Moving Pictures
Apr 28, 2010, 10:26AM

Tom Six's Human Centipede: First Sequence

Sometimes originality is horrifying.

As the inevitable Nightmare on Elm Street reboot shambles towards us this weekend, the just-as-inevitable complaints about Hollywood’s ceaseless insistence on remakes, sequels, remakes-of-sequels, and sequels-to-remakes raise their weary heads once more.

That awful remake of Clash of the Titans? There’s a sequel coming. That dreadful Brendan Fraser (pardon the redundancy, please) Journey to the Center of the Earth from a couple years back? There’s a sequel coming. Hell, there’s even a nine-years-in-the-making sequel to the utterly forgettable anthropomorphic animal kiddie flick Cats & Dogs coming out in July.

Summer movie with the biggest blockbuster expectations? Iron Man 2. (Though early reviews from The Hollywood Reporter and Variety suggest the folks at Paramount may not want to start counting their cash too soon.)  Before the kids go back to school it’ll be joined by Sex and the City 2, Shrek Forever After, Toy Story 3, the new Karate Kid (starring the son of Will Men In Black III Smith), The A-Team, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, and— God help us all—Little Fockers.

Does Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood count as a remake? Who cares anymore? Isn’t there a filmmaker around who can share a single original idea?

Actually, yes. A 26-year-old Dutch man named Tom Six. And his new movie, The Human Centipede (First Sequence). A kind of mash-up of early David Cronenberg and Takashi Miike’s more extreme visions with the feral instincts of the Saw and Hostel franchises, Centipede—opening Friday in New York and via Video On Demand today—graphically depicts the (briefly, at least) successful efforts of a mad German scientist who surgically joins three victims together, mouth to anus, to realize his dream of creating a “human centipede.” 

This is not one of those horror flicks you can smirk through even as it makes you jump. There aren’t even that many “jump” scenes to contend with. Just the very realistic sight of three “innocent” characters being put through some grisly paces. (“100% Medically Accurate,” the tagline to the film’s trailer cheerfully assures us.) They try to escape; it ends badly for most of them. That’s pretty much it for the plot. 

What else does Centipede contain? What more do you need? At times it’s amateurishly acted (which, as with the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, usually works in its favor). Its use of a “mad German scientist” as antagonist is, I think, a knowing wink to the legions of like-minded ghouls who’ve tromped across the screen for the past century. 

In an interview in this week’s Village Voice, Six playfully notes that he’s not the product of some broken home or an escapee from an institution: “I had a happy childhood, and I’m a perfectly healthy guy. I just have a big imagination.”

The shortcoming of Centipede is that it’s a one-note job. The mad scientist does it because he’s always been curious about these things. He’s not looking for his creation, once completed, to wreak havoc upon the countryside. As for the creature(s), all they really want to do by the end is die. (The “100% Medically Accurate” angle would have us believe that the people playing the thorax and abdomen would survive via the others’ defecations and an IV tube.)

So the next time someone in your circle starts complaining about how there’s no originality in movies anymore…well, you’ll know what to do. But you’d better hurry, as even Human Centipede (First Sequence)’s window of being one-of-a-kind is closing fast. After all, Six is already at work on a sequel: The Human Centipede (Full Sequence)—utilizing 12 individuals—is expected before year’s end.


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