FrightFest 2009: The Human Centipede review

The year's sickest movie?

There's always one, and this year's throw-down-the-gauntlet gut-churner was The Human Centipede, about an insane surgeon who kidnaps test subjects and grafts them into fleshy chain, mouth to anus.

It's a truly horrific (and therefore inspired) concept, especially when you pause to think it through. That's right: the first in the chain must 'feed' the second, and so forth, until the recycled waste finally comes out the far end.

As Stephen King says, there are three levels to horror: terror, horror, gross-out, and if you can't achieve the first you go for the second, then the third - whatever it takes to punch out that reaction.

Interestingly, though, The Human Centipede is not what it's cracked up to be.

Firstly, it is not, actually, nearly as vomit-inducing and the hype suggests. Far from being this year's Irreversible, Martyrs or Inside, films that push boundaries, it is (relatively speaking) a rather tame affair.

Perhaps showing surprise restraint, certainly trusting that the concept takes things far enough all on its own, director Tom Six holds back from showing too much detail. Rather ridiculously, those in the human centipede are allowed to keep their underwear on, plus bandages, thus preserving some sort of modesty even when shuffling around the garden sucking arse.

Six would argue that it is to protect their scars - a quote on the poster proclaims the film '100% medically accurate' (!) - but it's really no different to watching Julia Roberts receive CPR with her bra still on in Flatliners.

Centipede is a black comedy, which is perhaps the most shocking thing about it. Those hoping for clinically delivered carnage of the sort Cronenberg or Haneke excel at will be sorely disappointed, as evidenced the moment we meet our arch villain, Dr Josef Heiter (Dieter Laser), leafing through photos of his three-dog. Six is more interested in eliciting wry sniggers than dry heaves.

Unfortunately, his movie is also not what it's cracked up to be in terms of quality. Expected to be one of the stand-outs of FrightFest, it instead proved itself to be a slow-moving, repetitive affair that has nowhere left to go by the hour mark.

After all, once you've captured your subjects and done the science and they're now shambling across the living room floor, fetching a newspaper like a centi-dog, the story's done. The second half descends into formula as the cops come a-sniffing.

It also doesn't help that Laser is something of a pantomime villain (and a knowing nod to the distinguished chain of mad movie scientists), all bulging eyes under dark glasses.

Still, The Human Centipede is one of those films you have to see just to say you have. The concept remains robust no matter how many times you poke at it and the film has several scenes (all in the first hour) that come close to delivering on it.

If it finally emerges a disappointment it's because the hype machine is a far bigger beast than Six - at least until the planned sequel when the centipede will grow in length and Six, inevitably, will have to pull out all stops to exceed his original.


    • terryb

      Aug 31st 2009, 17:13

      This Jamie Graham has no understanding of the horror genre. Seen the human centipede at frightfest I think it's one of the best and most shocking horrorfilms I've ever seen. It is a film that DOES push boundries!!! A must see!!!

      Alert a moderator

    • jasonslasher

      Aug 31st 2009, 17:47

      I AGREE!!!! WTF. There is no debating that THC is shocking and very gory till the spine chilling finish. I was blown away! Awesome horror movie. It goes beyond everthing you've ever seen

      Alert a moderator

    • ladygagaga

      Sep 1st 2009, 6:24

      I also was at the fest and this movie rocked! Everybody was really enjoying it. It was such a fun film to watch! Shocking, Scary and very very funny!!! Great performance from the cast!!! My boyfriend and I loved it!!

      Alert a moderator

    • Plotting

      Sep 1st 2009, 12:48

      Completely agree with the other comments. I was also at the event and loved this film! Unlike Martyrs which is an awful film created purely of hype and no substance this was a great little movie. The comic nature of The Human Centipede gave it a really interesting and confusing edge and had the audience squeeling, laughing and hiding their eyes in equal measure. The corny dialogue at the beginning is soon gone and then a great ride of a film begins. I think the reviewer clearly went to see this film with an already concrete idea of what this film should be and didn't like the fact it wasn't as they expected.

      Alert a moderator

    • svst1974

      Mar 22nd 2010, 23:08

      This film needs a dvd release soon and sooner the better. Once it receives it's cult and well deserved following the follow-up is sure to receive a theatrical release. This is thought provoking, ground breaking stuff that I thought was absolutely brilliant!

      Alert a moderator

    • 17Deanne

      Apr 12th 2010, 0:09

      I love horror films, and I really really want to see this, but I can't because I've heard that it won't be released in UK cinema's, does anyone know if it's going to come out in the cinema or be released on dvd in the UK? :)

      Alert a moderator

    • TheThing

      Jul 29th 2010, 16:41

      @17Deanne It's getting a UK cinema release in August, then out on DVD shortly after!

      Alert a moderator

Most Popular