Equal parts Cronenbergian body horror, perverse fetish film, and E.C. Comics-style gross-out, The Human Centipede is Dutch director Tom Six’s uniquely macabre endurance test for fans of modern fright fare. What’s surprising about the picture isn’t the premise—its story, about a madder-than-mad doctor (German actor Dieter Laser) who unites two American tourists (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie) and a Japanese counterpart (Akihiro Kitamura) in a hideous surgical procedure that creates the title monstrosity, was broadcast in detail across the Internet prior to its international theatrical screenings—but rather, the degree of reserve Six applies to depicting every excruciating detail. That’s not to say that Human Centipede is a bloodless affair, but Six relies more on the physical endurance and talent of his actors to present the mortal terror of their predicament, which in turn offers a more terrifying experience for the viewer than anything dreamed up by a special effects team. The approach also makes up for some of the more crassly exploitive moments in the film, like the doctor’s relentless abuse of his creation, which is largely clad only in filthy underwear, and Laser’s occasional overacting, which at its most heated, suggests an unholy, highly medicated hybrid of Klaus Kinski, Lance Henriksen, and the late Howard Vernon’s awful Dr. Orlof. Obviously, this is not for the casual horror fan, and most definitely not for the squeamish; more hard-core types should find their nerves thoroughly rattled by the time the film reaches its darker-than-dark conclusion. A final, disturbing note: the complete title is The Human Centipede (First Sequence); a planned sequel reportedly promises a 12-segment (gulp) creation. —Paul Gaita
Starring: Ashley C. Williams, Dieter Laser, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura, Andreas Leupold, Peter Blankenstein, Bernd Kostrau, Rene de Wit, Sylvia Zidek, Rosemary Annabella, Mauricio D' Orey
Director: Tom Six
MPAA Rating: R
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