Human Centipede (First Sequence), The (2009) d. Six, Tom (Netherlands)
Even before its release, the jaw-dropping premise behind this notorious horror flick from the Netherlands had already made its way into the public vernacular. Roger Ebert even felt it necessary to reveal the entire plot as a “public service announcement” to his readers in one of his rare “un-starred” reviews. For myself, I never felt this necessary; in fact, the ideal scenario would be for someone to see the film without knowing anything about it, so it could deliver the true impact that writer/director Six deserves.
Some critics dusted off the tired old “torture porn” label and lazily slapped it on, but Centipede goes beyond that, and the intellect and skill on display are worthy of more than an easy dismissal or categorization. Six serves up a truly disturbing set piece that would ordinarily act as the crime to which the antagonist - in this case a spectacularly riveting Dieter Laser - aspires, and which he nearly achieves before the heroes make their daring escape. But instead, Six allows the heinous act to occur...as the end of his first act. We, along with hapless victims Akihiro Kitamura, Ashley C. Williams and Ashlyn Yennie, are then forced to live within this nightmarish scenario for another 45 minutes.
It is from this that the true nature of horror emerges. This is no easy jump scare nor gross-out tactic. Six is after something far more dangerous, and it’s no wonder that he had people scrambling for adjectives (or the exits). The audience I saw it with sought escape through nervous laughter and catcalls at the screen, but it was clear they were attempting to avoid real contact with the subject matter. Those willing to sit and seriously commune with this brave work will find something special, and though I can’t recommend this film to everyone, I do recommend it.