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The Human Centipede (Blu-ray Review)

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)…I can’t tell you how much I looked forward to seeing this once I found out about this film’s moniker, “100% medically accurate,” earlier in the year while attending a bi-annual horror convention, Cinema Wasteland, in Cleveland, OH.  When I heard how bad this movie grossed out even the most die-hard of horror and slasher fans alike, I knew I had to check it out and get a closer look for myself.  So once I found out that it was available on VOD, my cheap a$$ wasted no time in checking this out (even though my cable provider broadcasts it in only 2.0 sound). So the six million dollar question was, did it live up to its expectations?  Now that the IFC film is making its Blu-ray debut, there’s no better time to “dissect” and explore that question in greater detail.

Film  

The Human Centipede is a Dutch horror film written and directed by Tom Six.  It stars Dieter Laser (this guy is guaranteed to creep you out…talk about perfect casting), Ashley C. Williams (not bad herself), Ashlynn Yennie and Akihiro Kitamura.  Simply put the film tells the story of a German doctor who kidnaps tourists and surgically experiments on them to form his ultimate dream creation, a “human centipede,” connected mouth to anus (gulp).  But we will talk more about that in greater detail later on.  The bigger question is how did the man ever come up with a sick, but brilliant idea like this?  That’s what I wanted to know.

According to the mad scientist, Tom Six, the concept of the film arose from a joke he made with friends about punishing child molesters.  His idea was to stitch their mouth to the anus of a fat truck driver.  I know, sick, but just, right?  Supposedly, upon inception of this film Six has said that a surgeon assisted him with the design of the medical procedure and that the film is “100% medically accurate.”  Medical and critical debates still ensue to this day on whether this is true or not.  But who cares, really?  The sick truth is that us horror fans eat this sh!t up and Six, a brilliant man, knows that.

The film made its debut at various international film festivals and received mixed reviews.  The film eventually saw a limited U.S. theatrical release in late April, as well as on VOD.  And get this; Tom Six immediately began working on a sequel, The Human Centipede (Full Sequence), which is supposed to be released in 2011.  Gutsy?  Yes it is.  Was it the right move on his part?  I believe so.  But again, I will tackle that topic a little bit later on in the review.  For now, let’s get into what The Human Centipede (First Sequence), the Blu-ray we are all here to discuss, is really about.  Sound like a plan?  Great!  Teamwork…that’s what it’s all about.

So imagine you are a tourist in a strange land and you knock on some psychotic man’s door.  He asks you if you would like some water.  You are parched so naturally, you say yes.  Thank you very much.  That’s all Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) needed to do to drug you.  Congratulations, you are now his prisoner.

Two US tourists, Lindsay (Williams) and Jenny (Yennie), wakeup in Dr. Heiter’s makeshift hospital in his basement and surprise, there’s a bonus Asian captive named Katsuro (Kitamura).  Now alert and coherent, the captured tourists get a little biology lesson from the doctor.  He goes on to explain how he is a world-renowned expert at separating conjoined twins, although you could have probably already guessed that by the artwork upstairs.  Anyway, he shares his dream of making a creature that shares a single digestive system by joining separate individuals via their mouths and anuses, “the human centipede, as he lovingly refers to it.  He even goes on to show how the process is possible in a most elementary-like fashion with low budget animation, much like the filmstrips you would have watched in grade school.

Flash forward to a successful surgery and Dr. Heiter has his prized pet that he can now teach how to play fetch amongst other tricks.  But wait!  There’s that pesky Asian guy at the front of “the human centipede” that just doesn’t want to cooperate.  And to make matters worse, he must have had his Kaishi that day because he chooses to pass a stool sample that Lindsay is forced to swallow.  Okay, yeah, here’s where I am going to lose a lot of people, huh?  Sick, huh?  Of course it is.  Is it explicatively shown?  No, it is not.  But it’s the implicitly here that’s grosser than just about anything you have ever seen on the screen.  This is breaking point that divides the horror fans.  How much can they take?  What is their threshold?  They can watch people get killed “99 Ways” (my little tribute to Mustaine), but one poop scene and you segregate half your audience.  This is the beauty of The Human Centipede.  It knows how to push the boundaries, but it does so through more simpler and implicit ways than you would expect it to.

So where’s this all going?  Eventually the lead characters are going to die from malnutrition or the doctor is going to get caught, right?  Heck, I would probably die right then and there if someone sh@t in my mouth.  Wouldn’t you?  Well you can be pissed at me all you want, but I am not going to tell you because I want you to see this one for yourself.

