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Keeping Captives in Stitches

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2010)

IFC Films

Tom Six, who made his name as a director on the original run of Endemol's revolutionary TV production "Big Brother," has since established himself as one of the most pioneering, controversial and divisive producers/writers/directors in his native Netherlands. His debut feature "Gay" was the country's first gay feature film; and with his latest effort "The Human Centipede (First Sequence)," Mr. Six seems intent on continuing to push boundaries.

The sickening premise of "The Human Centipede" was borne out of a conversation about a suitable means of justice for pedophiles, yet this is a picture so flawed that the payoff never really lives up to its horrifying concept. A risible opening scene manages to defuse any semblance of tension from the outset, as the maniacal Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) mourns the passing of his drei-Hund (three-dog), a previous foray into the most warped of hobbies, reverse-Siamese surgery. It's as ludicrous as it sounds, yet it hints at the fact that Mr. Six is in fact playing what should be standard horror fare strictly for laughs.

The fortuitous appearance of a couple of ditzy American tourists, Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) and Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams), allows Dr. Heiter to put his morbid plan into action, the creation of a Siamese triplet connected via their gastric systems to a hapless Japanese tourist Katsuro (Akihiro Kitamura). Mses. Yennie and Williams competently play up to horror movies clichés, managing to come across as irritating victims, while Mr. Kitamura seemingly has a long career ahead of him in shouting. As Dr. Heiter gruesomely explains his vision to his human guinea pigs, so evident is the lack of tension that little more than morbid curiosity maintains interest.

As Lindsay attempts escape, adhering to standard horror movie mistakes by shirking freedom to save her buddy Jenny, Mr. Laser — clad in whites and resembling a medical Terminator — thwarts her flight. Cue some rather graphic surgery and some incredibly unsubtle metaphors implying Dr. Heiter's God complex, and the human centipede is born. Yet with the realization of Dr. Heiter's perverted ambition, Mr. Six seems to have run out of ideas as the picture peters out towards its conclusion, although he still finds room to treat his audience to what must be one of the slowest chase sequences in cinematic history.

"The Human Centipede" is farcical above all. It's a picture hung around a simple, intriguing and grotesque premise and that is its fundamental flaw; a concept does not a motion picture make. It's filled with all the usual horror-movie clichés and the performances are so hackneyed that the picture encourages laughter more often than it perhaps should. One suspects however that Mr. Six is all too aware of this and is, to use an uncomfortably apt descriptor, playing it all very much tongue in cheek.


Opens on Aug. 20 in Britain.

Written and directed by Tom Six; director of photography, Goof De Koning; edited by Nigel De Hond; music by Patrick Savage and Holeg Spies; production designer, Thomas Stefan; produced by Ilona Six; released by Bounty Films. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. This film is rated 18.

WITH: Dieter Laser (Dr. Heiter), Ashley C. Williams (Lindsay), Ashlynn Yennie (Jenny), Akihiro Kitamura (Katsuro) and Andreas Leupold (Detective Kranz).


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