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The Human Centipede: A Tag Team Review by Rick and Cole

Hey everybody, Rick here with a tag team review for the horror film The Human Centipede. As a reward to our fans, for hitting 100 on Facebook, (304 at last count) we were originally going to post a training montage where I would be doing all kinds of training montage-y stuff.  We are still very much doing the montage and we have been consistently reminded about it.  However, it will take a little time because there is plenty to plan for it.  Having said that, when we hit 200 fans, Cole and I discussed watching The Human Centipede while eating Maple and Bacon flavored lollipops!  In Cole's head, it makes sense.  I made sure to have the movie waiting for me to arrive via Netflix.  And it did.  A month ago.  Unfortunately, October ended up being one of the busiest months of the year for us and the movie sat there.  Mocking us.  Daring us to open the envelope and pop it into a DVD player.  We finally did and our reaction video can be found here.  In the video we promised to review the movie and without any further ado, here is the review.

Rick: I think the first thing that we should say is that this movie is most definitely NOT for everyone.  Having said that, it was a combination of morbid curiosity and pushing from Andy that made us ultimately see this movie.  

Cole: After all of the times we had deliberately invoked the name of Human Centipede (especially by me) on the show and website it was inevitable that we would watch this movie.  And a reaction video seemed an appropriate means by which to share the experience with our fans.  This was, after all, something we decided to do for the fans as a kind of thank you.  An odd thank you to be sure.  And so we set about to subject ourselves to that which is the Human Centipede movie over here at the JediCole place. 

Rick: I arrived at the Casa de Cole and when I walk in, Mrs. JediCole busts out with this.

Cole: Mrs. JediCole had the good sense to opt out of the proceedings but did see to the camera for the host segments before, after, and in the middle.  At first the bacon lollipops seemed like they may well have been the hardest part of the mission we set for ourselves but thier strong maple and subtle bacon flavor turned out to be more palatable than expected.  Human Centipeded First Sequence was not as much so.  Though I must admit it had a number of things going for it that were also quite unexpected.  Not the least of which was the treatment of the procedure that created the hideous cinematic monstrosity presented in the story.  Had this been an American production I am sure the audience would have bene subjected to the minutuia of the surgical techniques employed.  Instead the potential for gore was kept to a minimum.  But I am getting a little ahead in the story.  I just wanted to applaud Tom Six for realizing that you can tell a compelling story of distasteful acts far more effectively through story craft than you can through graphic depictions. 

Rick: Indeed. I too have to give kudos to Tom Six as well for mercifully shying away from the excessive gore that would have been potential in an American production of the film.

Cole: For those unfamiliar with Human Centipede, the story revolves around the mad scheme of a once brilliant surgeon most noted for his separation of Siamese twins.  It seems that in his old age this hideous clone of Buster Keaton decided as a change of pace he would attempt to perfect surgical techniques that would have the opposite effect.  Though he chose to pursue this in a most unorthodox way, creating a kind of Siamese triplet that Nature would never have stumbled upon even on her worst day!  And if you have not yet worked out the particulars of what makes a human centipede it really comes down to the unlikely scenario of lining up three people and connecting one to the other by surgically joining them ass to mouth.  There simply is no other way to describe the required configuration.  Why anyone would think in the wildest throes of madness that this would be a good idea is beyond me.

But really checking your logic at the door is a requirement for this film.  The suspension of disbelief is stretched to nearly the breaking point for even the most willing to give artistic license.  The whole concept is laughable to anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of physiology, medicine, or biology knows how patently impossible it would be to achieve such a creation even for a brief period of time.  It is simply unworkable.  But if you let that have a pass you can enjoy this film.  Well, enjoy it as much as one might.  It is Human Centipede after all!  And as we said in the USG TV segment it was the MST3K style riffing that made it a much better experience.  Taken as itself it is probably a fairly decent film in the modern horror genre, though it does tend to gloss over things for time and leave you wondering how some things were even feasable (like getting the completed centipede-thing upstairs from the basement).  Probably not the best of this type of film, but a serviceable effort none the less.  At times it brilliantly conveys the sense of ordeal that the plot demands while at others the fate of the three victims seems more of an inconvenience to them.  If this is meant to be hopeless resignation to their dire circumstances it is poorly conveyed at best. 

Rick:  I think the first thing that I should say at this particular juncture is that I didn't hate the movie at all.  In fact, despite the flaws that my cohort listed above, I did find THC to be a fairly decent horror film.  One of the keys to horror, especially when doing something that has the potential to be as graphic as this, is subtlety and Tom Six was able to speak volumes with the subtlety that he displayed in certain scenes.  The scenes that you wind up dreading the most (e.g.: The surgery, the first "meal", etc.) are conveyed so well that you are more grossed out at the what the characters are going through which is conveyed brilliantly for the most part through their eyes. (Particularly with the two female leads being segments b and c.)  This is a tough job for any actor to go through what these three went through and the hard work definitely pays off.

