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The Human Centipede

Director: Tom Six
Cast: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashley Yennie

(US theatrical: 5 Oct 2010)

Imagine one of the worst situations you could be in, and chances are your imagination wouldn’t come up with the horror of Tom Six’s The Human Centipede. The title may hark back to the monster/mutation films of the ‘50s, but this film, though borrowing some tropes from those long ago movies, is in a league of its own.

The premise is very simple — and very gory. A mad German surgeon, Dr Heiter (Dieter Laser, whose looks every bit the part… almost too well), who’s renown for separating conjoined twins, kidnaps a group of people, including two American female tourists: Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams), Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) with the goal of conjoining three individuals in order to create a new “species”.

What makes this particularly disturbing is the manner in which they’re joined: a linear, gastric conjoinment in which the “lead” (Katsuro [Akihiro Kitamura]) acts as the mouth of this grotesque trio, meaning he’s their only source of sustenance, because (and this is where things get really gross), his excrement is fed into the “middle’s” mouth, which Laser surgically alters and attaches to Katsuro’s anus, similar to the “end”, who excretes the final product.

Because of the simplicity of the plot, one wonders if Six simply had an image of the monstrous “centipede”, then just wrote a basic script to eventually realize this image on the silver screen. 

Heiter can be compared to Victor Frankenstein in his longing to play God, but unlike Frankenstein, Six provides Heiter with no other motivation. He’s simply insane. Similarly, one can see the influence of films such as Hostel in which traveling, inept Americans (who, off course, find themselves with car trouble) unwittingly find themselves the subjects of horrific mutilation.

The holes in the plot are tremendous. For example, it’s not made clear how the three-who-are one can obtain liquid sustenance.

As well, the linearity (of plot and centipede) makes this yet another masculine-dominated exercise. Power rests with the male doctor, using his female subjects for his own whim. The victimized women are easily subdued, and even when it comes to the actual human centipede, the sole male is head, giving him a voice. He is not going to have to eat shit like his silenced female cohort.

Essentially, this can best be described as lazy filmmaking. The characters are flat, the acting is sometime over-the-top, but usually forgettable, and the plot is just an exercise in rehashing old movie stereotypes. Not even the special effects are that superb. For such a grotesque film, one would expect to observe the surgery, and throughout the film, the critical “point” of the centipede are masked by bandages.

The DVD contains the usual far: special footage, such as the trailer, deleted scenes, a behind-the scenes documentary, and interview with Tom Six, and a director’s commentary.

The fact that the title of the film is The Human Centipede ([The First Segment) and has already generate somewhat of a cult following suggests more “segments” are on their way.  One can only hope that now the generic elements have already been used, the next film(s) prove a little more innovative. However, as the saying goes, hope in one hand, shit in the other, and see which fills first.


Sabadino Parker has been writing for PopMatters since 2000. A lifelong writer from Connecticut, Sabadino's weekly syndicated DVD review column, "Getting Reel," has appeared in local newspapers for almost a decade, and his fiction and poetry have been published in both print and online media. Having recently earned his Masters in English from Trinity College, Sabadino is hoping to amass a collection of degrees to match that of his comic books. He is currently the editorial manager for The Scene Magazine and owns Sparker Media, a freelance writing, editing, and online marketing company. He is currently at work on his second novel, which should see the light of day sometime in 2012. Feel free to e-mail Seb at

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