Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Human Centipede

This can't be real. I'm flabbergasted The Human Centipede (2010) is an actual movie. The idea is so thin, so juvenile, that I can't believe anyone thought they could turn it into a feature-length movie. And it got two sequels! It sounds like it should be the name of the fake movie in the background of an episode of The Simpsons or one of those random cutaways on Family Guy.

I heard this story once about Cannon Films, the studio that produced so many wonderfully trashy B-movies starring Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson. Back in the 80s, during their heyday, they acquired the rights to adapt Spider-Man to the big screen, but apparently they didn't grasp the concept of Spider-Man as a superhero. Apparently, they envisioned him more as an arachnid version of the Wolf-Man. Well, here's a movie Cannon would appreciate.

The Human Centipede combines tropes of Americans abroad with the mad scientist kidnapping people to experiment on them. In this case, the Americans are Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie), who are taking a road trip across Germany, and the mad scientist is Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser), a surgeon who specialized in separating Siamese twins. When the girls' car breaks down in the woods, they find themselves at Dr. Heiter's isolated estate, and before long, he has drugged and tied them down, and then he reveals his twisted scheme.

That scheme is to surgically connect the girls, along with a Japanese man (Akihiro Kitamura). With key ligaments from the knees removed, they'll be forced to move around on all fours, and their digestive tracts will become one. They will be a human centipede.

Do you see what I mean when I say I can envision Peter Griffin going, "This is like that time I made a horror movie called the Human Centipede," and then cutting to an image of several people stitched together ass-to-mouth?

The Human Centipede is as gross, depraved, and nasty as you would expect, and it has its share of blood, drool, and pus. Thankfully, we don't see the details when Katsuro, who is the first in line, can no longer hold his bowels and Lindsay is forced to swallow, but even implied, it's repulsive.

Getting kidnapped and experimented on is a frightening notion, but what Dr. Heiter does is so ridiculous and juvenile that I can't tell if I'm supposed to be taking this seriously. Usually, movie mad scientists have some sort grandiose vision to conquer the world or make some kind of earth-shattering revelation. Heiter has stitched people together for no reason other than he's insane. Big deal.

There's really only so much  any film can do with the concept of a human centipede. The movie takes more than 40 minutes to get to the surgery that joins the character. With so few characters, and the two we've been following this whole time losing their ability to speak, there's not a lot of dramatic tension, character development, or story momentum. After he finishes his creation, Heiter then tries to train them like a dog and deals with a couple of police detectives while his victims try to escape. That's the whole movie.

The movie has a pace that could be generously described as methodical. Points are belabored, and character actions are deliberate, so the filmmakers fill material for a feature length. Performances are bad and grating, especially the girls. Heiter is convincingly weird, but shouldn't a movie mad scientist be a little more flamboyant, a little more grand, a little more fun instead of awkward and stilted?

I honestly don't know what kind of audience this is intended for, much less one that welcomed a trilogy. It's not scary or funny. It's just gross-out for the sake of gross-out.

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