Sunday, October 10, 2010

THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEQUENCE) (2009) - a movie about teamwork

Here is a still from The Caterpillar That Acts Like a Silly Person, which is what I attempted to rent down at the local Ballbuster Video.

So I started a babysitter club. Granted, this "club" is just me sitting around on a futon in my boxers, watching Degrassi, waiting for the phone to ring, but even the greatest social movements sprung forth from humble beginnings. I could use the extra cash, and it's also a convenient inroad to some older sisters. Well, lo and behold, the phone rings, and a precocious/insufferable six-year-old girl is on the other line.

"Hello? To whom at which I speak?"

"SILLY! My name is Mandy and I need a babysitter!"

"Well...are you a baby?"

"NO SILLYHEAD!!! I'm six!"

"Let's tone down the language, please. Let me ask you...your parents let you hire your own babysitter?"


"Let me ask you one more thing. Do you have an older sister?"


"Forget I asked. I'll be over."

So, she gives me an address and frankly piss poor directions (I went with Mapquest instead), and I drive over and knock on the door. Mandy answers, jumping up and down like a mad person, wearing a Dora the Explorer hoodie, her eyes jumping around from one random object to another. I ask her for the money and quickly pocket it.

"So...what do you want to do?"


"I ask that you please stop yelling. I have an aversion to loud noises."

"What's an 'afurshin'?"

"Nevermind. What movie did you have in mind? I wouldn't mind seeing
Apocalypse Now again."

"There's a movie where a caterpillar acts like a person. He talks, and he plays with a hula hoop. IT'S SILLY!"

"Sounds like this insect and I have much in common. Well, hang tight and I will track it down. In the mean time, here's a giant Pixy Stix someone left in my car. Enjoy, and I'll be back soon!"


I head over to the local Blockbuster Video. As a film lover, a little piece of my soul dies every time I step into a Blockbuster, but, alas...I do it for the children. I imagined that Mandy had seen a recent commercial for this movie, so I assume it's a new release. I hit up the new release wall (although 80% of the store is the new release wall) and lo and behold, I find it...Human Centipede! Caterpillar, centipede, she probably got the two mixed up. Hell, even I can never remember which is which. Well, I might as well pick up something for myself while I'm here, so I ask the guy behind the counter where I can find
8 1/2, the classic Fellini film. He starts counting with his fingers, as if stumped by a math equation. I say "never mind", pay for the centipede movie and get on my merry way.

I get back to the house and Mandy is dancing in abstract convulsions, her sweater covered in Pixy sugar (or whatever the technical term is), as if Dora herself had been binging on hot pink cocaine.


"Goofy? I thought I was supposed to be silly. How do you account for this sudden transition?"

"You're both...SILLY!"

"If you say so. You're the expert. Well, let's pop this bad boy in."

I was immediately worried when a creepy German guy popped on screen. I didn't realize this was a foreign film, and worried that Mandy wouldn't want to read subtitles. As the mad German successfully hunted his first victim, I realized I had made a grave error. Mandy was more confused then anything. She grabbed the case and looked at the cover.

"CENTIPEDE?!? I wanted the caterpillar movie! DON'T YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE SILLYHEAD?"

(turning off the DVD) "I guess not. I apologize."

"Why is the man so creepy?"

"He's German, so those are the only kind of roles he's offered outside of Germany. Anyway, how about we watch T.V. instead? Let's click around and see what's on..."


"Oh Jesus. The horror...the horror."


The aforementioned German guy is played by Dieter Laser (only previously known to me from
The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum). German actors usually only play Nazis in American films, so it's nice to see Dieter playing a prominent and meaty role here as a doctor. Granted, it's a mad doctor that is seemingly modeled after Josef Mengele, the S.S. "Angel of Death" (see the liner notes for Slayer's "Reign in Blood" for further info), but progress has to start somewhere. There's not much going on in the film, so Dieter's character becomes centrally important. Thankfully, he rises to the occasion, truly delivering the teutonic twitching you expect from a mad German doctor.

I don't want to quite claim false advertising, but this mad doctor's creation is more of a "permanent ass-to-mouth conga line" then a proper centipede. I know what you're asking; "why would someone want to create a permanent ass-to-mouth conga line?". It would be easy to dismiss this as the creation of an unhinged imagination, but even the maddest doctors and scientists throughout cinematic history have had some sort of purpose behind their plan, an end game, no matter how insane. I initially thought it might have something to do with testing the limits of the human body, but upon reflection, I'm not too sure. Frankly, I think the doctor is just an asshole. He's the real monster, NOT the centipede; a human jerk-ipede, if I may be so bold.

For all the pretense of originality, the setup is as hoary as it gets. Two club girls are driving through Germany and their car breaks down. They are forced to seek refuge in the nearest house, which happens to be the humble abode of THE CRAZIEST GUY EVER. That is some shitty luck. Aren't German cars supposed to be dependable? Anyway, at the conclusion of a whopping twenty minutes or so, the doctor incapacitates the two girls and ties them down to hospital beds so he can begin his "experiment", which includes an already captured Japanese guy (I guess he was also traveling through Germany when his car broke down along the same stretch of road). Many a schlocky horror film begins the same way, but usually the filmmaker realizes that it's just a setup to the REAL story, like the girls running around a creepy castle being chased by lesbian vampires armed with power tools. Here, it is treated as a real piece of storytelling, the setup to an impending horror. The director wants us to believe that this isn't a super hacky setup, but rather an unfolding of real characters in a real situation.

I also find it curious that the centipede is not a symmetrical series of NY club girls joined ass-to-mouth. Instead, the Japanese guy is the defacto "lead" of the centipede, with the two girls trailing behind. With the way the movie unfolds, this bodes well for the survival of the centipede, as the girls are super freaked out, but Japanese guy takes charge to try and get them out of this most unusual predicament. I think the film is trying to tell us that men get shit done and women are mostly helpless. Human beings can work effectively together, but only if a man is guiding the way. Either that, or women make terrible insects.

So, what we have here is a brilliant concept (brilliant being relative) fluffed out to fill a script. What is effective is that the characters are forced to confront the horror of their situation (although it's sorta hard to gauge the reactions of the two girls considering their faces are half covered with butts). That is the real essence of horror; the realization on someone's face that something is not quite right (or much worse than that). I also like that the very concept of the movie itself just plain pisses off the squares. Some people complained that the film should be banned without having seen it, that cinematic violence is out of control (despite it showing little in the way of onscreen violence). Hey, assholes, it's just a little fun. Grow a fucking sense of humor (and a working understanding of freedom of speech, please).

This concept married to a very capable mad doctor performance is a bit of a wasted opportunity here, but thankfully we are getting a sequel. Maybe the idea will be properly fleshed with an actual script. I'm curious as to what the mad doctor will come up with in the next installment. I'm assuming he'll try and outdo himself. Maybe he'll try to make a longer centipede, thereby breaking his "ass-to-mouth conga line" Guinness Book record. Perhaps he'll try to turn some dude into a spider, or maybe an orangutan (thereby becoming a self contained version of Every Which Way But Loose). Then again, maybe he'll make a centipede out of animals other than humans. You know, like surgically stitching together a bunch of pandas bears ass-to-mouth. While no doubt horrifying for the pandas, I think that would be pretty damn cute. PANDA CENTIPEDE!!! Hopefully that one gets made. Just adorable.

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