Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Human Centipede

I'd been pretty much in the dark about this movie up until I watched it with my horror pal last Saturday.
I'd seen the comments around the tubes, "Did you see that preview for 'The Human Centipede'?!!! It looks REALLY crazy!!!"
Somehow that wasn't the right flavor of bait to get me clicking on the links to YouTube.
Dinner With Max Jenke put up a blog about it that suggested it might be a bit wilder than the standard 'mad scientist meets monster' romantic comedy I was assuming it was... but even that didn't move me to look into it.

My friend and I just ended up watching it on a lark... and I'm kind of surprised to say I liked it... or at least I didn't have the reaction that a lot of folks seem to be expecting to have once they get around to seeing it.
For one thing, it's not gory... there's very little blood and no guts. The disgusting aspects of the 'centipede' (more of a dodecapede...) are pretty much left out of the visuals. There is no scatophagia in site. It's mentioned, and (sort of) acted out... but... well I've got a VERY weak gag reflex when it comes to poo-eating and I got through those scenes just fine.
I'm not usually a gorehound... I'm fine with extreme gore if there is some reason beyond mere gross-out chuckles, but a lot of times it's just boringly excessive and doesn't add anything to the story/mood. If anything extreme gore serves as a release from any tension/suspense that might have been building... not a good thing. That said I could have done with a bit more gore in 'The Human Centipede'... I would have liked a bit more visual clues as to the mad doctor's surgery skills and the intracacies of the operation... I'd have been interested in seeing any failed precursors he might have around the lab... like his lamented (but unseen) 'Three Dog'.

I've read a few reviews of 'Centipede' now and they're a mixed lot. Some folks seem to be hired boosters while others see an easy target for their snarky jabs. People going on about how 'bad' it is are just being pretentious. It's a technically well made movie, it looks good. The script is no more ridiculous than most mainstream Hollywood fare and the actors do what they were hired to. The guy playing the doctor is the only character that's even close to fleshed-out and even he remains pretty much a complete cypher at the end of the movie... but that's not at all unusual in horror films.
Actually, this movie is fairly slow-paced. Not a whole lot happens. People are caught and operated on, the doctor prattles on in joy, the police show up, the 'creature' tries to escape... there's a bit of violence... THE END. Not complex or twisty at all. If it wasn't for how totally batshit crazy the doctor character was it would almost drift into the dreaded territory of 'boring'.
Disgusting as the concept is the doctor's vaguely suggested motivation, and that actor's ability to keep him from being a total cartoon, are what sold me on the movie... and made it actually creepy. Creepy enough that it stayed in my head for a while after watching it.
See, usually in these sorts of things the mad scientist has some sort of semi-laudable/sympathetic motivation for the nasty stuff he's perpetrating on his victims... he trying to cure a disease, find immortality, restore his wife/daughter's life/face, end world hunger, transmit matter or bring about world peace... or something would probably condone if it didn't require blood/skin/souls/spleens/brains/etc. from unwilling teenagers.
The crazy doctor in 'The Human Centipede' has no such altruistic goals... in fact he early on declares that he hates human beings. In the past he had been an expert on separating conjoined twins, but he's retired now and his surgical arts & crafts projects are strictly recreational. His ONLY reason for building the 'centipede' is his desire to debase/torture other humans in the worst way imagineable. He's a just a very angry man with surgery room in his basement (despite one character's accusations there's, thankfully, no hint that he's some sort of ex-Nazi... he's obviously a lone gunman in his mania).
I'm certainly not saying this is a great movie... but with so many horror movies (or movies of any type) doing little but copying whatever the last 'hit' was... anything that's even a bit out of synch is worth a look. 'The Human Centipede' earns that look by giving a purely nasty villain with authentically horrifying plans. It stands in contrast to something like 'Hostel' which marketed itself as transgressive and failed miserably to deliver. If 'Centipede's' villain had visited the killing rooms of that other film it might have been a bit less of a bait & switch.

No comments:

Post a Comment