Released in 2009 and Directed by Dutch Filmmaker Tom Six, The Human Centipede: The First Sequence is this generations “disturbing” movie that happened to sneak its way into the mainstream. Whenever I discuss my particular taste in horror movies, this film is always mentioned. Everyone has either seen it or are too afraid to see it. Just in case you haven’t heard of it, here is a breakdown.
The movie involves two American tourists in the German countryside. Typical cliche occurs and their car ends up with a flat tire. They walk to a nearby property, the home of surgeon Josef Heiter. The girls are drugged and wake up in a makeshift operating room where they learn their fate. The surgeon specializes in work separating conjoined twins but has taken a fancy to create one. He intends to make a “human centipede” with three individuals attached rectum to mouth. The film continues on as we see the “creation” learning it’s new way of life.
I would say that this movie is disturbing but not for the typical reasons that we often find movies disturbing. There is hardly any gore, the creature isn’t sexualized, and we certainly can’t relate to any of the themes. The disturbing factor comes in because it effectively tells the story and makes your mind wonder. The concept is so bizarre and could be seen as it’s own personal hell. You put yourself in the position on the characters and it makes you question things. Like, would you rather be the front, center, or back of the centipede? The doctor is not a pleasant character but even if he is, this type of bodily horror is so vile that it makes you squirm.
The tagline of the film claims it’s “100% medically accurate”. These are obviously false claims when you look at the science, but this kind of marketing is what made this movie take off. Tom Six had even made claims that it was considered the “most horrific film of all time”. David Cox tried to personally trace the source of those claims and did not find one aside from Tom Six himself. A lot of audience screening members did walk out of the film and there was even some difficulty casting because the actors weren’t comfortable with what they needed to do.
The most common claim is that Six got the idea while joking around with friends as severe punishments for child molesters. Over the years, Six has credited the inspiration to the Nazi experiments of World War II, Pier Paolo Pasoliini’s ‘Salo, or 120 Days of Sodom, director Takashi Miike, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, and the list goes on and on. You can see similarities between The Human Centipede and all of the things mentioned. However, I just believe that Six received more criticism than he was ready for and feels the need to justify its making often.
It’s a good movie. It is very well written and highly effective. The front of the centipede, played by Akihiro Kitamura, is constantly mouthy and is not afraid to make every attempt possible to escape his fate. We do not meet this character at all until the surgery happens but we feel deeply for him throughout the film. He is the literal “voice” for the creature. Six purposely created the language barrier between the doctor and the front of the centipede for added effect and it did the job well.
Speaking of the doctor, Dieter Laser could not have been a better casting choice for the crazed surgeon. He was very much a method actor and did not break character while around the rest of the crew. His demeanor and even down to his overall “look” was practically made for this role. He did later return in the third film in the franchise as the Warden and as great of an actor as he is, it doesn’t hold a candle to his character in the first film. Unfortunately, Laser quietly passed away in February 2020. He had been in over 60 films in the course of his career.
As mentioned, the film has a couple sequels, The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence and The Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence. The second film is said to be the most disturbing in the series. I have to disagree. While it is “disturbing” in the traditional sense, it does not give the same disturbing factors as we see in the first one. The third movie is just, something else on it’s own. I’m not sure if Six tried to hard or what happened. Six has mentioned that while he does see the trilogy as just that, he is likely to make another film later down the line. However, he has expressed interest in creating spin offs of the trilogy. He has even gone as far as to naming one, The Human Caterpillar, which would involve severing limbs while still creating a similar creature. Six is currently working on other projects but I have a feeling we will see a return from him working on similar projects.
Overall, this one is recommended. It isn’t n early as bad as all the talk would have you believe. This is especially good for fans of the “disturbing” genre that don’t particularly like all of the gore and rape, but still want to have that unsettled feeling.
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