I don’t think it’s going too far to say that, as a human with a functioning cerebellum and some degree of interaction with others of your species, you almost certainly have something better to do than to watch The Human Centipede. Tom Six’s notorious movie isn’t exactly a waste of your time, in the way an ordinary bad film would be – it’s more like a dire, head-shaking misuse of your time. Of which you only have a certain amount left, right? Shouldn’t you be picky? Isn’t there a house project you’ve been putting off, a Jonathan Lethem book you’ve been meaning to crack? Let’s not dwell on what the film’s about, because you know already – mad scientist, mouth-to-ass graft surgery, compelled coprophagia, supreme ickiness. In fact, the scenario is so goddamn gross that the movie itself doesn’t need to show very much (as torture porn bouts go, it’s very mild). All it needs to do is put the idea in your head. In a sense, once you’ve read a review you’ve kind of already seen the film. But if you choose to watch it, as I had to, your brain will likely begin roving uncomfortably around for other things to contemplate. Here’s what I was thinking.
1. Frankly, I didn’t expect this to take place in Germany. Norway maybe, or Belgium, but not Germany. Japan, sure. Aren’t the Germans supposed to still be guilty and haunted by Nazi torture surgery and stuff? But wait, wasn’t that 2002 cannibal murder case—where some guy answered an ad on the Internet and volunteered himself to be killed, dissected, and eaten—German? Insofar as both men satisfied their respective fantasies, it seems to have been a victimless crime. But eating the body took 18 months, and the survivor of these two winners was caught only because he frequented what’s called, no kidding, a “cannibalism chatroom.” Of course, there’s a new movie coming out about it, Grimm Love, starring Keri Russell.
2. Wait, director Tom Six is Dutch. Now it’s all clear.
3. These poor actresses. They’re perfectly lovely – is this the best they could do? Hopefully they’ve gotten new agents by now.
4. Ah, the dumb American theme again. Two girls who don’t speak German driving through the German wilderness in high heels and short skirts, right near the mad scientist’s house. If only they knew how to change a tire. Note to me: teach daughter to change a tire.
5. Whose house is that? Will people who rented it see the film? Do they have kids? Will the kids see the film? Will they play volleyball on the front lawn now, after the “Feed her!” scene?
6. That scientist looks like a cross between Lance Henriksen and a praying mantis.
7. I love horror movies because you can almost always find a raw and anxious subtext underneath the mayhem. Hell, even Hostel made a larger statement about American privilege and capitalism. But I can’t find a subtext here. I’m trying. Maybe it’s Nazis after all – the guy is making them lick his stormtrooper boots. Did the Nazis have interest in gastrointestinal tract hyperextension?
8. How much of this broad genre of movie is just rubbernecking? That’s why people – teenage boys mostly – buy tickets.
9. What in the name of God could Six do after this? His career may as well be over. Hard to pick up episodic TV work or mainstream projects when your reel is made mostly of actors stitched to each others’ anuses.
10. Oh wait, there’s a sequel due next year. Woo-hoo.