Before I get to them though, I have to talk about Dieter Laser, who played the mad scientist with such ghoulish presence and delight that his performance was one of the high points of the movie for me at least.  He was quite an inspired choice for the doctor and he is just creepy.  The two female leads played by Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie are both very good and they have, I feel, the hardest roles in the movie because post surgery, they are forced to act using only their eyes and whatever other devices they have at their disposal.  Prior to that, Williams gets the heavy lifting acting wise and she is quite good at what she does.  Akihiro Kitamura is the first segment and he has a tough role as well because his entire dialogue is in Japanese.  The acting in the movie for the most part is definitely not the worst thing about. it.

Cole: Rick brings up some good points about this film on a whole.  It is well acted.  Especially for a film with such distasteful concepts throughout.  The female leads do in fact have the toughest roles of the entire cast post surgery and show they are far more capable of conveying the hopeless dread of thier situation than they were at making worthwhile characters of the girls before they were victimized.  Could this have been meant to be a nod to the typical vacuous chippie who falls victim to psychopatic marauders in slasher films or just a kind of glossing over the characters as non-entities by director and actor until such time as we reach the point where they need to truly shine.  It is difficult to say.  If nothing else these ladies proved they have what it takes when electing for a role that required a lot of non-spoken emotion conveyed not only in the eyes but through movement and the means by which the friends attempt to comfort one another despite their impossible new circumstances.  And as Rick pointed out, Kitamura's role was no less demanding as he had to convey not only the personal anger and fear and the gamut of emotions on the part of his character but also the recognition of the fact that his fate is inexorably linked to his fellow sufferers.  And no, there was no pun intended there.

These elements are vitally important to the story as it progresses.  Dr. Heiter not only creates his monsterous construct using his unwilling victims but then proceeds to humiliate the trio at every turn.  He takes particular pride in his work and a veiled joy in their constant suffering.  In his madness he swings from something akin to the reserved compassion one might have when imagining the fate of a calf slaughtered for veal while enjoying a tasty cutlet of its flesh during a romantic dinner out to a brand of fierce cruelty that would make many a contemporary horror villain blush.  Through it all Williams and Yennie have the unsavory task of delivering compelling performances while in the most uncompromising positions, topless and spending their shooting days in intimate proximity to their co-stars posteriors.  I could not help but imagine what a grueling shoot this must have been for all of them and yet somehow it was done.

I would also like to take a moment to point out one of the aspects of the story that becomes a singluar stroke of brilliance.  That of the Japanese tourist who becomes the lead segment of the madman's human centipede.  By having a non-English speaking character it is conveyed that only the audience know his thoughts.  There is no evidence to suggest that Heiter has the slightest knowledge of the man's language.  He appears to listen intendly to his victim yet clearly illustrates that he would be as capable of translating the barking of his late uber hound as the protests, threats, and pleas of his male victim.  In this the writer shows that he truly understands how to isolate the entire trio.  The girls are rendered incapable of speech by their placement in the sequence and the man, though quite vocal, ultimately has no voice.  He is heard but not understood by either his captors or his companions in torture.  It is only through strength of will that the three find a common language and silently conspire to seek their salvation at every opportunity.

This fact and the blunt force trauma that is the ending of the film are the strength, the backbone of what could easily have been a pointless exercise in shock cinema. 

Rick: Oh, no doubt.  We were yukking it up all throughout the movie only to reach a point where not even our humor could penetrate the overall bleakness of the proceedings.  I mean it went to a whole other level of effed up that I can't even begin to cover.  That ending (and I won't say what it is that happens in case you decide to see this movie.) is one of the biggest punches to the gut that I have experienced in a movie ever.  Let's just say, it definitely does not end happy.  There is simply no way that movie could end happy.  It's just not possible.  Tom Six and crew have made a movie that is hard to watch, and yet absolutely fascinating in execution.

Six has announced that he will be doing a sequel where it will be TWELVE people as the Human Centipede instead of three as depicted in the first movie.  I am not certain if he will be going for the same serious turn or if he will in fact be going for a more humorous slant in the sequel.  I am inclined to believe that this will be the case because I just don't see the sequel exceeding the lengths of depravity that this first film achieved without going a little (if not a lot) over the top.  Ironically enough. This first Human Centipede movie was billed as 100% medically accurate.  Tom Six actually approached a doctor with this and asked about its feasibility and was told that it could be entirely possible with the proper equipment and IV sustenance.  The sequel is already being billed as 100% medically INaccurate, which implies already that this will be a more humorous (if not grosser) take on things.  Having said, that, I know that a lot of critics did not like this movie but I will say I found it to be truly horrifying and pretty damn scary.  I can recommend this movie on a marginal basis.  It is definitely NOT for everybody but it is pretty good horror.

