Last week I heard about the horror movie Human Centipede: First Sequence for the first time. In case you haven’t heard about it, this is a movie about an evil doctor (Surprise! He’s German) who decides to sew humans together, ass-to-mouth, as an experiment. He has experience in separating conjoined twins and decides that he’d really like to see the process in the reverse. You know, just something to do in his downtime.
In case you still don’t get it, I’ve included a drawing of what we’re talking about here. This is a photo from the film… I guess the doc decided to put together a PowerPoint presentation on the experiment to show to his victims before the surgery. I don’t really understand why it was necessary to show them the horror but more on that later… It’s been pointed out to me that the figures in the drawing are rather Keith Haring-esque, like a sicker version of a Haring graffiti one might have seen down in the subway in 1984…
My friend Chris is a horror-movie aficionado. He’s also worked on a lot of films… And I found out that he had plans to go see Human Centipede at the midnight show last week in Minneapolis. Knowing I will never see this movie myself, but still finding myself drawn to the spectacle, I sent him some questions about it so that the rest of us can try to comprehend its mysteries.
I promised Chris that I would put a SPOILER ALERT ahead of the interview to let people know that, if you read this Q&A, Human Centipede could be ruined for you because we talk about the ending. Chris is not a big fan of assholes who ruin things for other movie-goers. Consider yourselves warned.
Rebecca: Roger Ebert wrote, “No horror film I’ve seen inflicts more terrible things on its victims than The Human Centipede,” and Chud.com said, “It’s a masterpiece of perverse originality, a truly unique experience of sleaze and horror.” It seems to me that this kind of build-up can only cause disappointment for the movie goer… Did the film live up to the hype? Were you disappointed?
Chris: First, I think it’s only fair to reveal to your readers that I’m not some fantasy football dude who loves Tommy Boy. I am a total geek that digs horror and often cites Chopping Mall as an influential work. So! That being said… The Human Centipede: First Sequence, let’s talk shop.
The build-up for me was far better than the film. It had been a long time since I felt like I was going to watch something that I maybe shouldn’t and that was certainly part of the appeal for me. You get to a point where it seems like you’ve seen it all. I like to be scared, creeped out and grossed out. Just, you know…feel something. So after reading the early reviews from Devin at CHUD.com and the Rue Morgue interview with writer/director Tom Six it’s safe to say the film had a lot to live up to. I was disappointed with the film to a degree but I’m glad I saw it with an audience.
Rebecca: When you’re watching a movie like this, what’s going through your mind? Try to explain the appeal. What are you hoping for? (to be amazed, shocked, disgusted…??)
Chris: Growing up, I was the kid with the parents that left a note on file with the video store giving permission to let me rent whatever I wanted. This was so my folks could send me to pick up movies for them. I saw the flaw in the system and started renting horror movies all the time. That coupled with Showtime afforded me the opportunity to see Chopping Mall, Night of the Creeps, Nightmare On Elm Street, April Fool’s Day… tons of stuff I knew I wasn’t supposed to be watching.
It led to a fascination with special FX make-up and creature design. These stories and how they were told/crafted was far more stimulating creatively. So part of seeing things like THC:FS is in attempt to recapture that feeling of discovery from my youth. I absolutely watch films like this to be amazed, shocked or surprised. I don’t go looking to be disgusted but if a gag works well and it grosses me out, cool.
Rebecca: So, what is the evil doctor’s motivation? I get that he used to separate conjoined twins but… how does that then translate to, “Hey, I think I’ll sew people together.”
Chris: His motivation is nearly that simple. “I spent my life taking people apart. Can I put people together? Maybe. I think I’ll start small. Maybe with dogs…”
Rebecca: Why does the doctor explain to his victims what’s going to happen to them with a slide show? Why not just go for it – they are his captives after all.
Chris: I don’t know that it’s out of character. I think the doctor explains it because, not only does it makes for a fantastic scene but, he truly believes that these chosen individuals are part of something special. In his own way he wants them to understand that.
Rebecca: How is the question of access to cell phones handled in the movie? It’s got to be either reception or lost phones…
Chris: Well, as luck would have it, these ladies didn’t have a cell phone with them as they left it in their vehicle when it broke down and they went to find help. Plus…they got drugged! They didn’t expect any wrong-doing.
Rebecca: Who gets to be the front of the centipede? Who gets to be the middle and who is the end?
Chris: The front of the centipede is a Japanese man and the middle and end are two American women. The middle section wins her spot by attempting to escape.
Rebecca: I saw in some photos that there are a lot of bandages draped around the human centipede. Is that for “decency” or what? Is there a lot of nudity? I think it would hard to clothe a human centipede? Do you get to see any dick or is it the usual tit fest of most horror movies?
Chris: The bandages exists not only for decency but after a surgery you don’t want to risk infection. I mean, come on, they just had their lips sewn to bottoms! There wasn’t any real on-screen nudity. The actresses were certainly topless but when the good doctor envisioned the centipede, sexiness was not priority number one. Â You do get to see some Tommy Wiseau-esque Dieter Laser ass while he swims. Turned on yet?
Rebecca: Wouldn’t the care of a human centipede just become a drain on one’s resources? What if one of the parts developed an illness or heart condition? What if one had allergies? How do they sleep?
