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The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

Year: 2009
Production Co: Six Entertainment
Director: Tom Six
Producer: Tom Six/Ilona Six
Writer: Tom Six
Cast: Ashley C Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura

Sometimes when you're a film critic or fan you have to do some things you don't want to, like go and see some stupid kids' movie you've already sat through because family members want to see it, or get up early to see a film first thing in the morning when normal people see them at night.

Or watch movies like The Human Centipede. I'd been approaching it the way I used to approach having a filling in my teeth when I was a kid – with trepidation, if not outright fear. I have a fairly resilient stomach with movies now because apart from having grown up I've seen so many, but I'd heard so many horror stories about the contents I'm not too proud to admit I was scared to watch it.

But I knew I had to, so I finally bit the bullet, made sure it had been a long while since I'd eaten, and put it on. Was it a good film? I don't think anybody in their right mind could use that word to describe it. Was it an effective film? Absolutely – it was a horror film, and what happens to the victims is beyond horrible. With the film's fascination for body horror, Tom Six is like a modern, (much) more depraved David Cronenberg. Most telling about where people stand on it is a Rotten Tomatoes score split right down the middle at 50 percent

The real surprise in a film that works so well at being scary and horrible is that there are essentially no surprises. The fate of victims Lindsay (Williams), Jenny (Yennie) and Katsuro (Kitamura) became a pop culture staple before most people had even seen the film. The evil Dr Heiter (Laser) captures all three, outlines his plan to stitch them mouth to anus, does it, and then it's up to them to try and get out of it.

When the holidaying party girls get lost looking for a nightclub in the middle of Germany they're glad to come across the house in the rainy forest. In one of the film's many imagery flaws, the former brilliant surgeon-turned megalomaniac psychopath Heiter is so obviously evil anyone in their right mind in real life would take their chance with the forest.

He freaks out when one of them spills the spiked glass of water he's offered them and gives them enough reason to fear him, but by then it's too late - the pair wake up chained to hospital beds in his basement laboratory, pleading and terrified while he murders the incompatible first victim and brings in a Japanese tourist he's captured to complete his three-bodied creation. It's never clear why Heiter wants to do what he does, other than to see if he can.

If you can make it through the scenes of the operation and immediate aftermath as the three kids wake up to realise what's happened to them, the rest of the film's not as bad – merely a race to escape (albeit with your mouth stitched to the anus in front of you). The film then goes on in the later stages to provide an effective sense of impending rescue that turns to despair on a dime thanks to the two cops who show up about the missing tourists.

Why would anyone make a movie like this? If you ask me, Six simply wanted shock to generate the notoriety that would lead to a film career. He's a somewhat close cousin to Gaspar Noe as far as creative execution, but even Noe had something to say in Irreversible. Six only seems to want to jump highest and yell loudest.

Several elements hold him back from being a great filmmaker (apart from the taste implicit in the premise, of course). The one that rankled me the most was Katsuro, following a laughable stereotype of Japanese people as he yells every line of dialogue like a kamikaze pilot on final approach. His final act also defies all the previous boundaries of unfathomable motivations set by directors like David Lynch, as if Six simply had no idea what to do next.

No, I think he was more concerned with occupying the furthest extreme in the torture porn genre, much like the makers of Baise Moi or Intimacy wanted to when it comes to explicit sex on screen. If the point was to be a poster boy, mission accomplished.

But there's one more thing to keep in mind. Remember your older relatives who shuddered with horror at the memory of seeing the knife plunge into Marion Crane's flesh in Psycho before you reminded them they saw no such thing, just a knife flashing near a woman's stomach? Or the bristling violence in Haneke's Funny Games, none of which was executed on screen?

It's the same here. Despite the horrific premise all of it's implied, any blood and violence we do see in The Human Centipede is no worse than that of an average action film. It's all in the power of suggestion... But yes, there is an unrated Director's Cut on DVD.

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