I will tell you this, however.  Dieter Laser’s portrayal of Dr. Heiter is P-E-R-F-E-C-T.  I could not imagine another actor even trying.  In fact, his performance creeped me out more than the actual acts being conducted in the movie ever did.  It is even documented out there that Laser stayed in character as Dr. Heiter throughout filming and he stayed away from the actors.  It’s also said that he contributed his own dialog and selected many of his character’s outfits from his own personal clothing.

So imagine having to spend day in and day out on your hands and knees during the majority of the shoot.  That would not be a preference of mine, but I guess it’s better than standing all of the time, no?  Needless to say the three actors playing the centipede were all given massages at the end of each day of filming.  I guess that’s the least they can do for them, right?  It’s rumored that during the casting process, a lot of actresses walked out of readings with disgust after learning what’s truly involved with taking the role.  Hmm…imagine that.

So as I said before, the beautiful part of The Human Centipede is that it contains very little explicit imagery, but rather much of the disturbing subject matter is implied rather than shown.  Heck, it kind of sounds weird hearing me use the word “beautiful” in this review, doesn’t it?  Well like I also said above, a sequel to the film is inevitable.  Supposedly, Full Sequence will have a centipede composed of twelve people.  Six is also said to be tinkering on ideas for a third film, but I think he should realistically just focus on making part two the best he can.  I’m interested to see where he takes this next outing, very interested.  But until then, let’s focus on the surgery at hand and dissect the Blu-ray vitals of The Human Centipede (First Sequence), shall we?

Video  

If there is a bright ray of sunshine to be found within this Blu-ray release, then it is the disc’s gorgeous video presentation.  I kid you not about that.  The AVC MPEG-4 encoded video fills your entire HDTV screen with a vivacious 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Want to talk about a “Blu” moment?  Check out the film’s opening scene on the Blu-ray.  The wide landscape scene of the highway with the opening title credits is vast and incredible.  The colors are all vivid and the detail is razor sharp, most of the times.  The Human Centipede may not be the reason I bought into Blu-ray, but the video here sure is.  The skin tones all appear normal with nothing out of whack.  And believe me, you see a lot of skin.  Want to talk about black levels?  You really need to take a gander at these.  For a low budget independent release, these black levels are insane.  I meant that in a very good way.  They are ridiculously deep.  Take the night driving scenes for example.  The terrain is well lit and the black levels stay consistently deep throughout and not once are they ever littered with grain like what was problematic for that pesky Descent Blu-ray release several years back.  Heck, you can even see the green chlorophyll in the bushes, shrub and tree leaves.  That’s not to say that there are not a few problematic areas, but there’s really nothing of grave concern.  Detail and textures are impeccable in the close-ups.  Depending on what scene you are talking about, this may or may not be to your liking (i.e. the stitches in the face of beautiful Ashley C. Williams).  The money shots can be witnessed each and every time they are outside the Doctor’s house.  I certainly never expected the movie to look this good.

Audio

What happened here?  I want to know!  With a feature film that’s guaranteed to shock you and a video transfer that is nothing short of spectacular at times, how can the producers justify only a 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo track?  Seriously, what happened Mr. Six?  Are not all feature films mastered in 5.1 nowadays?  I thought I was transported back to the 80’s/90’s when I saw my receiver’s output.  I immediately thought something was wrong with my receiver so I jumped to the disc’s menus and could not believe my eyes.  There was no 5.1 surround track to be found, anywhere.  I could care less about a lossless track, but come on, no surround sound?  Ugh!  Luckily for the score and me, the dialog for the most part (there were a few screaming scenes that are the exception), was loud, clear and ultimately intelligible.  As bad I wanted to ding the audio score I could not for this.  Stereo effects all sounded nice, but obviously, I would have much-preferred things to be bumping and zinging around behind me.  There are both English and Spanish subtitles contained on the disc.  Hey, wonder why they did not include German?  Also, there is additional Dolby Digital 2.0 audio tracks in German and Korean.  I can’t help it, I just feel like saying, “Son, I disappoint.”

Special Features  

So where are we at now?  Is anyone keeping score?  We have a great flick, stellar video and a 1980’s soundtrack thus far?  So how are the Special Features you are probably all wondering?  Well, like my review of IFC’s The Killer Inside Me (see here), the special features here are nothing to write home about, but at least there is a little more to choose from.  However, I regret to inform you, the majority of them are in Standard Definition, with the exception of the film’s trailer.  Yea!  So what do you say we take a closer look at the sacrificial offerings below?

