Those who likely would call "The Human Centipede (First Sequence)" the most disgusting movie they've ever seen aren't likely to see it at all. A mere scan of its plot summary would send a majority of moviegoers fleeing for far lighter fare.

That's completely understandable, but those with strong stomachs and a jones for horror films should seek it out. At least its idea is original, which is more than one can say for anything else at the multiplex. Fire up your DVD player for a night you won't soon forget "¦ no matter how hard you might try.

Written and directed by Holland filmmaker Tom Six, the picture begins like so many American slashers: with two superficial young women on their way to a night of Bacchanalia, only to run into car trouble on a remote road. 

And after that? Let's just say the picture takes a hard, hard right.

Too stupid to change a flat tire, Lindsay and Jenny (newcomers Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie) run through the rain for help, coming upon the home of Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser, TV's "Lexx"), who looks like the Teutonic version of Christopher Walken.

Once a leading surgeon in separating Siamese twins, the doc is now retired, but hardly sedentary. Whereas he used to divide, he now multiplies. His first experiment was joining together a trio of Dobermans "? his beloved "3-dog," he called it "? and now he has designs on kicking his research up a notch by forming "a human centipede." Take that, Bill Nye!

Lindsay and Jenny showing up on his doorstep provides Dr. Heiter with two unwitting subjects, thanks to a dose of roofies. Soon, he drags home a third: a young Asian man (Japanese actor Akihiro Kitamura). When they all come to, the doctor explains he's going to connect them so that they form one continuous digestive system; you do the math. I'd like to think even Victor Frankenstein would argue a line has been crossed.
Dr. Heiter's procedure is successful, and the second half of the film entails their coping with their new, um, living arrangements, and making futile attempts at escape.

Granted, that's one sick premise. It's supposed to churn the contents of your stomach. But, like Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" shower scene, the mind fills in the blanks, making the proceedings seem much worse than they actually are. Yes, you see Dr. Heiter's newly minted freak of nature, but you don't see what's going on beneath the bandages.

Trust me: It could've been a lot worse. Apparently, Six is saving that for the now-shooting sequel, "The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)," which will entail a dozen victims and make this one look like "My Little Pony," he promises. Had those bandages been stripped away, even the most steel-nerved audiences wouldn't be able to take it.

Many won't, anyway, despite an approach that's actually kinda arty. In line with Dr. Heiter's sterile basement laboratory, the film is clean itself, rendered in crisp colors and slow, precise movements. Six directs with an eye toward interesting angles, so it's not as in-your-face as, say, any given "Saw" sequel. Arguably, it comes across as intelligent, despite not saying anything intelligent.

No doubt aided by his odd looks, Laser's portrayal of the mad doctor is genuinely horrifying, especially since no explanation for his peculiar hobby is given. Among his playthings, Williams acts the hell out of her role, conveying total vulnerability through tears, sobs and exposed flesh. How she was able to do it with her jaw planted in Kitamura's hindquarters for half the time is a mystery.

"Entertaining" is the wrong word to affix to this kind of movie. With a mix of ballsiness, originality and a sheer OMG factor, there's something to it, even if you can't quite put your finger on it. And who'd want to?

IFC Films' unrated director's cut includes Six's commentary, as well as a shorter Q-and-A for those who just want to briefed. The one deleted scene finds Dr. H doing a happy dance, as other bonuses provide a fly-on-the-wall peek into production, a lo-fi foley session and the girls' casting tapes. A slideshow of alternate posters accentuate how brilliantly marketed this film was; while "100% Medically Accurate" has already seeped into pop-culture consciousness, I admit to finding "Together Forever" a more clever tagline.

Bottom line: God help me, but I liked it. "?Rod Lott

  • or