I am required to award stars to movies I review. This time, I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don't shine. -- Roger Ebert
That quote makes me laugh every time I read it. Ebert's disgust helped make the reputation of I Spit On Your Grave, and I'm sure it won't exactly hurt Tom Six's The Human Centipede, either. With the exception of some blood, pus, teeth removal and the European fascination with coprophagia, the film rarely gets much more visually repellent than the shot above. In fact, the feces remain internal to the newly created tripartite body, not shown. But suggestion is enough for creating effective horror. And Six gets a lot of mileage off what his morbid conceit suggests. This is a high (some would say low) concept film that does little more than logically follow the initial premise to its terminal conclusion. Aesthetically, the film is edited along the dialog and looks like DV porn downloaded from the Web, i.e., strictly amateurish. However, the idea of linking people along their gastrointestinal tract is inspired. It combines fear of cosmetic (unnecessary, commercial) surgery with the existential problem of being a mere organ in the social body (to the point of altering one's body to fit the organizational ideal).
The primal horror here isn't like losing one's sense of self to the Borg or alien body snatchers, but retaining a full sense of individuality while having to consciously suppress it in order to make the composite body work. It's the bureaucratic evil that Kafka's heroes always failed in struggling against, with the metaphor being physically realized. Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser, playing the Bond villain par excellence) is a self-admitted misanthrope who's a mad scientist version of Fordist industrialism. When the individual units in his creation keep him up at night by making too much noise (think Union organizers), he makes plans to remove their vocal chords (think efficiency expert). He loathes the individual. As he explains to Lindsay (Ashley Williams), the victim closest to escaping, the most willful pit bull became the center piece in his dog centipede. As a sick joke, the frontal position goes to a Japanese tourist (Akihiro Kitamura) who can't speak a word of English (or German) to his conjoined American companions (the tail is played by Ashlynn Yennie).
Why does Heiter perform such a macabre experiment? Because he's evil. Regardless of whether there's any socio-ideological significance to the horror (I contend there's always such significance to any horror that works) or how inept the filmmaking, he's a great cinematic creation. The way Laser delivers American colloquialisms ("hey, man") in a queasy German accent is dark comedic perfection, achieving the lunacy of Udo Kier, Klaus Kinski and maybe even Peter Lorre. Pace Ebert, there's at least one star shining. Laser has my highest recommendation.