Those who have read my blog for awhile now know that I have a distaste for the torture porn sub-genre–in my experience, most of them are little more than plot-less excuses to sling a bunch of gore and body parts at a camera array. Like the exploitation films of the seventies onward, they’re all style and no substance but with one difference; namely, they trade style for something akin to blunt force trauma. While exploitation films could be goofy fun, the cinematic equivalent of a Twinkie, torture porn often lacks the wink and nod toward the audience and instead focuses on showing the inner workings of the human anatomy as explicitly as possible.
…in light of that last sentence I should once again define torture porn. It’s not actual pornography, but rather it is called torture porn because it features explicit displays of violence and torture. Think movies like Saw (which is actually quite a good film…the later ones not so much) and Hostel (never seen it). I’ve touched on the topic before in my review of the abominable film Philosophy of a Knife.
With all of that in mind, you’ll understand why I put off seeing The Human Centipede for as long as I did. This is one of those movies that people talk about in whispers, a movie that teenagers at sleep overs challenge each other to sit through without gagging. That sort of thing. Being that I tend to at least half pay attention to what goes on in the horror genre, I knew the entire premise of the movie: a German surgeon grafts three hapless tourists together end to end forming the titular Human Centipede. Certainly a disgusting thing, considering the mechanics of their shared digestion, but I didn’t see how it was a concept that could carry an entire movie. Plus, I’d heard that it was an abominably bad film from reviewers and a few people I knew who had seen it.
Still, the damned thing kept popping up on Netflix until my curiosity got the better of me and I finally watched it. I knew The Human Centipede would be bad, but I couldn’t have expected it to be anywhere near as bad as it was. There was no plot to speak of, just a bunch of stuff happening to pad out the length of the movie to an agonizing hour and a half. When the Human Centipede was finally revealed, it really didn’t live up to the build up. Maybe for people first seeing the movie, but not two or three years after it was made. Plus, it didn’t help that the director couldn’t be bothered to develop his characters. Had he done so, their plight would have been more disturbing. Don’t get me wrong–the entire concept is disturbing. But the movie lacks any kind of impact other than the gag factor because there is not any character development. Rather than actual people, the victims of the mad doctor’s surgery are little more than the cinematic equivalent of cardboard cut outs.
That lack of character development led to one of the two things I found surprising about The Human Centipede. The first was that the movie was boring. Oh my good Lord was it boring! Forty-five minutes in I felt like I’d been sitting there for two hours. Both the lack of plot and the lack of any sort of characterization sucked any tension out of what could have been quite an intense movie. Only one scene made me feel tense, and that was the crawling chase scene where the lead guy of the Human Centipede, a random Japanese guy, disabled the mad doctor and led an escape attempt.
The other bit that surprised me was the amount of restraint the director showed when it came to gore. There was surprisingly little of it, despite the premise of the film. That might have been a disappointment for the gore-hounds out there, but I was impressed. But that feeling quickly dissipated when I decided to subject myself to The Human Centipede 2, where Tom Six more than made up for the lack.
You might ask me why I watched the second movie if I didn’t like the first. I’m not sure I have an answer for that, other than that I’m a glutton for punishment. If the first Human Centipede was terrible, the second was absolutely abysmal. HC2 featured a bug-eyed recluse obsessed with the original The Human Centipede. That’s right–HC2 takes place in the “real” world, where apparently someone liked The Human Centipede enough to try and reenact it.
…it only gets worse from there. You might be asking how that’s possible, but believe me it is. I’m not even sure what to say about HC2, other than that it is completely disgusting, stupid, and reprehensible. The amount of gore in the movie isn’t quite cartoonish, but it is nearly so. While HC1 tried to build tension and strike you with the horror of the scenario its characters found itself in, HC2 dropped all pretenses and became pure torture porn. But it’s all filmed in black and white, so it’s artsy (that’s how that works, right?). I think Tom Six attempted to top himself with HC2, and he certainly did but not how he intended. He proved that you could make a movie even more boring, stupid, and offensive than The Human Centipede. No mean feat, that.
Do you ever find yourself watching a movie you know is going to be awful in spite of yourself? Have you seen either of these movies, and if so what did you think?