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I’m way obsessed with The Human Centipede.

July 15, 2010 \am\31 12:29 am

Can we talk for a minute about this movie? Man-to-man? Because I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s not that I’ve seen it — and let’s be clear here, I will never, ever, ever see it — but I do read everything I possibly can about it. My favorite is Roger Ebert’s unstarred review, which closes with this gem of a quote:

I am required to award stars to movies I review. This time, I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don’t shine.

So what is this grotesquerie that has flapped the famously unflappable Roger Ebert into his first ever refusal to assign a grade? On the chance that you haven’t heard of The Human Centipede, a 2010 horror film written and directed by Tom Six, I recommend that you do a little research on it. This is the story of a German scientist who kidnaps three young folks and surgically attaches them, mouth to anus, to create a “human centipede,” a creature with a single digestive track. The only screenshot I can bring myself to look at is a drawing the scientist made to demonstrate his idea, rendered here in immortal Etsy necklace form (and yes, you can buy one):

As stated, I would just as soon be part of the human centipede as watch this movie. And yet I am completely absorbed by the weird little cultural niche it occupies. I get like this every once in a while about a movie I have no intention of seeing, usually a fringe horror flick — it was Funny Games a few years back, and High Tension before that — and I ruminate about it, I read plot synopses, I read positive and negative critiques, I try to goad my less squeamish friends into seeing it and reporting back to me. Apparently, I blog about it and make little cartoons.

But there’s just something darn refreshing, isn’t there, about a movie released in 2010 that can repulse contemporary audiences to the extent that this one has? I mean, people fled this movie in droves. Entertainment Weekly posited it as “the most disgusting horror film of all time,” and though the general consensus is that it isn’t a very good movie, it has certainly earned its place in the modern cult canon within three months of its release. I think my fascination stems from the lively debate that always arises around singular and exceptionally gory horror flicks, the question of whether or not this was intended to be commentary, and therefore unsettling high art, or the ravings of a lunatic with a video camera, and therefore deviant low art. Me, I’m inclined to agree with the venerable Mr. Ebert: this movie has the potential to generate legitimate and passionate debate, but it exists in an abyss that I am not personally willing to explore.

So… anybody out there seen it? What’s your reaction? Art or highly imaginative schlock? Or something else altogether?

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4 Comments
  1. July 15, 2010 \am\31 8:02 am 8:02 am

    This one is going in the netflix cue. I’ll keep you apprised.

  2. Sampson Starkweather permalink
    July 15, 2010 \pm\31 3:47 pm 3:47 pm

    I am 100% accordance with your fascination to the reaction to this movie (or it’s cultural/anti-cultural niche), while having zero desire to see it, i find myself talking about it every chance i get, even bizarrely championing it without really understanding why. Here’s the thing about this movie, if you just watch the trailer, it’s perfect. It’s exactly the right cut-up of narrative for an audience to fill in the gaps in a more effective, imaginative and disturbing way than i’m sure the movie could. I think best director should go to the person who edited the trailer, i think this is it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wmTv2nqTHo

    Also, the original Funny Games, the Michael Haneke directed version is an excellent movie, a classic, you should see it.

  3. July 16, 2010 \am\31 7:18 am 7:18 am

    I think I am your exact opposite. I will watch almost anything, especially if I think it might be uncomfortable (hi, Haneke).

    What’s more interesting to me is your involvement and interest in talk around the movie, but you won’t see it? Do you not want to judge for yourself even a little?

    For example, there was a lot of hype around the release of Antichrist which I did my best to avoid. I saw it opening night relatively ‘fresh’ and I was really glad I did. I think it would have been a different film otherwise.

  4. Keith S. Wilson permalink
    July 18, 2010 \pm\31 10:47 pm 10:47 pm

    I am also all over reading reviews for this, but not actually watching it. Strangely, I had the same reaction to this as I did to the final scene of True Blood Season 3, episode 3 (look it up, it’s a sex scene and it’s been called one of the most shocking moments of television history). I didn’t realize that it was supposed to shock me until later on, when I heard people’s responses to it, and then I sort of reevaluated it, and sorta freaked myself out.

    Basically, I think maybe I’m dead on the inside.

    That said, it must have affected me in some way, because I don’t just have 0 desire to see this movie, I have quite a bit of desire to AVOID seeing it.

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