Some horror movies feature vicious killers who seek revenge, some feature zombies rising up to eat the flesh of the living, and some focus solely on psychological horror. “The Human Centipede” (2010), directed by Tom Six, is a Dutch horror movie which uses multiple elements and adds its own unique voice to the horror genre.
The movie is essentially about a deranged German surgeon named Dr. Heiter, famous for separating conjoined twins, who wishes to put together a chain of living beings who share a single digestive tract. He does this by sewing his subjects mouth to anus. Interestingly enough, Tom Six consulted a physician while working on this movie to ensure his movie had medical accuracy.
The film follows a pair of American women vacationing in Germany, trying to find a nightclub. They get lost in the woods after their car is left with a flat tire (and being American women, they can’t fix it themselves), and eventually stumble upon the fairly secluded house of Dr. Heiter. The doctor lets them in from the rain so they may dry off, but drugs them so that he can put them in his medical ward and prep them for surgery.
The women wake up the next day beside a trucker in the next bed (who is seen being targeted at the beginning of the film), only to watch him be killed by the doctor after he reveals that the trucker is “not a match.”
The “human centipede” that doctor Heiter sews together is strung with the 2 ladies in the back and a Japanese man (who only speaks Japanese) in the front. The doctor becomes extremely elated to find out how greatly his creation fit together and quickly starts to train “it” to follow his commands, even through the constant crying and screaming.
Of course, throughout the entire movie, the doctor is only able to feed the front end–the Japanese man, and all of the other “links” get fed the excrement from the person in front of them.
This film is thoroughly disgusting if taken seriously, even though the audience is never really exposed to anything overly-graphic until the end where everything comes together. In the last scene, the Japanese man has a long monologue about accepting his fate as the head of the centipede because he knows he deserved it. He calls Dr. Heiter “God” because only he could do something this cruel to him.
What is really fascinating about this film is its subtext. Six plays up the World War 2 commentary by creating Heiter’s surname by combining the names of Nazi doctors Fetter and Richter, according to an interview with Six.
Also, the writer consciously used a German doctor and has a native Japanese victim to show the tense relationship between the German and Japanese during the war, heavily illustrated with the language barrier. In an interview with Paste Magazine, Six said, “One of my biggest fears, in my scary nightmares, was the Nazi doctors in the Second World War. Oh man! It had to be a German surgeon.”
“The Human Centipede” is not anything like the classics; it’s not anything like Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” or Wes Craven’s “Scream.” It is not a date movie, or a scary movie full of camp. This film is dedicated to having the worst possible ending for its audience, even when you’re absolutely sure the ditsy brunette girl will be smart enough to escape (she isn’t).
If you’re looking for psychological horror and don’t mind that sick-to-your-stomach feeling, “The Human Centipede” is sure to deliver. If anything, its message resembles that of the “Saw” movies– do what you can to live for yourself and try not to hurt the people around you.