Appreciating The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

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Courtesy of Bounty Films

Why is The Human Centipede (First Sequence) not considered a critically acclaimed masterpiece? I would say, quite simply, that it was created at the wrong time and place.

Had it been made, say, 40 years ago, it would probably be considered a transcendent piece of shock cinema. However, the cultural climate of today renders it absolutely nothing but a joke. It seems nothing is shocking in today’s world, and nothing seems as impactful as it used to be.

It’s not like The Human Centipede is a particularly stupid movie. In fact, it’s surprisingly well done, for what it is. Perhaps what’s more surprising is what it isn’t.

It is not an easily categorized horror film, being fairly complex and nuanced (though many wouldn’t pick up on that). It is most certainly in the horror genre, but the villain is not what we’ve come to expect. It is a mad scientist who has totally lost his humanity, but the story offers none of the cheap moralizing one might expect from other movies.

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The Human Centipede is open ended. The sadistic motive of Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) almost does not matter. He is like a Nazi, sure, but we can only guess as to his own motives. The focus is almost solely on what he does, rather than why he might do it. That is perhaps the most shocking aspect of the movie.

The creation of a human centipede may be a gimmick, but it seemingly belongs to the character Dr. Heiter, rather than the studio which made the movie. The sick Doctor has a life of his own, which does not always happen in a story. When watching a movie or reading a book, I am often thinking about the author or director’s visions. This time, however, I was contemplating Dr. Heiter’s next moves.

In other words, I was more interested in the story. That’s interesting. I was under the assumption there wasn’t even a story here. There is, but it’s not easily told or understood. This makes this movie shockingly realistic.

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In reality, we rarely understand why people do strange and terrible things. There is no simple, convenient explanation to latch onto. Or, if we examine them thoroughly, a more complex puzzle emerges. Ultimately, we just hope these things don’t happen to us (and we know, deep down inside, that they actually could).