Monday, November 8, 2010

A2M for the Horror Clique

Halloween day I had relatively little to do. The night before I'd been at a fantastic party, but there were no plans this particular eve, and with a lack of trick-or-treating kiddies in the neighborhood, that means I had the day to myself to do whatever I wanted. So after finishing up mundane weekend chores, I decided to stroll down to the local Redbox to see what they had in stock. I ended up coming away with a significant haul, but there was one film I was pleasantly surprised to discover available, one that allowed me to continue my Halloween holiday theme for the evening. The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is a Dutch horror film that had been first recommended to me by my friend Dan S (not to be confused with the bastard who recommended Southland Tales), over a month previous during birthday celebrations. Since that time, I've heard from other sources concerning the film and it's oddly horrific twist, but I was surprised that a copy of it would come into my possession so easily.

Hello, we're from dial-a-whore?
The Human Centipede introduces us to Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie), two American tourists traveling through Europe. In attempting to get to a trendy German night club, the pair get lost and suffer a flat tire, eventually and unfortunately ending up at the home of Dr Heiter (Dieter Laser), a former doctor who had been famous for separating Siamese twins. After drugging the girls and kidnapping a young Japanese businessman (Akihiro Kitamura), the good doctor uses them in his latest surgical experiment: joining the three into a human centipede. To achieve this, one victim has their lips surgically melded to another's anus, and the next victim connected likewise at the other end, meaning that the three are joined in a method that would mean that the first person would feed, with the others dependent on that first person digesting their food before it would travel to them. Hieter wants to create Siamese triplets because he was bored of pulling conjoined people apart as  profession, and the torture and degradation we see his victims undergo is the result of this madness.

Dr. Heiter attempts to pull his best "Shatner"
Despite and dubiousness that might be attributed to the claim of 100% medical accuracy as to whether such a procedure could take place, to a layman the idea seems of joining two or more people in such a manner seems physically - if not morally -  sound. That the film is smart enough to make us believe that such a thing, as monstrous as it may be, is in fact possible is the film's best feature. Smart decisions abound in the film, though the fact that most of that brilliance comes from the main villain blunts it a little. The victims in this tale have little to no control over what happens to them, and Dr. Heiter has all the power. Ironically, though we root for the unfortunate travelers to escape this predicament, it's Heiter we learn the most about, his motivations and dreams come to us in almost every scene, and he's the best written character in the bunch.

The good news is that you're all healthy and normal. The bad news is that's going to change.
Acting-wise, the director couldn't have asked for better help from a nobody cast. Laser, best known for his role on the Canadian/German sci-fi show Lexx, plays a character that must at first seem mad to the viewers but only eccentric to his soon-to-be patients. Once the cat's out of the bag, however, he is allowed to be as crazy as he needs to be to pull off this seriously disturbed character, and pulls it off flawlessly. The two young women are both okay performers, with Williams being the stronger of the two actors. While hearing the name Ashley Williams in a horror film may, for me at least, hearken back to Bruce Campbell's iconic role in the 80's and early 90's, but this Williams starts off okay before taking her performance to a level that could at least be considered "good" by the end. She also finally managed to get an acting credit in a film, as her only screen appearance before this was an uncredited villager in Willow. With plenty of theater work on her resume, she may use this role to get more film roles in the future, and has talent to do so. Yennie, meanwhile, starts out at one level and doesn't deviate in her performance talents throughout the film. She's fine, and does hysterical emotions well, but otherwise doesn't have the same talents as her costars. Most surprising for me was Kitamura as the only non-English speaking character in the film. After he's introduced, Kitamura does a fantastic job conveying his difficulties with the language barrier and the horror of the situation he's in. By the time the film has reached its apex, he had become my favorite character in the entire cast, no small difficulty with Williams' doggedness and Laser's madness opposite him. I would think Kitamura would even be considered an inspiring character, were he transposed to a different film.

The rifle? What, too much?
Human Centipede does throw a few curveballs your way, especially the way they handle the controversial surgical operation. The final product actually makes it's appearance at the film's halfway mark, and watching the creature effects in action are disturbing, to say the least. The film doesn't go overboard with gore or blood, however, as these things are alluded to but never actually shown on screen. The female characters are practically half-nude during this whole second half, but are never sexualized because of this, and good camerawork keep it from being nudity for nudity's sake. These things make the film out to be more highbrow than you might expect. Even the surgical ass-kissing idea is not pornographic in any way, as it's more horrific to see these people stuck this way than anything. This once again allows the film to be much smarter than similar titles would otherwise be.

"I've been digging in the graveyard, all the live-long day..."
It's too bad these smarts don't extend all the way to the end, where the good doctor proves that even his brilliance has a limit and we end with a depressing finale that, compared to the rest, feels like a letdown. It's this ending that makes me think that director Tom Six might be dipping into the same well a bit too much when it was announced that he was working on a sequel called The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence). Somehow I can't imagine that the original concept and bright script that buoyed the film in the first place can stand a sequel where the scripts might not be as good. It almost certainly will not get as much attention as the first film did, but it remains to see if it will deserve any.

Until then, we wait.


steve said...

Off the top of my head and pausing for only 10 seconds, I can think of about sixty reasons why the medical operation at the heart of this movie would leave all three patients dead - two in a day, the third in a week. So my question is this: does the movie DEPEND on us believing the operation might be possible? Or is all of it presented as a sick fantasy? (and seriously, who thought this stuff up?)

Gianni said...

It doesn't depend on it, but making it seem realistic sure doesn't hurt. Apparently, the idea stems from a conversation involving punishing child molesters by stitching their lips to the anuses of fat truck drivers. As you can see, the idea has greatly expanded since then.

brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
brian said...

what did the fat truck driver do to deserve that?

I thought this movie was a bit overrated. That's probably my fault for not seeing it with an audience. It seemed like a comedy!

Opinioness of the World said...

This review (not the writing mind you, that was quite good...just the content!) is like an accident on the side of the want to turn away from the grotesque scene yet you're compelled to watch. I couldn't get that whole ass to mouth thing out of my head!