November 8, 2010

One of the most notorious films of last year, Tom Six’s The Human Centipede isn’t just another entry in the “torture-porn” genre (which, let’s face it, is obviously on its way out, and thank God).  No, The Human Centipede is something far more rare: a horror-event film.  This is the year’s only oft-discussed movie in the horror genre that you absolutely have to see (and if you don’t have the stomach to watch it all the way through to the end, you’ve at least gotta try), a truly demented masterpiece from someone looking to do something different in a genre that’s grown a little stale.  You saw it already, so is there any reason to pick it up on Blu-ray?  Read on to find out after the jump:

What Tom Six has done with The Human Centipede is remarkable.  Here’s a film that’s far better than anyone expected it to be after hearing the film’s logline, featuring performances from actors a cut-above the ones we normally see in the horror genre, all being filmed by a director with a remarkably poetic eye for frame composition. The Human Centipede is disgusting, horrible, hard-to-watch, and one of the least-pleasant experiences you might have with a film this year, but it’s also beautiful, brilliantly-edited, and–most importantly– terrifying.  If you’re a film geek, you need to see it, and if you’re a horror geek, well…I probably don’t need to tell you that you need to see it.  Chances are, you already have.

In fact, according to the film’s box office receipts, many of you have.  Made for a figure that’s far below Hollywood standards, The Human Centipede roped a lot of morbidly curious viewers into theaters when it debuted earlier this year.  If you’re reading this review, the chances are that you’re one of ’em.  You don’t need to be told to see The Human Centipede: you need to be told whether or not this one’s worth picking up (and on Blu-ray, no less). That I’m all too happy to help you with.  But first, l’m going to have to discuss the plot– just a little– for the unlucky few that still haven’t been exposed to the charms of Six’s gloriously gross masterpiece.

The Human Centipede concerns the misadventures of Dr. Heiter, a surgeon-gone-mad living in the forests of Germany (well, one forest, but you get the idea).  After years spent seperating Siamese Twins as one of the world’s foremost plastic surgeons, he’s decided to take his work in a different direction: he wants to sew three people together in the worst way possible (which is to say: ass-to-mouth-to-ass-to-mouth).  When we meet Heiter (played with a creepy cunning by Deiter Laster, but more on him later), he’s just picked up a trucker for his experiment, and he just needs to collect the other two pieces of his puzzle.  Enter: two American girls traveling across Europe (played by Ashlynn Yennie and Ashley C. Williams).  These two, unfortunate souls stumble across Heiter’s house one evening, and, well, that’s that.

One of the best things about The Human Centipede is the fact that Six doesn’t play by normal horror-rules.  In most horror films, Heiter’s plan would be introduced, and then we’d spend 80 minutes with the characters as they attempt to thwart his plans.  Eventually, in the film’s final moments, they’d escape, just barely avoiding having become “The Human Centipede”, and Heiter would be left for “dead” in his palatial estate, ready to wreak havoc should a sequel be called for.  This is not what happens in Tom Six’s The Human Centipede.  No, in this version of the film, Heiter actually carries out his plan relatively early in the film, and we’re forced to spend an agonizing stretch of screen time with the film’s “heroes” as they adapt to life as one of Heiter’s horrible creations.

Say what you will about Six’s sanity, but at least he has the balls to carry the plan through to its (un)natural conclusion.

The film’s leads– the aforementioned Laser, Williams, Yennie, and Akihiro Kitamura (the “front” of the Centipede)– all turn in amazing performances.  Six talks on the film’s commentary about how most of the girls who auditioned for the role booked it out of the auditioning offices once they learned what sort of horror film this was going to be, but (as Six says) “the smart ones stayed”.  You could argue this point, but I tend to agree with Six:  Williams and Yennie have proven themselves fearless with one film, and though their pre-Centipede moments aren’t going to win them any Oscars, they’re still above-average actresses for this genre.  Films with loglines this exploitation-y don’t tend to feature great performances, but this one does.  That said, Laser’s clearly the winner here.

Dieter Laser is apparently a bit of a star in Germany already, and his work here– which will probably be your first exposure to the actor, as well– shows us why:  he’s an awesome talent, all reptilian menace and coiled anger waiting to strike at any second.  I could really go on and on about how great his performance here is– how it makes the entire movie in some moments– but I’d urge you to just watch the movie for yourself rather than listen to me fanboy-ramble in his direction.  In a just world, Laser would be up for a supporting actor nomination at this year’s Academy Awards.  He’s that good.

So, should you pick up The Human Centipede on Blu-ray?  Hell, yes, you should.  The film looks gorgeous on DVD, but on Blu-ray it’s something else entirely.  The film’s case doesn’t tell me if it’s in 1080p, but I’d be shocked if it wasn’t: this is one of the best-looking Blu-rays I have in my collection, and the crisp, clear picture really helps to sell the horribleness of what’s happening onscreen.  I mean, if you’re going to watch three people be stitched together, ass-to-mouth, you wanna see it in the highest resolution possible.  As my grandmother used to say, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right”.  Grandma would’ve loved The Human Centipede.

As for other extras, the film comes packaged with what has to be the year’s most uninentionally hilarious commentary, a director’s interview, a behind-the-scenes featurette (that’s much longer than a normal featurette), a handful of alternate posters, a fairly useless (but thanks anyway, guys) foley test, and some collected footage from the auditioning process.  It’s a treasure trove for Human Centipede fans, and a must-have for those that want the best-looking Blu-rays in their collection.  Really, I can’t say enough good things about it.  I haven’t seen what the film’s DVD version looks like, but I can assure you: if you’ve done the right thing and picked up a Blu-ray player, you’re going to want the best possible version of this movie.  Even if the DVD looks above-average, you need to own this one on Blu if you have the means to play it.

The Human Centipede isn’t for everyone, but it’s one of those films that you should– at the very least– watch a few minutes of, if only to be able to say “I watched a few minutes and found that I didn’t have the fortitude to get through it”.  The movie feels like the greatest film Cronenberg never made, and it’s the best possible version of this plotline (“Mad surgeon stitches three people together, A-to-M”) that could have been made.  My hat’s off to director Tom Six, and I look forward to seeing what he’s come up with in The Human Centipede 2: Second Sequence.

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