Controversial films are something we come across from time to time. There are films that will turn heads because of the content or topic in question, many often dealing with taboo issues that are seldom spoken of in mainstream cinema. More and more we are seeing directors attempt to break through convention and confront what is “too far” when it comes to the medium of film.
Back in 2009, Tom Six (Gay in Amsterdam) brought us a horror movie that would spark debate, mass disgust and a shed-load of complaints due to its conceptual plot that involved a torturous surgical procedure in which a number of un-consenting victims would be stitched together in the shape of a centipede. The film’s basis was actually based on a throw-away idea of a worthy punishment for a child molester, and it grew from there into the film we know today.
It isn’t going to please the majority and most people will read the back cover of the DVD and be way too disgusted and repulsed to even attempt to sit and watch the film, but really, underneath the hype, the hullabaloo and the scathing reviews, is a pretty good horror film that psychologically works really well and features some damn fine acting performances from those involved.
The controversy that followed this film’s release did as much good as it did harm, giving the film more exposure that it could ever have hoped for. We have since seen a second film in the series, with a third on the way in the future. It goes to show that there is an audience out there for even the most twisted of films.
The plot follows a surgeon by the name of Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) who owns a secluded house in the German countryside. Two girls, Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) are on a trip around Europe when they find themselves stuck due to a broken-down car. They seek refuge and come across the home of Dr. Heiter. Suddenly we shoot forward in time and meet up with the two girls are they wake up strapped to beds in a basement that has been made-up as a make-shift hospital. We meet another person who wakes up beside them, a Japanese man named Katsuro. The three struggle and scream for help and hectically demand answers as Dr. Heiter reveals his sadistic plans to create a “human centipede”, wanting to become the first person to be able to successfully connect people via their gastric system.
It’s worth noting that Six even went as far as consulting with an actual surgeon before making the film to see if the actual surgery was plausible and to make it as realistic and authentic as possible, which explains the tag-line that can be seen on many advertisements for the movie saying “100% Medically Accurate”.
The film looks great and feels almost clean and surgical in its visuals and Laser, as Dr. Heiter, puts forward a performance that gives the world a new and hideous horror villain, a monster without scars, without boils, horns or a mask, but rather a realistic and cold man who could very well be your next door neighbour, your local doctor, or your librarian. It’s this realism and calculated characterisation that takes the film from being just a “shock-flick” and places it into “psychological horror”. The three centipedians, if that’s even a word, do an amazing job of performing under the insane circumstances that the shoot must have involved. It must have been very testing at times.
Yes, the film is grotesque, the idea is horrific and the scenes of torture in which the surgery occurs and later scenes involving the victims are gory, revolting and bloody awful, but let’s not forget that this is a horror film and it isn’t as if you haven’t been warned plenty of times before you put this in your DVD player.
I happily admit to being a fan of this film and though I understand the repulsion of those who wish not to watch it, I think many people would be surprised at how well the concept works in a horror setting. Tom Six has carved himself out a place in horror history with this impending-trilogy of unpleasant and filthy horror, and I will be there with my ticket when part three comes out.