Friday, April 30, 2010

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

To the list of bizarre and insalubrious objects that occupy our world, we must now add Tom Six’s The Human Centipede (First Sequence), which as you’ve probably heard involves a mad scientist experiment of unsurpassing zaniness. Grossness too. Following the modern exploitation template of callous Americans getting tortured abroad, Six’s film sets up a pair of nubile New Yorkers who catch a flat en route to a party in Germany as bait for a menacing ex-surgeon who imprisons the pair in his basement when they knock at his door for help. Along with a young (male) Japanese tourist, they’re subject to the sinister German’s pet project: sutured together into the eponymous creature, they’re transformed into a three-pronged entity, connected by conspicuously visible stitches, mouth to asshole, feeding on each other’s shit for sustenance.

Give Six credit for crafting a memorable central image. Even granting my rather severe ignorance of the state of the modern exploitation flick, I doubt there’s much out there to compare to the site of the trio crawling around on their knees, struggling to move in synch, while the horrible stitches in the mouth of the centipede’s “tail” ooze with puss. Or when the “head” confesses in subtitled Japanese which none of the other characters can understand that he’s sorry, but he’s gotta shit and we see the horrified face of the woman in the middle while their captor coos the word “feed” to his creature. Slicker and tauter than you’d expect, Six’s film is still nothing but cynical grindhouse nihilism. Deliberately unpleasant, as free of subtext as an Eli Roth gorefest, Human Centipede can’t be said to be entertaining, but it is compellingly watchable.

At least for fans of the next thing, the seekers of the extreme. The only difference is the film isn’t being tucked away in some grindhouse ghetto (well, actually these don’t seem to exist anymore), but touring the arthouse circuit thanks to a distribution deal from IFC films, so that it plays next to such innocuously genteel fare as Mercy. An interesting juxtaposition and one which has earned Six’s film more attention from the press than it would have received say, thirty years earlier, when it wouldn’t have been heard from outside the insular precincts of 42nd street. And, despite my now adding to that press, more attention than it deserves, since such perverse creativity as Six possesses is a dubious object of celebration. And after giving cinematic birth to his six-legged monstrosity, the only possible way to bring his project to an end is in an orgy of nihilism, which is precisely what Six does, the final tell of a cynicism that delights in repulsion for its own sake.

1 comment:

Allison E said...

i..uh...i just don't know what to say about this film.