Fantastic Fest 09: THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEGMENT) Review

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
Tom Six's The Human Centipede is the bastard child of Takashi Miike and David Cronenberg - a deeply disturbing and shockingly original piece of work, one sure to develop a fierce and vocal cult for the Dutch director and his work. 

Six begins by playing a game of bait and switch with his audience.  He introduces us to Lindsay and Jenny, a pair of wildly cliche American college girls on a road trip across Europe.  They are pretty and brainless, concerned only with getting to a party they have been invited to by an attractive waiter, so foolish that when their car breaks down in the woods they strike out cross country to find help and instead - of course - become entirely disoriented and lost in the woods.  We've seen this before and think we know where its going and that's entirely the point.  Six is simply letting us get comfortable, allowing his audience to settle in before pulling the rug out from under them.

You see, this is where things get weird.  Really weird.  The girls find a house and run for help but what they find instead is Dr Heiter, a retired surgeon once famed for his ability to separate conjoined twins who has now settled on a new use for his abilities.  He will create them.  His first attempt was the three-dog, a trio of Rottweiler's surgically joined to one another ass-to-mouth to create a new being.  And while the three-dog may not have survived long, Heiter learned enough from that experience that he believes himself ready to move on to human subjects.  He will create a Human Centipede.

An entirely new spin on the body-horror sub-genre, Six's film is impeccably crafted and - once you get past the intentionally stagey and cliche opening sequence - impressively performed by an extremely dedicated cast.  Dieter Laser gives a brilliant - and award winning - performance as the mad Dr Heiter while the three actors fused into the centipede - Jenny and Lindsay joined by a young Japanese man - are subjected to scenarios none of them could ever have envisioned when they decided to take up acting.

Not since Cronenberg was in his heyday has someone manipulated the human form for horrific effect to the extent that Six does here, not since Miike has someone created such a compelling, just-off-center view of humanity.  Despite the bizarre premise, Six creates something here that feels entirely plausible, entirely real.  There is no nodding to the audience, no winks.  So focused is he on the reality of his premise that Six actually consulted with a practicing surgeon to ensure that his scenario was, as he proudly proclaims, one hundred percent medically accurate.  It's a dedication that has yielded one of the most troubling pictures in years.
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