Holland (dir. Tom Six)
Cast: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura, Andreas Leupold
Synopsis: Two pretty American girls are on a road trip through Europe. In Germany they end up alone at night with a broken car in the woods. They search for help and find an isolated villa. The next day they awake to find themselves trapped in his terrifying makeshift basement hospital along with a Japanese man. An older German man identifies himself as a retired surgeon specialized in separating Siamese twins. However his three “patients” are not about to be separated, but joined together in a horrific operation. He plans to be the first person to connect people via their gastric system, in doing so bringing to life his sick lifetime fantasy: “the human centipede”.
Review: Hype is a funny thing. It gets you talking about something that you haven’t seen or heard yet, and it even gets you making a lot of presumptions about that thing before you actually see/hear/experience it. Such is the case with Tom Six’s “The Human Centipede (First Sequence)”. Upon hearing of the film’s concept, most people had more than likely already formed enough disgusting images in their minds to formulate a rough picture of what they would be in for once they saw the film. All it really takes is a look at the film’s title and maybe one or two screen-shots to really get one’s imagination going, and of course once your imagination takes an idea as sick as that of a human centipede, there really is no limit to the disgusting depths your imagination will take you (depending, of course on how darkly twisted your imagination might be). Unfortunately, as these things often turn out to be, all that hype was for naught, and the “best” parts of this film aren’t even really in the film at all, they lie solely within your imagination. Thus, “The Human Centipede (First Sequence)” is not much more than the horror movie equivalent of a striptease, where very little is shown and a lot is left up to the mind’s eye.
The first act of the film is, not surprisingly, a build up to the obviously inevitable surgical construction of the human centipede itself. Perhaps chalk it up to my mildly disturbed persona, but I really hoped there would be something more gruesome added to the human centipede story other than “mad scientist constructs a centipede using humans and then walks the centipede around his backyard”. The surgery itself was pretty gruesome for the most part, with teeth being pulled to create a more... accommodating ass-to-mouth transition and knee tendons being severed to provide material for the grafting, but as mentioned, a lot is left unseen or is merely implied thereby giving your imagination free reign to visually fill in the gaps.
Sadly, aside from Dieter Laser (the demented ass-to-mouth surgeon) and the Japanese dude who plays the… Japanese dude, the acting in this film just feels bad, bad, bad, and I’m specifically referring to the two main girls: dumb brunette #1, and dumber brunette #2. Dumb and dumber spend the majority of the film crying on their knees, so I can’t really nit-pick about their acting skills there, but it’s that goddamn first act of the film that left me feeling like I was watching a bad high school play… a really bad high school play. It came as almost a blessing to have the girls play the parts of the middle and end sections of the centipede because I knew I wouldn’t have to at least hear them talking for the remaining two-thirds of the film. Laser on the other hand completely fucking steals the show as the Siamese twin surgeon-cum-mad scientist. It takes a lot of skill to drop a line like “I hate human beings” into what is a presumably normal conversation and make it sound not only comical but creepy as fuck. And comedy is surprisingly not something that “The Human Centipede (First Sequence)” can be accused of lacking. In fact, friends who had seen it before me were actually bringing up the fact that it was downright hilarious at times, and even the audience I saw it with at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival spent more time laughing at what was happening onscreen than gagging at it.
As profoundly disturbed as I was by the premise of the film (I’ll admit to feeling extremely nauseous after seeing a photo of the human centipede and reading an article about the medical accuracy of its surgical construction and ummm… bodily functions) finally seeing the film didn’t really do much for me. Don’t get me wrong, it was a pretty good film – at the very least, above average, but something about it didn’t quite go over too well with me. Maybe it was just the fact that there was just so much left unseen, so much that was merely implied, that left me thinking that the best parts of the film were only the ones fabricated in my head. By the end of the film, I almost couldn’t help feeling a little let down. I mean, I’d heard about “The Human Centipede (First Sequence)” roughly six or seven months before actually seeing it, and after all that time spent grossing people out by explaining the film’s concept or just name-dropping the title to instigate reactions among even the most hardened of horror movie fans it just felt like the film didn’t live up to my expectations. And how could it, when my expectations were building for months and months. As I’ve said before, it was partially the fault of the hype monster. Perhaps if I had gone into the film completely blind, without anything to go on but the title alone, I would have been more mentally affected by the sheer gruesomeness of the concept of the human centipede once I saw it onscreen, but I guess the pictures I was exposed to sorta spoiled the film for me. Oh and seeing this cat toy didn’t help either.
With the film being somewhat of a let down in the horror department, it didn’t really come as a surprise to have the film totally suck in terms of a story or character development. Just as the film reaches what you would think is a climax (the mad scientist enters into face-to-face combat with his escape-craving creation), a chance at some sort of meaning to the film is completely wasted. The centipede head, the angry Japanese dude, makes a long speech about how the doctor hasn’t really succeeded in dehumanizing him since he already felt as worthless and insignificant as an insect before the surgery made him into one… and then he kills himself without taking the opportunity to save the girls attached to him. Now while it’s pretty great that Six decided to throw in that self-revelatory moment, it just sorta comes out of nowhere and from a character we knew nothing of from the start of the film and who could only speak in Japanese to an evil German doctor who, besides German, could only speak English. So yeah, entire revelatory speech in Japanese to the evil German doctor who has no fucking clue what the speaker is saying doesn’t really have a great effect. Oh and add to the fact that the dude admits to not having done anything redeeming in his entire life, only to have him cut his own throat without bothering to save the lives of two others makes the entire moment feel like an “uh, okay…” moment.
Yet despite all its short-comings and its inability to meet, or exceed, my expectations, the film is at least a gross little treat that at the very least scores major points for being original and more than just a little deviant. Dieter Laser’s performance alone is worth a best villain award, and yet I dare you not to laugh at his misfortune when trying to sedate a police officer with a syringe that he accidentally drops to the ground (… “Uhhh… I’m diabetic, that is my insulin shot”) or his quip about his love for humanity (“I hate human beings”). And who could forget his mourning over his beloved three headed dog? Laser alone makes the film more than watchable.