The Human Centipede is pointlessly sadistic and gross, making it exactly the kind of movie we celebrate here at Horrorthon. Doctor Josef Heiter, world-famous surgeon specializing in separating Siamese twins, surgically assembles a Siamese triplet, connecting three people through a daisy-chained digestive system. He explains his method to his test-subjects before operating, but cites as his reason for doing so only that the formation is "beautiful." It's Mad Science -- does he need a better reason?
Believe it or not The Human Centipede isn't half as disgusting as it probably could have been. There's less time than you'd think devoted specifically to the queasy topic of digestion. And since it's internal, it's something suggested through body language rather than seen. So we experience it more emotionally than viscerally.
Much more focus is paid to the psychological torture of being captured and experimented on (and what other dark parts of our psyche such torture awakens). There's also a lot of focus on the physical predicament of the centipede -- It's not just that they're all stitched ass to mouth. The doctor has also snipped the tendons connecting to their patellas, so the only way they can get around is on hands and knees. This might be a blessing: if they were more ambulatory, they might be tempted to make a run for it through the woods. Lots of bramble to trip on out there and that stitching still looks pretty sensitive.
But this movie's main (I can't believe I'm actually going to use this word) "appeal," is the sheer grossness of the digestion chain, and that side is less played up than the emotional torture and the physical predicament. There's room for more nastiness, and I might have been tempted to give The Human Centipede four stars if director Tom Six had been gutsy enough to bring more of it.
Although, I say all this and then think to myself, would this movie been even remotely watchable if it did go there? Maybe I should just count my blessings.
With two American victims and one Japanese victim, Tom Six made the intriguing choice to put the non-English speaker, Katsuro, at the front of the line. This means that the only person in line who has the powers of speech is speaking a language nobody understands. Six makes the even more intriguing choice to give English subtitles to the Japanese, meaning we understand everything Katsuro is saying even while nobody in the room with him does. This paves the way for a lot of interesting subtextual stuff about communicating in a time of misery.
The biggest lesson to be taken from all of it -- and I think I really took this to heart -- is that in the darkest of circumstances, sometimes the only way we have to really connect with the people alongside us is to be silent and hold their hand. And also crap in their mouth so they don't starve to death.
Stephen King wrote a story for Nightmares and Dreamscapes entitled, "Suffer the Little Children," in which a classroom of kids gets possessed by demons, and the teacher has to shoot the kids in the head. King called the story, "a ghastly sick-joke with no redeeming social merit whatsoever. I like that in a story." Me too, Stephen King. Me too.