Consider this your SPOILER ALERT...
First and foremost, let me just give a shout out to IFC for their distribution strategy with The Human Centipede (First Sequence)- the limited release/Video On Demand release made it possible for me to review it for this week before it hits (a few) theaters around the country. Time Warner Cable... you sick bastards, I love you.
From here on out I'll be referring to this film as THC - because typing out that title over and over again will make me insane, and I feel like making myself giggle as much as possible while I write this. If you don't get why I'd giggle... well... good for you.
Alright, enough stalling. After watching THC I couldn't help but hypothesize how writer/director Tom Six came up with this weird, pornographic, silly premise. I imagine him in college with his buddies right after watching Cronenberg's The Fly, or Carpenter's reboot of The Thing, or The Silence of the Lambs, and then all of them immediately saying to each other, "You know what I wanna do? I wanna watch scat porn." Then upon seeking out, watching, and awkwardly chuckling about how demeaning and sick fecal porn is, I can see Six standing up, pointing his finger high in the air, and proudly declaring, "I got it! I know how I'm going to make it BIG!"
If you haven't seen the trailer for THC, then you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. The short version: a crazy surgeon who's speciality is separating Siamese twins decides to reverse his talents - he wants to bring people together! Noble and heartwarming, right? Well... maybe if 2 Girls, One Cup is what you like to watch with your family on Easter Sunday. The surgeon, Dr. Heiter (Dieter Leser), has devised a plan to surgically connect 3 humans together to make (what is never referred to as) a human centipede. "But Preston, what's with all the scat porn talk? Are you just being sick and twisted?" Oh, I wish I was, really. To bring his human pets together, Dr. Heiter has decided the most effective method is to connect them anus to mouth, so that they're excretion can sustain each other. So the person in front eats... then defecates into the person behind them... and so on and so forth. "Isn't that... risky?" Hell no! Dr. Heiter's done this before with his pet dogs, creating his beloved "3 Dog" - though it's a little ambiguous how long his 3-Dog survived. Dr. Heiter likes to creepily gaze at his 3-Dog's tombstone in his front yard from time to time, so it seems like something could have gone horribly wrong. Imagine that...
So I'll spare you with the rest of the plot. It indulges all the horror conventions only total horror nerds like Tarantino and Eli Roth can really appreciate over and over again. Dr. Heiter's American tourist victims (Ashley C. Williams & Ashlynn Yennie) have a few opportunities to escape, but they linger and fart around Dr. Heiter's compound way too long, foiling their every chance to get away. Cops who expect Heiter is up to something, stupidly go to his house and let him talk smack to them without even trying the good cop/bad cop routine. Then they go back to his house with a search warrant without back up. Blah Blah Blah - you get the idea. It's the classic horror movie go-to devices at work: stupid characters making stupid decisions.
From the reviews I've already read of THC, it's pretty unanimous that people think the movie goes too far - too strange in an almost sexual way; too gross... in an almost sexual way; just too much intermingling of porn devices mixed with horror movie conventions in general.
Which brings me to the earth-shattering bomb I'm about to drop on you: porn is becoming part of mainstream culture. "Nooooo!!!!!" Um... YES.
Granted, I live in Hollywood (the entertainment melting pot where family films and hardcore sex romps are pitched to the same people in the same room), so I think it's a little easier for me to make an all-encompassing remark like this. But humor me for a second.
Yes, we're living in an oversexed culture. Some examples from my everyday life:
1) L.A. Weekly consistently features print ads for American Apparel on their back page - they're always of scantily clad women in highly erotic poses (not Victoria's secret erotic; more like homemade POV sex video erotic) and shot with a dingy, 1980s Polaroid aesthetic.
2) There are fashion billboards all along Sunset Blvd. depicting wet, homoerotic men with bulging packages... next to churches.
3) Abercrombie & Fitch catalogues feature nude, barely legal models engaging in ambiguous group sexual activity.
4) Nip/Tuck... I don't think anything else needs to be said here other than this show aired on FX, a basic cable option.
And the list goes on. In so many words, porn is perpetuating entertainment and fashion in a big way. So why wouldn't it start creeping into our genre films (and eventually more of our mainstream media) too? I mean, we're all enablers. The internet has made porn a billion dollar industry, and the amount of FREE, full-length porn is now the norm. "Pres... why do you know so much about porn?" Bah, who gives a shit? You know exactly what I'm talking about... and I studied at the Kinsey Institute, so back off. And now just last week, a new government investigation obtained by ABC NEWS concluded that 17 SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) senior officers whose salaries ranged from $100K to $222K per year were confirmed to have been spending an average of up to 8 hours a day watching porn on the agency's computers looking at sites such as naughty.com, shankwire, and youporn, all while the financial crises was unfolding. Clearly, even our government is oversexed, so who's really surprised that we are too?
"Oh but our children. What about the children????" We should probably learn from them, by God! As Dateline NBC and other News Magazine shows have so readily let us know, kids are engaging in sexual activity at significantly younger ages, and in more explicit acts. So has anybody stopped to consider that there might be a couple things going on here?
1) Maybe we're oversexing everyone, so kids are just speeding up the engagement process.
2) Maybe it's evolutionary - maybe we're turning into a species that fundamentally engages in sexual activity younger?
Yeah, these are crazy ideas, right? You can talk about the end of morality all day long, but perhaps the definitions of morality have changed? I think this "morality deterioration" is more akin to a shift in power dynamics. Youth driven culture is more prominent than ever based on our sociology - and now they're becoming consumers younger. So if tweens and teens are consuming sex... why wouldn't the entertainment and fashion big wigs give them what they want? Morality is defined by the consumer anymore; so if consumers are inhaling sexed media, that's what they're going to get.
So in my opinion, THC is bigger than it's controversial subject matter and depiction of total humiliation. It's a film that is distinctly now - a complete and utter result of what WE have been asking for as an oversexed culture. Yeah, maybe I'm perverted for linking the whole anus to mouth thing as sexual...but any male who's an avid blog reader will be quick to nod their head and be like, "Yeah, dude. Ass to mouth. I know what you're talking about, you can see it on any porn site."
To clarify, I'm not condoning THC's overt (or maybe not so overt) disturbing sexuality, or saying that porn is good or whatever - that's a whole other 1,000 page manifesto. THC is disturbing... but who defines disturbing anymore? The ratings board? The FCC? God? Yeah, maybe that right there is the holy trinity of morality definers, but the real answer is that YOU and I define it as consumers.
And just to make this review worth the SPOILER ALERT, my favorite and probably most disturbing scene of the film is...
Once the centipede has been successfully constructed, the "leader" (Akihiro Kitamura) finally has to defecate. The horror with which he passes his excrement is so messed up that I could only nervously giggle. That's more or less what the movie was for me - a series of nervous giggles, punctuated by me saying "Awww, come on" a lot.
I only recommend this film to people who are either into porn, or are fascinated by oversexed things in general. Otherwise it's totally disturbing and frustrating. But on principle, because of it's relevancy, I give this 2.5/5.