‘Feed Her!’: The Human Centipede (Reconsidered)

Aaron: OK – so as I got my shit together to make my best of the year list (see working list below), I realized how I had only given The Human Centipede 2.5 of 4 stars when I reviewed it for my own blog. In retrospect, I think the film is pretty fucking amazing and one of the most fun experiences I had watching any movie all year (including Jackass 3D, which I also thought was brilliant).

While watching Centipede I kept thinking of Roger Ebert’s line about David Cronenberg’s Crash – that it’s a movie about a fetish that nobody actually has. Centipede is a horror movie that is so bizarre and outside-the-box that it’s spooky, but also so close to reality that it’s shocking (and hilarious). It’s not about space aliens taking human slaves and anally raping them. It’s something set in our world, something we never thought about, but seems very familiar. How could this idea have never been considered before?

I love the ending of the film, that the fresh-mouthed heroine who has been made the “middle section” of the train is now stuck forever between two dead people. Hopefully more cops will come; maybe they won’t. This is brilliantly super-arch Beckett (Waiting for God – No!).

My initial objections to the silly, canned opening with the sorority girls breaking down in the middle of some German forest, I think rather missed the point. Director Tom Six clearly knows what good camp is – just check out his imdb bio. I think he knew that he had to set up a dumb slasher flick and then twist it into something more interesting.

I also think I totally underestimated the aesthetic and technical details of the film – so modernist, so minimalist and euro-efficient. This goes for the doctor’s house and the costumes. I really think it deserves top marks for the production design, the costumes and the cinematography. The pool room is particularly amazing. I also think the slides the doctor shows his victims early on stand out as all-the-more creepy because they are hand-drawn as opposed to everything else, which looks totally processed and perfect.

I would easily give The Human Centipede 3.5 of 4 stars.

Alex: Speaking of getting one’s shit together, let’s talk about The Human Centipede!

I’m with you on the surprising visual elegance of this movie. It reminded me quite a lot of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The script is pure B-grade pulp, but it’s directed (by Don Siegel) with deep and precise visual composition and startling, expressive editing. Both films are fascinating for the contrast between their content and their style.

And indeed, HC takes us to new, uh, depths. The silliness of the first 15 minutes is all part of its slyness — presenting us with a hackneyed horror-movie setup only to take its helpless bimbo heroines to places we’ve never seen or imagined.

I think it’s interesting, Aaron, how much stature the movie gained for you in the wake of seeing it. The same happened to me: I watched it, retched, couldn’t quite believe what I’d been through, and found myself thinking about the movie in the days and weeks afterwards. Not only its essential nightmarishness, but its (dare I say beautiful?) imagery.

I can’t put it on my Best Of list, though, because it doesn’t quite get beyond the level of experiment for me. A very fascinating, successful experiment, to be sure, but I can only manage to interact with it on that level — and not on an emotional one. (I knew it: I’m a rank sentimentalist.)

Aaron: Alex, you’re a fucking pansy. Man up and put it on your best of the year list. You’ve only seen 50 fucking movies – this has got to be near the top of the list… Above Agora, Inception and the Social Network, for fuck’s sake!

I love the comparison to Invasion of the Body Snatchers – and I would add to that Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Both are brilliant and mix high and low in amazing ways. I particularly think of the amazing use of black and white… which reminds me of the use of black and white tones in Centipede (the doctor wears a white coat, most of the interior walls are white)… it is totally beautiful imagery.

I also think the way Centipede connects to the real world on an existential level is very similar to those horror classics. This isn’t Saw 16 here… this is a very interesting ontological exploration.

Alex: Easy there, cowboy. It’s not that interesting. Just cuz something deals with poop, that don’t make it an ontological exploration. Anyway, I’m too busy loving pompous bullshit like Shutter Island and Life During Wartime to make room for your coprophilia fantasy.

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About Aaron & Alex

We're two highly opinionated, movie-going, liberal, cynical, (single) New York Jews who like to bitch about movies.
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