Chris: Long term care would be super draining. We see almost straight away that while the film is 100% medically accurate the design is not meant to sustain life, only support it for a short time. The tail end is the first to show signs of illness. I mean, who can be expected to survive on twice pooped food? Tissue match was a concern for Dr. Heiter. The Japanese man was not the first choice so I’m willing to bet he took allergies into account. It seems from the film that it sleeps caged, on its side.
Rebecca: Why do you think the director chose a Japanese man and two American women?
Chris: I think he cast American women because that’s an easy set-up. A couple of “girls-gone-wildish trollops looking to party in Europe” is a fairly easy set-up these days. I think the Japanese man was there to create a communication barrier in an attempt to heighten scares. It makes coordinating anything difficult between captives when they don’t speak the same language.
Rebecca: Will these actors and actresses ever work again? I don’t know if Human Centipede is exactly a “feather in one’s cap.”
Chris: Dieter Laser who played Dr. Heiter has been working since the 70’s and will, without a doubt, continue to work. He was cast perfectly. Ashley Williams and Ashlynn Yennie didn’t impress me when the weren’t in the centipede but after strung ass-to-mouth they really did great work. Ha! Hey…Ned Beatty enjoyed a long career after Deliverance so anything is possible! Akihiro Kitamura, the head of the centipede will probably work too. If nothing else these people will enjoy a healthy run on the convention circuit.
Rebecca: What does this movie say about humanity – what is the lesson about ourselves we can take away here?
Chris: Don’t ever take drinks from strangers and wipe your bottom thoroughly for you never know when a stranger will have their lips sewn to it. It’s a courtesy, really.
Rebecca: Would you consider this to be art?
Chris: Sure! Why not? It made for some interesting discussion and the build up to seeing the film was great. Maybe performance art…but yeah, art.
Rebecca: So, what happens in the end?
Chris: Really? Really? Shit gets fucked up, Reebs! Police show up at the good doctor’s home thus allowing a couple moments for the creepy crawler to put a plan into motion. Long story short: The head section kills himself rendering the centipede immobile, the police kill the doctor, the doctor kills the police, the tail section of the centipede dies. Poor middle section is isolated, kisser to a poop-chute and her best friend attached to her tailpipe. Not. Good.
Rebecca: But we can surmise that middle section makes it out alive – that someone comes to rescue her – because this is part one.
Chris: The police get shot, so we have to assume that other police are on their way – they would know that officers were there.
Rebecca: You saw this at the midnight show at the Uptown Theater… What was the crowd like?
Chris: The crowd was good and really made the movie. This is not so much a film as it is a social experience. If I watched this at home by myself I would have been bored. I really enjoyed the crowd reactions.
Rebecca: It’s interesting that you said if you had watched this at home, you would have been bored. Do you think, to a certain extent, seeing so many movies like this just desensitizes you to them and the thrill is gone? Similar to taking too much heroin for too long… you need more and more to feel anything close to what you felt the first time?
For example, I’m sure you also felt boredom during Paranormal Activity and I know you hated the ending. Meanwhile, I hardly ever watch horror films and I was riveted by that movie because I’d never seen anything quite like it. I had strong, emotional reactions. Do you think maybe it’s better to shield yourself from overload and then get a bigger bang? Should we be more picky about what we watch?
Chris: Oooo! Good one, I’m glad you brought this up. I would have preferred to see Paranormal Activity at home actually. I think theatrically I was experiencing the audience more than the film. Their reactions were great! The marketing worked brilliantly. For me, as a viewer, I think I would have found it way more effective, from a storytelling stand point, watching the film at home with a loved one, essentially experiencing the film in the same surroundings that they take place.
I suppose you can make an argument for becoming desensitized but I think its more that we set standards, have favorites that we compare to. We keep listening to new music, looking at paintings, reading books all in attempt to find stuff that engages us. Sure we would be inclined to stop reading or switch the station if we don’t dig it but that doesn’t mean we should take in less.
Rebecca: What does the Human Centipede say about capitalism in 2010?
Chris: Umm…the centipede is privately owned?
Rebecca: Although we’ve now spoiled the ending, who should see this movie – what’s the audience? Is there anyone you would be ashamed to tell that you saw this movie? Would you watch this movie with your mom?
Chris: I’m probably not the one to ask as a litmus test for “would you watch this movie with your mom?” When I was 18 I took my mom to see Seven and that had a dude wearing a knife as a strap-on. I also took her to Howard Stern’s Private Parts.
Yes. Without hesitation, yes. I would *love* to see how mom would react to this movie. I explained it to her for about 10 minutes a few nights ago. My mom has endured the lunacy of my siblings and I for two decades. She could probably eat pot roast while watching this movie. All that being said I do not recommend THC:FS as a family outing.
Rebecca: Have you ever felt like you were part of a human centipede?
A) Not since I stopped going to church…
B) Not since my divorce…
C) Do siblings count?
D) No, but I’m willing to try.
Since answering my questions, Chris has confirmed that his mom has agreed to watch Human Centipede with him when it comes out on DVD. Perhaps she will agree to answer some of the same questions as a sort of follow-up???
For more horrifying movie fun, although definitely of a different kind, don’t miss the midnight screening of Birdemic: Shock and Terror on May 21 and 22 at the Uptown Theatre in Minneapolis.