Thoughts About the Human Centipede Movies

17 12 2011

I’m still trying to piece together how I got turned on to the Human Centipede movies, but ultimately I battled insomnia – I mean, “embraced” – and streamed The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence last night in all of its gore-porn (gorn) glory. In digital hiiiiigh definition.

And then, after feeling queasy all day, I streamed The Human Centipede: First Sequence, which writer/director Tom Six assured me (personally) would look like “My Little Pony” by comparison to the sequel.

Now that I am boned up on the HC franchise, here’s my verdict:

I really need a hug.

Act I

One day, I was musing on the idea of “horror” films and thought about what makes the really disturbing ones stick. Horror flicks don’t need to offer buckets of blood and “splatter-gore” to really eat at you. Instead, I find the movies that have a strong psychological edge to them to be far more effective than seeing who can film the goriest decapitation.

To me, the movies that scared me the most at the cellular level are ones that can be defined as the utter absence of hope.

Case in point: Phantasm. You just know it’s not gonna end well.

Neither of the HC films are rife with hope. False hope, at times, sure. But utterly, totally, spectacularly lacking in that little ray of sunshine that says “someone will get through this.” The Descent comes to mind except that movie, while gripping for about half of it, just became a samey gore-fest and I just wanted the movie to end, happily or not.

HC2 would seem to be cut from the same cloth but I found it utterly riveting.

Act II

I really don’t dig war games, in general. MW3 is strangely fascinating both interactively and passively. I do get concerned when I hear young children yacking on their headsets and wonder if this is desensitizing them to the horrors of war. I am not getting all PMRC up in here and suggesting that this is the only outlet for that to happen. But horrors of war MW3′s got. You know how people tell tasteless jokes and then tack on “…too soon?” at the end? Like telling 9/11 jokes on 9/12. MW3 has their own version of that with at least one hell-scape of a bombed-out New York City to run around shooting people in. Taking a step back and imagining “what if this actually happened”, all I can say it that we as present-day citizens of the USA should feel extremely fortunate that we can pop in a shoot-em-up game and play around in a horrific wasteland rather than look out our windows and say “they forgot to put in that building over there.”

In both films, the cast, specifically the victims, really sell it that their lives are pretty much over. The villains also sell their villainy, and in their own way show us that they’re not cartoony “evil” characters so much as, as James Woods tells us, committed to a contrary position.

HC2 is completely and utterly over the top in its depiction of horrific depravity. Focused depravity, yes. But even in this torrential bloodbath I found myself engaging with the victims and thinking about how incredibly awful their final days are. Knowing that death is the only way out. And knowing that to cling to life just prolongs the inevitable, to the delight of the tormentor.

HC1 is more reserved, and yet despite being “cleaner” it too has my very soul feeling like it was torn out of my chest and I’m a smoldering empty vessel. That’s really what this exercise is about: a Freud-approved attempt at naming it, and claiming it. Removing its power by acknowledging its nature.


I also at times wonder not simply why we read or watch fiction, but why we read or watch tales of horror. Maybe we want a good fright. Maybe we want bad people to hide from and rally against. Or evil spirits to cast out. Or something.

But Dracula is not remotely on the same wavelength as the core concept of both Human Centipede movies. As insinuated vaguely by the title, the creation of a so-called human centipede is the objective of the bad guys. Ah, but it’s the details as to how such a feat is to be accomplished that has be completely squicked out and in need of lots and lots of qi (chi, as we say it) balancing, chakra realignment, and chiropractic adjustments.

Without getting into the gory details, and I absolve myself from your curiosity of them, all I can say is that I utterly cannot imagine myself or anyone I know experiencing such horror. True, not at all fun, not the least bit entertaining, sheer terror.

The only thing I can compare my feelings about these films to is the Holocaust. I remember seeing some of the things that were found in the camps, like the wads of human hair or soap made from people, back in elementary school. Even now I can’t imagine why someone would do such things and on such a massive scale.

HC1 features three victims, for the most part, and their ordeal rivals anything dreamt up at Auschwitz.

