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Human Centipede: The Complete Sequence, The
Let's get this out of the way first: The Human Centipede series of films, particularly the first two, are an exercise in "how much can you take?" for most viewers. The three movies are different from each other but all based on one disgusting and sadistic concept, which I don't have much choice but to describe here although I'll save it for the synopsis of the first movie. Those who are easily offended are warned as of now.
2009's The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is where it all starts. American friends Lindsay (Ashley Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) are on vacation in Europe and driving through Germany trying to locate a hot nightclub they'd heard about. As what typically happens in your common horror movie, their car tire blows out in the middle of a remote wooded area, at night no less. They can't call anyone for help and there are very few passers-by in the area; they don't know much German anyways. They decide to just walk and hope they run into some form of civilization that speaks at least some English. Eventually they find a large house and knock on the door, and are greeted by Doctor Heiter (Dieter Laser), who thankfully speaks English. He gives them each a glass of water and makes a phone call for them, but he's drugged the water so that they soon pass out.
They awaken in the basement, each bound to a hospital bed surrounded by medical equipment, with a man bound and gagged to a third bed trying in vain to scream for help. He seems to have been there for a while, but Dr. Heiter determines that he "doesn't match" and apologetically gives him an injection that puts him down for good. He later brings in another man, passed out from a tranquilizer dart, and sets him up in the freed bed. When he awakens, Dr. Heiter finally tells them what's going on: they are to become a scientific experiment in which the three of them will be surgically joined together (connected via one person's mouth to another's anus) as a "Siamese Triplet" or "Human Centipede". (That name doesn't really make sense as the result only has twelve legs; he'd need to do this with 25 people to have a true centipede.) The mad doctor explains that they'll be able to function in that state as the person in the front will eat as normal, and that food will then "pass through" the other two so to speak. For good measure, he's going to cut their knee ligaments as well so that they'll be forced to crawl the rest of their lives. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that? At least they're given a bit of dignity by not having to be completely naked.
My mom always told me that she didn't like horror movies because she was afraid that some "sicko" would get "ideas" from them. Well, that fear is exactly the subject of The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence). As this one begins, we see that it takes place in the "real world" and that the first movie was in fact just a movie. It's struck a particular nerve with Martin (Laurence R. Harvey), who lives in London with his mother and works as a parking lot attendant. He spends his time at work watching the first Human Centipede movie on his laptop computer and also keeps a scrapbook of photos and press clippings about the movie and those involved with it- inspiring him to try out the idea presented there himself. He finds an empty warehouse and begins abducting people from the parking garage, dragging them there. Although Martin doesn't say a single word onscreen, he's also invited a few people including some from The Human Centipede's original cast to audition for a new movie. (Ashlynn Yennie thus arrives, playing herself.) Once he's got everyone (12 altogether) trapped in the warehouse, he proceeds to make them into his own "human centipede", and while he might not have the medical expertise that Dr. Heiter had in the movie he's determined enough to do the best with what he's got. Though presented in black and white, The Human Centipede 2 leaves very little to the imagination as we watch Martin assemble his creation and then have all sorts of perverted fun with it, expressing his joy through pantomime and facial expressions rather than speaking.
Finally we have The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence), which might actually be a relief to some who've made it through the other two movies. This one again takes place in the "real world", with both of the previous two movies having been simply movies and nothing more. The main character here is Bill Boss (played by the first movie's mad doctor Dieter Laser, though we have to accept him entirely as a fictional character with no connections to the real-life actor or the character he played), warden of the (how can I not laugh at this?) George HW Bush State Prison in Texas. Although German-American, he's got stereotypical American pride and has absolutely no sympathy for the prisoners who end up under his watch- although Governor Hughes (Eric Roberts) doesn't think he's been doing a great job and is looking to fire him. The prison's accountant Dwight Butler (Laurence R. Harvey in the same deal as Dieter Laser, actually getting to talk this time) shows the two movies to Bill and proposes that they try the "Human Centipede" concept with the prisoners as a sure-fire way to save his job- just sew ‘em all together and they'll be more well-behaved plus the state will save a ton of money as they won't have to eat as much. They go about this in a practical manner, first bringing in director Tom Six playing himself to see what he thinks, and then consulting the prison's doctor (Clayton Rohner) who doesn't see too much of a problem- he does bring up the practical matter that simply passing the lead person's excrement on through the others would not give them the needed nutrition to stay alive, but they can just give them injections to help out there. How can they lose?
Word about the first Human Centipede spread quickly across the internet upon its release, with many speculating that it could very well be the most disgusting movie ever made. Some who saw it then denounced it as utter trash while others saw a bit more in it. Being that I can usually take anything (I chickened out the first time I watched the shockumentary Faces of Death but gave it another go after learning that most of it was fake; the honor of the only visual work that I haven't been able to watch all the way through goes to "John Wayne Bobbitt Uncut", there was one detail in that which was just too much for me to stomach!) I of course had to check it out. It's certainly a competently-made film with a rather disturbing situation but played out largely as a dark comedy. Yes, you certainly feel sorry for the victims but their characters are still largely two-dimensional that they become as expendable as your typical slasher movie casualty. Dieter Laser plays the antagonist as a not necessarily bad or evil person, just a bit insane and doing what he does for the advancement of science. (As the movie begins we see him grieving over the death of three Rottweilers which he had previously joined together in the same manner). I did feel that the tagline "100% Medically Accurate" was a bit misleading, which the third movie at least tried to address.
