Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Who's Afraid Of Creepy-Crawlies?
When it comes to films, the worst thing someone can say to me is "you don't wanna watch it". Whether it be scary, violent, disturbed or just plain bizarre, it's something childlike in me that makes me want it even more. And so, since Harry...err.. 'treated' us to a sneak preview of the trailer, I have been desperate to see the latest in gross, torturous body-horror... The Human Centipede.
I'd never heard of it it until seeing the trailer, which seemed to give everyone else the serious heebie-jeebies. So, I decided to read more about it. The big drive of the advertising campaign is that it's "100% medically accurate", which after seeing it, I can kind of believe. Everything in it was so clinical and calculated, despite not seeing any of the actual operation. I like body-horror films like David Cronenberg's The Fly, which the director Tom Six cites as an inspiration for this creepy crawlie nightmare. Japanese horror is also included as a 'reference' and like I said in class, I can definitely see aspects of Takeshi Miike's Audition in this film- one shot in particular struck me as being lifted straight out of Audition, and not just because it involved a Japanese guy.
For the uninitiated, I'll sum it up as briefly and as..um..nicely?...as I can..
Two American tourists, Lynsay and Jenny, are in Germany as part of their 'European road trip'. In film terms then, they are exactly the kind of fodder ripe for some torture. And wouldn't you know, on their way to a club one night they find themselves with a flat tyre in the middle of the woods. After hours of waiting and wandering, they stumble upon the home of temperamental surgeon Dr. Heiter- a world-renowned surgeon with great success in the separation of conjoined twins. However, the good doctor has been planning a 'reversal' of sorts- rather than separate 2 humans, he wants to join them together. Having already performed the operation on his dogs, he wants to go 'live', and the two girls are exactly what he needs. Adding a Japanese tourist- who literally cannot speak a word of English- to this whole sorry mess completes the final link in Heiter's twisted triptych.
He explains to the unlucky trio how he will severe the ligaments in their knees, forcing them to crawl, before connecting them using their digestive systems, mouths and...uh...well, the 'opposite' end. (I've had trouble with using this word before, but you know what one I mean). I initially thought the film would be more centred on the operation, but you don't actually see that much of it. Aside from some mild tooth-removal, and a rear-end Chelsea smile, very little of the procedure is actually shown on screen. In fact, the emphasis seems to be more on sadistic humour than gross-out explicit horror. As such, there's a far more 'human' element to the film; rather than just being a slash-happy Hostel rip-off, the emphasis is placed on how the 'patients' cope after the procedure. The operation seems to be more of a plot device to get to the aftermath, rather than the focal point.
Nonetheless, the film tries hard to deliver on its premise, and overall it's pretty successful. Although it's undoubtedly uneasy viewing, and really quite disturbing, the premise is at least original. I like that alot of the emphasis is placed on the characters' rehabilitation as a 'human insect', despite falling short on the gore. There are a few genius touches to it, such as making Japanese tourist Akihiro Kitamura the 'head' of the beast. He can't speak English, and the doctor apparently doesn't speak Japanese, so when he demands to know what is going on, there's no way for him to be understood. The doctor speaks English, cruelly teasing the girls, who can understand him, but are..."unable"...to answer back. The contiued close-ups on their eyes convey real desparation and futility. When Kitamura realises the situation is a lost cause, his words are even more traumatic because of the language barrier- he doesn't know what he's been involved in or why, and no one knows what he believes he died for.
There are some other scenes which fold to whatever strange sense of 'conformity' this film has, and shows us something erring on the disgusting side- once scene in particular which demonstrates the 'feeding' system of the centipede is definitely not one for the squeamish. Although largely covered in bandages, it's the eyes of the characters which give away the sense of degradation and acceptance at the same time.
OK, so it's not exactly light-hearted family entertainment, but when the premise is so bold and exploitative, why not treat the film's actual content the same? I couldn't shake off the niggling feeling that this would have more than lived up to its premise if it were part of the French Extreme wave. In saying that, for a mainstream audience it's probably sick and disturbing enough... I just couldn't help but feeling a little short-changed. Still, it's well worth a watch for all fans of horror and the grotesquely named 'torture porn' genre; despite its apparent shortcomings it is an effectively creepy body horror.
I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that The Human Centipede (Final Sequence), which promises a 12-person chain, will live up to expectations!