The difference being that my soul aches and cries out angrily in response to the Holocaust because these are things that actually happened and should never, ever, happen again.

The premise of the HC franchise should never, ever happen either, and that’s probably why I am so shaken to the core. It’s a visceral reaction to a small part of me that knows that if this is the apex (or rock bottom) in sick fantasy, some incredibly deranged person has worse fantasies than these. And God help us all if they ever come to fruition.

So why is this being served up as entertainment? And why did I order it not once but twice?

Act IV

David Sedaris tells us a funny story about his cat.

Act V

My other core problem with these movies doesn’t really concern the movies at all. I think Tom Six (et al) did a fantastic job of portraying an inconvenient truth for many a lover of fantasy: biology is disgusting.

Case in point: It’s possible to wear a wedding ring 24/7/365, for years on end. You probably won’t develop a rash, or bedsores, or some infection, for reasons I can only speculate about, but in short let’s accept this as fact.

What isn’t possible is stabbing yourself in the leg 30 times with a rusty knife and thinking things will heal up neatly on their own.

Hollywood has no end of movies that defy reality, where heroes emerge from nuclear explosions with a small cut on their cheek, or someone gets shot 10 times but still has the strength to crawl 14 miles for help.

But if you’re going to sell me on the really sick stuff, sell me. If someone is locked naked in a small room for 5 months, there’d better be signs that this person isn’t rocking the most hygienic lifestyle. I understand that movie rating systems (etc) can dictate what can/cannot be shown explicitly, but come on, bleeding to death has several consequences. My window of disbelief opens wider by the frame if I’m being sold the details, not an obvious acting job.

And that’s what’s so unsettling about the HC franchise: Neither film is full of “acting”. HC2 less so than HC1.

Someone said that the villain in HC2 deserved an Oscar. I think so too, but am not holding my breath. It’s not just because the Academy tends to discount horror movies, but because even a nomination would mean having to acknowledge the film’s very existence. Unlike Schindler’s List, Hollywood will only go so far to recognize the depths of human depravity.

Act VI

I’m actually feeling better now, thanks.

Maybe it’s because, in the end, no matter how disgusting and horrific, the Human Centipede movies are just that: movies about things that didn’t happen. You can chat up the director and the actors and know that it was all makeup and believable acting.

Maybe it’s also because that even prior to this foray into sick cinema, I had something life-affirming planned this weekend and its importance in my life is strongly underscored by the counteracting effects of the HC movies.

We’re told that “love wins“. Perhaps so, but I posit that Love doesn’t happen to us, but is expressed through us. The antidote to the tyranny of evil men (real or imagined) is to be loving people.

It also kinda helped to hug my dog. He hated it, but I love that about the stinker.




3 responses

17 12 2011

“…I find the movies that have a strong psychological edge to them to be far more effective than seeing who can film the goriest decapitation.

To me, the movies that scared me the most at the cellular level are ones that can be defined as the utter absence of hope.”


Also, and what I kind of missed in your text, is the difference between watching a ‘scary’ movie and a ‘disturbing’ movie. Both concepts are subjective of course. In both cases, though, I prefer the psychological (suspense/atmosphere) approach in stead of the biological (gore). Although mostly the disturbing movies I have in mind are not usually classified as horror, there are few other movies that can evoke a profound feeling of horror. Think of such pearls as: Irreversible, Funny Games, Seul Contre Tous, Visitor Q, Henry – A Portrait of a Serial Killer, …

17 12 2011
Matt Stewart

Quite frankly I don’t even want to think about these films, so incredibly sick it’s ridiculous. Nice post 😀

17 12 2011

I wanted to mention “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” as one of the great “disturbing” movies, but didn’t find a way to work it in. Nice catch. I think the difference between Henry and the HC films is that both left me scarred emotionally but HC is soooo outlandish that I really, really, really hope it never happens to me. Not that I want a serial killer to saw my head off, but all things being equal, it’s quicker, I guess?

I had a friend that refused to drive into Chicago alone after seeing “Henry”. I now refuse to have my car break down near a deranged doctor’s home in Germany or dawdle around any London parking garages.

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