Reviewed by MattFini
Starring Akihiro Kitamura, Dieter Laser, Andreas Leupold, Ashley C. Williams
Directed by Tom Six
Released by IFC Entertainment
At first glance, Tom Six’s darkly humorous suspense flick The Human Centipede may look like an unfortunate culmination of the past decade’s torture porn craze, but there’s nothing in this ninety minute freak show that repulses as much as its premise. When the viewer accepts the basis of three people stitched together, mouth to anus, it’s their mind that goes into overdrive. Writer/director Tom Six shows remarkable restraint behind the camera, seemingly aware that his audience will do the most explicit work for him. It’s an unlikely choice considering the subject matter, but this oft-touted First Sequence isn’t just this year’s best curiosity piece, it’s also one hell of a competent little thriller.
Initial audience response was one of understandable shock and disbelief but those earliest reviews failed to highlight the wicked sense of humor underlying the duration. It’s evident from the very first scene, the introduction of the maniacal Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser in this year’s greatest, most wacked out performance) – first seen weeping over an old photo of three dogs stitched together. It begins like a parody of breakdown flicks (in which our protagonists make a series of staggeringly poor decisions culminating in their capture) and Six’s female duo fail to inspire audience sympathy. It’s earned, however, throughout some masterfully staged escape attempts where our ‘heroine’ does everything she can to elude her captor.
When the titular centipede is unleashed, it delivers some squirm-inducing moments that aren’t easily forgotten – if only because of the twisted novelty of the visual. The Human Centipede has garnered lots of extra attention for this bizarre set-up, but it wouldn’t have worked without Six’s handling. Moments often shift from funny to frightening, with Dieter Laser’s mad scientist alternating just as often as the events themselves. The typically inept cops that show up in the third act may frustrate based on their inability to see what’s wrong, but it adds to the fun of the proceedings while creating some undeniable tension against one uncomfortable final escape attempt.
The Human Centipede doesn’t really break new ground as much as it covers it remarkably well. Sure, we’ve never seen three people go ass to mouth, but everything else about this horror flick travels well-worn territory. That’s not a detriment, though. For I had a blast watching this weird and wild mad scientist flick unfold.
Definitely not for everyone, I loved what Tom Six did here. So much so that I’ll be first in line for the upcoming Full Sequence.
IFC bows the independent horror flick on Blu-ray with an impressive AVC encode that features strong colors and detail along with incredibly rich textures. Skin tones are strong and well-rendered, black levels are deep and there are no signs of crush here. On the audio front, all we get is a 2.0 stereo track. There’s nothing wrong with a low-key stereo track and the film doesn’t necessarily rely on any type of intricate sound design anyway. The two-channel audio handles dialogue with relative clarity even if it can occasionally get lost beneath whatever sound effects are simultaneously occurring. There’s nothing wrong with the audio IFC have slapped on this disc but it probably could’ve been a bit better.
Thankfully, there’s a nice handful of extras to distract. Writer/director Tom Six sits down for an amazing audio commentary where he addresses the controversial material while making some good-natured and often hilarious comments about what’s happening on screen as well. This track is a delight to listen to and is required for fans of the film. A nine minute behind-the-scenes provides a quick look at the filming process. You can’t watch this film and not wonder what it was like on set, and this little quickie helps shed some light on that question. There’s a five minute chat with Tom Six about his inspiration and a quick audition reel for the roles of the two girls. A five minute look at the Foley session is a pretty nifty addition to these extras even if it spoils a bit of this disgusting movie magic. A deleted scene of Dr. Heiter celebrating the creation of his Human Centipede should’ve been kept in the film while, lastly, a gallery of proposed promotional material is brief but cool.
Unquestionably, The Human Centipede falls into ‘love it’ or ‘leave it’ territory. IFC’s Blu-ray isn’t going to become the standard as far as demo material goes but it’s a solid presentation that boasts strong video and decent audio, along with some brief but delightful supplements. This harkens back to the Italian exploitation glory days of the late 70’s and early 80s when nothing was taboo. In that respect, this one hits the bull’s-eye dead center.
4 1/2 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5
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