Cole: In closing I will again reitrate what we said in our video segment, it helps to laugh at the movie. And it lends itself perfectly to being thusly rediculed. From Dr. Heiter's apparant exhaustion at the act of serving glasses of water to his guests to the it-would-be-comical-if-it-were'nt-so-tragicly-grotesque human centipede itself there were plenty of opportunites to inject a bit of funny into the mix. Even one of the more gruesome scenes led to a joke about cashing in with the Tooth Fairy on my part! Just be prepared to shut your laughin' boy mouth when you reach the conclusion.

As for the medical accuracy of the procedure involved, it has been called into question. While the techniques employed to create the monstrosity are reasonably sound, you don't need a medical background to extrapolate the minimal chance of recovery from such an opperation much less even short term survival of the subjects. That said, I find myself intrigued by the possibility of Tom Six's projected Human Centipede Full Sequence. If played for laughs as Rick suggests I see it as the deformed step-child of Young Frankenstein! Now stick with us a little longer. We've added a "Position C" to this review just below:

Bonus Review!
Man Bait Maple Bacon Lollipops
Das Foods; Chicago, IL
8g/.3oz, 30 calories, 0g fat, 7g total carbohydrate, 0g protein
Ingredients: sugar, rice syrup, bacon bits, salt, natural smoke flavor, natural bacon flavor, natural maple flavor

Cole: I first encountered these unusual lollipops at Candylicious in Houston, TX earlier this year. The flavor seemed novel enough to act as a “dare” kind of confection and far more likely to get eaten than the suckers with a cricket, meal worm, or scorpion embedded inside. I picked a couple up with the intention of using them as some kind of challenge for Rick and myself and they remained in a dresser drawer until the night of our Human Centipede screening.

First Impressions: Apart from the obvious curiosity factor in a bacon-flavored candy there was really nothing that struck me about these until the night we tried them. Rick pointed out that the packaging (a combination of the wrapper and the logo) made them look like a condom. Upon opening the thing that impression was underscored further by the depression in the center of the candy and its palled color. The speckles of bacon bits did not help in the least.

If anything, upon opening the candy I was personally at a loss as to how I would muster the fortitude to actually taste the thing. The pale surface, spangled as it was with red/pink chips meant to invoke bacon had the effect of reminding me of the crockery container of semi-congealed bacon fat that resided on my grandmother’s stove top as far back as I could recall. Who saves that stuff? Rick can attest that as I got the DVD loaded up and we awaited the “Coming Soon” trailers ending so we could watch this movie I held the open lollipop in my teeth by the end of the stick. I was keeping that thing as far from my mouth as possible for as long as I could.

The Tasting: Then came the inevitable point of suffering. Both from watching the movie before us and in having to taste the hideous candy in my hand. I was fully expecting an overwhelming smokey bacon flavor explosion that would be at once tantalizing and disgusting. Instead the initial sensation is more of a muted maple flavor with an even more subtle hint of bacon. The essence is certainly there but the hardcore flavor of bacon was lacking. Equally understated was the sweetness of the candy. It was not the kind of concentrated sweet you get from a Charms Lollipop or a Tootsie Roll Pop.

It had the same subtlety of sweetness that it had of flavor. In the end it was surprisingly good, if a little unsatisfying. And then only from the standpoint of not having the distasteful quality I had in mind when folding it into the mix of movie and odd candy. I had in mind something like the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans marketed by Jelly Belly a few years back or some of the odd candies offered by Archie McPhee. In researching this candy for the article I found that what I thought was a novelty like bug-filled lollipops was in fact made by a company known for gourmet salts and caramels. This candy is actually meant to taste good! Yet another surprise from the night of the human centipede!

Rick:  Wait, the maple bacon lollipop was MEANT to  taste good?!? Holy crap, then they most definitely succeeded!  The flavor was subtle, and despite its gross appearance, it was deceptively delicious!  I liked the maple bacon lollipop SO much in fact that when I finished it, I told Cole, that the next time he and Catherine were to go to Houston, they would have to procure more because those assumingly beastly things were anything but!  Seriously, they are really that good.

Final Verdict:
Human Centipede: 4 out of 5
Man Bait Maple Bacon Lollipops: 5 out of 5


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