The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

Movie review: 'Human Centipede' delivers slick, schlocky horror

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 7, 2010

In the annals of horror, has there ever been a film like "The Human Centipede (First Sequence)"?

Touted in press materials as "100% medically accurate" -- translation: yuck -- it's the story of a deranged German surgeon (Dieter Laser) who kidnaps three people and sutures them together, mouth to rectum, in order to create a kind of freakish conjoined triplet, sharing one long digestive tract. (Come to think of it, maybe "annals" isn't the best choice of words here.)

Why on Earth would somebody do such a thing?

Never mind why. You think a mad scientist needs to write a grant proposal? All he needs is a dark and stormy night, a basement laboratory, Rohypnol and a couple of whiny American tourists with a flat tire and the bad judgment to seek roadside assistance from a guy who looks like Nosferatu, lives alone and says such things as "I hate humans."

The danger is so wildly obvious that the two young women who stumble into his lair (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie; I know, I never heard of them either) might as well be responding to a Craigslist ad seeking "willing victims." They're not just dumb, but shrill and obnoxious, spending the first 20 minutes of the movie bickering over whose fault the flat tire is. By the time their mouths are, um, sealed tight, you might be thinking, as a fellow critic wisecracked at the screening, "At least that shut them up."

The third victim, by the way, is a Japanese truck driver. Played by Akihiro Kitamura, he sits at the head of the "centipede." That means he spends most of the movie releasing a torrent of profanities at his tormentor in subtitled Japanese, with the two women bringing up the rear, so to speak, in silence. At one point, the doctor tries to train his new pet to bring him the newspaper. It doesn't work.

Despite histrionic acting and limp writing, the movie's general production values are slick enough, especially given the low-rent subject matter. If you come with the right frame of mind, and a taste for schlock, there's a demented kind of fun to be had.

But Dutch filmmaker Tom Six can't ever really make up his mind whether he wants to scare us, gross us out or make us laugh. Probably all of the above, which means that, in the end, "The Human Centipede (First Sequence)" never wholly accomplishes any of the three.

Note: The film, which will be shown at midnight screenings only, is probably best appreciated after a bit of attitude adjustment at the neighborhood watering hole, and not, as with yours truly, over a grande latte at 10:30 in the morning. In case anyone is wondering, "First Sequence" refers to the obligatory sequel, due out next year.

* Unrated. At Landmark's E Street Cinema. Contains violence, gruesome imagery, obscenity, sex talk and partial nudity. In English, German and Japanese with English subtitles. 90 minutes.

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