obsession with poo though. The second film’s only moments of colour are when Martin injects laxative into his centipede’s parts and brown excrement gushes and squirts out all over the camera. Which takes me back to my original question. Why are you doing this Mr Six? And who the hell are you doing it for?