Ashley C. Williams
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The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009)
23rd Jan 11
Ass-to-mouth - Advanced Course with your new host Dieter Laser. Take your seats.
It seems like an age ago since cheerfully demented Dutch writer-director Tom Six (white suit, hat at jaunty angle and omnipresent cheeky grin) unveiled The Human Centipede at Frightfest 2009 to a largely enthusiastic audience. In a stroke of good fortune, the only arse-to-mouth movie of the festival, created significant word-of-mouth and, in the year or so it has taken to receive its actual UK release, the buzz generated courtesy of its out-there premise will presumably ensure a decent shelf-life in DVD land.
Six’s first experiment with the horror genre is, like its creator, too amused with its own wilful grossness to ever be truly shocking - and the subsequent arrival of A Serbian Film (which is not at all amused but is keen for you to have a very, very bad time) makes initial mainstream tabloid / magazine efforts to turn it into a cause celebre seem a tad excessive. What we have here is an engagingly warped, blackly comic latter-day spin on the very old fashioned mad-scientist theme. Minus the more disturbing physical details, you can conceive of this film’s premise forming the plot of an infinitely more sedate 1940’s horror movie starring Lionel Atwill. Since we are all jaded, perverted 21st century nihilists, this incarnation is what a Lionel Atwill movie looks like after years of envelope-pushing works by the likes of Cronenberg, Takashi Miike and Shinya Tsukamoto, all of whom Six is indebted to.
At its centre is a wonderful, dead-on performance by German actor Dieter Laser, exuberantly channeling the looniest work of Udo Kier and Christopher Walken as an arguably insane but brilliant surgeon renowned for his work with Siamese twins. He has a God complex a mile wide and his life’s work has now become focused on forcing humans to live on all fours (following kneecap-removal) so they can be attached to each other in a mouth-to-anus fashion in a grotesque variant of the - you guessed it! - centipede. In a bid to make this lunatic dream a reality, he has captured two young, hot New York women (Ashley C Williams, Ashlyn Yennie) and one Japanese tourist (Akihiro Kitamura).
There wont be much middle ground in your reaction to this playfully grim movie : it will either make you vomit into your evening crumpet or you will be left mulling over the limitless possibilities involved with creating your own centipede. Of course, with real life being the recurring disappointment that it is, chances are that, if you were to find yourself in such a scenario, rather than end up sandwiched between the perfect arse of Miss Williams and the really quite pleasant face of Mr Kitamura, you’d more likely wind up with your mush stitched Dame Maggie Smith’s wizened old poo-hole while Brian Blessed brings up the (your) rear. Still, it’s all worthy of serious consideration.
“I don’t like human beings” rants the splendid Laser at a key moment, and the actor revels his role in one of the wildest high-concepts of recent horror movie history. The premise allows for a handful of visual unpleasantries, including teeth extraction, and a series of grotesque set pieces involving the hapless trio stitched together, fighting escalating infection and pitifully trying - to no avail - to separate themselves. Even though it mostly occurs off-screen, the moment in which Kitamura admits he desperately needs to take a shit to the girl who has her kisser fastened to his bum, is suitably horrifying.
The three actors, under extremely trying circumstances, do a fine job of making this extended circus act feel at least partially rooted in reality. Six confines it almost entirely to one claustrophobic interior location, making it sometimes feel like you’ve just stumbled across a newly established Deviant Night at your local theatre. He does, however, build an impressive degree of suspense from the siege scenario when the police gradually get a grasp of what Laser is up to. It climaxes with one of filmdom’s most unique chase scenes: the mad doc crawls agonisingly, thanks to a foot wound, in pursuit of the equally slow-moving “centipede” as it arduously ascends a flight of stairs.
Occasionally the movie borders on being one-note, making you ponder if it might have been better suited as a dynamic horror short…but it has the courage of its convictions and enough highlights to make the prospect of Six’s Human Centipede (Full Sequence) - which he vows to be a balls-to-the-wall gag-fest - an enticing one.
[Reviewer’s note: Willing to be middle part of any kind of Human Centipede in exchange for food and / or money. Would prefer to maintain current status of kneecaps and teeth if possible. Email queries and offers to the usual address].
1st Nov 04 Above all though, it is the relationship between John and Laura Baxter which is the film’s central focus throughout, and the gradual disintegration of their relationship amidst a haze of grief.