Having generally low expectations for sequels, I found the second film surprisingly more effective and audacious than the first. Director Tom Six had said during its production that it would make the first movie look like "My Little Pony" in comparison, and he just about succeeded in that. Watching some of these types of movies you sometimes can't help but wonder "what if" they gave some deranged soul the idea to try them out in real life, which is exactly what happens here. Laurence R. Harvey makes Martin a memorable character in that he takes such great pleasure in carrying out his fantasy, and there are moments that take things a bit too far and will likely test many viewers (for the record I felt a bit ill watching this the first time, but the thought of stopping the movie never crossed my mind. It would have been fun to work at a theater showing this and keep track of how many people walked out and at what point. There is a version that cuts a couple of extremely disgusting moments, which is what I first saw on Netflix and could only laugh reading later about what was missing. This Blu-Ray is the full uncut version, sparing you nothing.) This one could easily be written off as just an attempt to shock the audience, but it's also quite competently made. It is in black and white- some have said it was shot in color but shown in black and white to tone down some of the disgusting details and appease some of the film censorship boards, while others say it was shot in black and white from the beginning as a stylistic choice. I haven't been able to verify which is correct, but being in black and white enhances the movie's dream-like feel, which also includes some very surreal moments from the supporting cast which might have helped drive Martin to do what he ends up doing, as well as an atmospheric sound design. All of this gently reminds the viewer that no matter how disgusting the goings-on get, it's still just a movie.
Likely nobody who was thoroughly disgusted or offended by the first two movies will even bother with the third, but this one is actually quite tame in comparison. The characters here are very cartoony, with warden Bill Boss shouting most of his lines, Dwight being a quiet but conniving sidekick, and the movie's only female character, secretary Daisy played by former porn star Bree Olson, delightfully taking advantage of her natural ability to distract all the men around her (at least at first.) While the 2nd movie had practically no dialogue, this one is almost wall-to-wall talking, yelling and barking which might have previous fans wondering when they're going to get on to the disgustingness. That doesn't happen for about an hour in, and even then the results are more darkly humorous than shocking.
Although director Tom Six has claimed that these three movies could be edited seamlessly together to tell one story, I found each one to be very different both in terms of narrative and style. Still, watching part 2 or 3 on their own might not make as much sense without having seen the first movie as that establishes the concept that you sort of have to go with from then on.
All three movies were shot digitally, with the first two in 1.78 and the second being in black and white, with the third in 2.35. The first movie retains a reasonably film-like look, with hints of film grain in some shots. The second looks even more film-like in black and white, but the Blu-Ray disc shows a bit of aliasing and other resolution limitations which might lie in the source material rather than the disc encoding. The third isn't particularly distinctive but conveys the atmosphere of the 100+ degree weather the movie takes place in; all three show some gradient banding (which spoils some of the outdoor shots in the third movie) but again it's unclear whether this is inherent in the original material or from the disc encoding.
The first two movies are presented in 5.1 DTS Master Audio with the third in full 7.1. The sound in the first movie stays mostly in the front, and taking place in a quiet isolated house the track isn't given a whole lot to do but it serves that setting well. The second has the most atmospheric and surround-heavy mix, with ambient sounds and echoes in the rear speakers along with some hallucinatory sounds like voices from the past and a broken music box. While the third movie gets two additional rear channels it doesn't really show them off, but nothing in the movie really calls for them to.
2-channel mixes for each are also included, with hearing-impaired subtitles as well as conventional Spanish subs. The first movie uses a third subtitle track for the German and Japanese dialogue spoken in the film, rather than being hard-coded into the picture and can be turned off.
One of the mainly-anticipated extras of this set is a full-color version the second movie- and there still is no clear indication as to whether it was originally shot in color or electronically colorized. It certainly changes the feel of the movie as the grittiness from the black-and-white is gone, but this presentation is marred by very heavy compression (it looks like an "HD" quality movie from Vudu) and a mono sound track.
All three movies include audio commentary from director Tom Six, with actor Laurence R. Harvey joining him on the second movie. Six explains a bit more of his intentions from making these movies, and doesn't come across as demented or sick in any manner. Each also has a section of candid on-set footage showing that the cast had a humorous attitude to their rather uncomfortable predicament. Dieter Laser is shown saying "I look crazy but I am in control, as some crazy people are." Bree Olson gives a tour of the third movie's set. Footage of sound-effects foley recording for the first two movies is shown which used a rather large supply of raw meat, and we get to see some short casting tapes (some looking like they were shot on a camera phone) including Laurence R. Harvey raping a chair. Trailers for all three movies and poster art galleries for the first two are included, along with some short deleted scenes and slightly-altered endings.
Disc 1 features "Ladies of The Human Centipede" which runs about 45 minutes with insights from the female cast members of the first two movies. Again, they take a largely humorous attitude towards it, with the two leads of the first movie saying that their characters were so annoying and dumb that they didn't feel too sorry for how they ended up. Being on the first disc, some parts of the second movie are spoiled if you haven't already seen it.
The Human Centipede films certainly aren't for everyone, and some have said that they should be for no one. Regardless, they've established a place in cult movie history and should be seen by those with sick senses of humor who can appreciate seeing the boundaries of taste being pushed, but avoided by anyone who is at all easily offended.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.