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Monday, 13 September 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Human Centipede (First Sequence)




As mentioned in my last review, I promised a bonus review, and here is one of them, because I have a second one on the way. As Tony Montana would say, "I always tell the truth, even when I lie" (conundrum that it is). The lovely piece of work that we have our dishes today is The Human Centipede. This film has been doing the runs on the horror-film festival circuit, winning a number of awards for Best Horror Film. Writer-director Tom Six has been picking up a lot of attention for this film, and is one of the few films in the past couple of years to pick up much of its audience through word-of-mouth. Basically, to give a brief synopsis, Lindsay and Jenny, played by Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie respectively, are on a road trip around Europe, when their car breaks down in Germany. They go to the nearest house, which unfortunately is the house of scientist Dr. Heiter, played by Deiter Laser. Being held captive, along with Katsuro, played by Akihiro Kitamura, by Dr. Heiter, they discover that Heiter plans on using the three to create a hybrid being, "The Human Centipede." Now, the reason the film has been getting so much hype is because it does to be fair stand alone in the recent schlock of horror cinema we are becoming so accustomed to. I believe that the era of Hostel/Saw and horror remakes is coming to an end, and we are going to see more horror films, like this, with original ideas as opposed to simply pilfering the back catalogue. This brings me to my point on starting with the good about this film. The central concept and idea is genuinely nasty and horrendous, bringing about some good scares and some of the most original scenes in a horror movie for some time. I won't spoil how the whole human centipede idea is meant to work biologically and be medically plausible, but the scene in which Dr. Heiter reveals how he intends to create this creature is really creepy, Six's writing and Laser delivery of the lines creating a scary scene out of words. It shows how the power of the imagination is so much more powerful than most people would think after being shown an overdose of blood and guts in recent years. For the most part, the central concept is able to hold together its plausibility, if not in the medical science accuracy then certainly in just how repulsive and vile an idea it is. It is one of the strongest aspects of the film and holds up pretty well. Another strong aspect of the film is the performance of Dieter Laser as Dr. Heiter. Taking the perennial mad scientist role, Laser manages to transcend a very clich├ęd and well-worn horror film archetype and deliver a great performance. Heiter is a villain of great terror and crucially, is more frightening than the monster(s) he creates. Laser portrays Heiter as a man who seems to have a Messiah-complex, but also, in a Cronenbergian/Burroughs type of way, seems to gain erotic and fetishistic pleasure from the most disgusting and repulsive things (though not in a mad kind of way, it is more subtle) Laser's performance gives us one of the best and most plausible horror movie villains for some time. The Cronenberg influence is written all over this film, especially the early work of Cronenberg which were essentially really nasty films with a strong central idea. The script by Tom Six is good for the most part, especially in the dialogue sense, with Laser dominating the screen in a great performance, executing his dialogue brilliantly but also leaving much to physical and facial expression. Technically, it is good, shot well by Goof de Koning, who uses an interesting lighting and lense colour palette for the film. Finally, the music by Patrick Savage and Holeg Spies is suitably minimalist and atmospheric, adding tension to the film very well. Thankfully, the score does not intrude in any way throughout the course of the film. This brings me to my points regarding the negatives of the film. Now, alot of critics have had massive problems with the film, giving it really bad reviews. Poor Roger Ebert fared no better in his review, being unable to judge it by his usual star rating, claiming "It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don't shine." Ebert makes a good point here, because I myself don't think that it is a conventional "film" by all means. There is no character journey, no plot progression in the conventional sense. To compare it David Cronenberg's early work is appropriate, although in Crononberg's work, the characters were never as one-dimensional. I feel that The Human Centipede is more appropriate being classed as an exploitation film, although not in the negative sense. I won't lie, as a general rule I do have a problem with exploitation films, the reasons being that they only exist to serve a certain purpose, be it lots of sex, violence etc. The film does possess some of the lesser attributes of the exploitation film. For starters, it’s not like Six is planning to make a great horror movie: this is balls-to-the-wall nastiness at its most base. With regards to the nastiness, because it is so reliant on the central concept and doesn't make any expansions from this, it unfortunately runs out of steam in its final half-an-hour and becomes a murder-by-numbers exploitation film. The final half-an-hour just seems like it was just shoved in there for filler. More time needs to have been put into the script to eradicate this problem. In this sense, it cannot be judged as a great exploitation film, but as a good one. By all means, there is a good lot of genuinely scary material in this film to elevate it from the schlock (I mean schlock negatively, because there can be good schlock, I'm just talking about most of mainstream horror today). It isn't a bad exploitation film. That place is reserved for the likes of Lucio Fulci's The New York Ripper, the most overrated horror film of all time period. However, unlike the films of Cronenberg, which seem to transcend their exploitation frivols, Six's film remains entrenched in it and is pretty conventional underneath the central concept. However, this is a good, fine film, which shows Six as a potentially interesting director in the future, being only a young filmmaker, for this has a genuinely nasty concept and his direction and dialogue enable a great performance by Dieter Laser to be captured.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.5/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Repulsed
P.S. Again, well done to marketing for another crap poster.

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