Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dark Mirror -- Reflections on "The Human Centipede" (2010)

No, this is not a "How-To" about ass kissing.

There is something wrong with our world.

Eli Roth makes a movie called Hostel, in which bored rich men pay for the privilege of torturing and murdering unsuspecting tourists. Takashi Miike creates movies like Audition that exploit the horrors of lonliness as the main character invites a crazy woman into his life who happens to torture him in the most gruesome ways imaginable.

And then there's Tom Six, and his movie The Human Centipede (First Sequence).

The title pretty much gives it away. A crazy doctor (Dieter Laser) stitches three humans together to create a human centipede. He cuts open their mouths and anuses in an attempt to create one long GI tract. What's worse is that he's successful.

The Human Centipede is a movie for those who have an acquired taste for the grotesque. It's not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. It's also one of the darkest, most disturbing films you'll see. There is nothing nice, or redemptive, to be shared about humanity. In a slasher film, the virgin always wins, showing us that purity and goodness will always triumph over evil. In this film, nothing of the sort happens. It's bleak, nilhistic, and yet seems to have a creepy sense of humor about it all.

We live in a world where a mad scientist can successfully stitch together "siamese triplets." We live in a world where many of the events most horror movies describe can actually happen. It's pretty sick. As a fan and writer of horror fiction, I'm at a loss for words. On one side I'm absolutely appalled by movies like this, yet I'm also curiously drawn to and excited by them.

This film will draw you in with the incredibly effective performance of Dieter Laser as Dr. Heiter, the crazy surgeon. I was especially chilled by the way in which he presents his experiment to his victims, almost as if they are colleagues whom he must impress. Dr. Heiter is a truly original horror movie villain -- twisted, raw, clinical and driven. He's like Dr. Frankenstein without a soul.

The monster Dr. Heiter creates is at once perverted and gross, yet also pathetic. The three tortured souls that make up the centipede are selected randomly, and even though we know next to nothing about any of them, it is hard not to put yourself in their place. In his review of the film, Roger Ebert said, "It's not death itself that's so bad. It's what you might have to go through to get there." No film I can think of proves this point better than The Human Centipede. No amount of torture can be worse than the degradation suffered by these three people. They are stripped of their dignity and their humanity. They become an insect, or as the head of the centipede says, "Worse than an insect."

Horror fiction is supposed to hold a dark mirror up to the world to show where true evil lurks. If The Human Centipede is holding a dark mirror, we have so much to be worried about.

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