  • Deleted Scenes (SD) – You wanted it, you got it…a single deleted scene clocking in around 1:30 can be found here.  Wow!
  • Behind The Scenes Footage (SD) – Here we have a 9-minute look around the set and a brief interview with Laser.
  • An Interview with Tom Six (SD) _ Tom Six goes on record stating where he got his inspiration for making this film.  I kind of already discussed this above.
  • Casting (SD) – This 2-minute featurette is exactly what you think it would be.  Really, it’s not worth your time, in my opinion.
  • Foley Session (SD) – Here we have a near 5-minute look at the making of the film’s sound effects.
  • Feature-length Documentary with Tom Six (HD) – I’m happy they included this.  Actually, the inclusion of this “audio commentary” really saved my scoring system from bottoming out here.  Obviously, as controversial and graphic as this film is, it is interesting to hear Six’s take on everything.  Give this one a spin if you dare!

Final Thoughts  

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) comes out today, October 5th, on DVD and High-Definition Blu-ray.  Alright, so here’s the deal folks.  You either love this film or you don’t.  Yes, it is gross.  Yes, it is insane.  And yes, it is ridiculous, but why?  Is it because this stuff could actually happen in the real world?  Of course not, but that might not stop some sicko from actually trying something like this.  This is pure fiction ladies and gentleman.  It’s entertainment.  I just don’t get it.  When I told everybody I was reviewing this title they just looked at me like I was crazy.  Mind you, these are the same people who go and pay money to see people tortured in the Saw-like films.  What’s so crazy about this film?  Is it because it’s over-the-top?  Is it because it pushes the envelope?  Or is it because it is so brilliant that you are scared of actually liking it?  This Blu-ray is a mixed bag of goodies, but for fans of the film, like myself, there’s no better way to enjoy this feature than on the Blu-ray format with all its bountiful 2.0 lossy sound.  But please, don’t knock it before you try it.  Take a leap of faith and check out The Human Centipede on Blu-ray this Halloween season.  In my opinion, it is one of the most original ideas to hit the horror genre in recent years.  Now, if it just wasn’t for that darn 2.0 soundtrack.  Ha ha.  I can’t seem to get over that.  I mean this is The Human Centipede, not Bloodsport.  Intelligent comments are needed below.

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Bring home The Human Centipede today!

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

25 Responses to “The Human Centipede (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Take this as you will – just the concept of this movie literally makes me physically ill. I can give credit to the movie for that alone, but I still have no intention of watching it.

  2. Gerard Iribe

    I actually have the UK Steelbook coming.

  3. Brian

    @ Aaron…I’m going to kind of quote u on keeping an open mind like I read this morning in ur splice review. Can’t that pertain here, too? Quite honestly, that one scene in splice disturbs me much more than this film.

  4. Sean Ferguson

    I’m going to avoid this like the plague. I’m not a fan of horror movies to begin with but this recent trend of torture porn (I’m looking at you Saw and Hostel)and now this movie, is very disturbing. Just how far do filmmakers have to to go to satisfy the blood-lust of today’s moviegoers? This constant desire to be the most shocking horror movie is getting out of hand in my opinion.

  5. Gerard Iribe

    Never cared for the Hostel stuff, but love the Saw films. The first saw film was made for less than a million dollars and is one of the most successful horror franchises in history. The ROI is astounding for the Saw films.

    As far as The Human Centipede goes, I’m fascinated by the whole thing. The fact that they went ahead with it is gutsy and ballsy. I applaud that. The “second sequence” comes out next year. 🙂

  6. Sean Ferguson

    I never said these movies weren’t profitable. They obviously do well since there are like 7 or 8 Saw movies even though the dude died like 5 movies ago. It’ll be interesting how long that can milk that puppy. I guess if Jason and Freddy can go on forever, Saw can too but they there’s only so many ways you can torture people so eventually that will end too.

  7. Aaron Neuwirth

    @Brian, it’s tricky to not sound hypocritical here, but it’s the whole aspect of “3 people, 2 cups,” that makes me want to vomit. It’s something that could actually occur in a sense, over Splice which is Sci-Fi. Disgusting yes, but no one is passing excrement into mouths. Again, in my eyes, the film has already succeeded with me at having a desired effect, and I haven’t even seen it. That feels like a compliment…

    I dislike all of the Saw movies. The first was a neat concept, that didn’t quite get pulled off well. And then the rest…
    Hostel flicks I don’t mind as much, because they don’t take themselves seriously, although I’d like Eli Roth to actually direct something else, so he can justify having his name mean something when films announce – “Eli Roth Presents”

  8. Brian White

    I agree with Gerard. I just love these films. Of course I don’t approve of what they are doing in them (the wrongdoings), but I like the heroic aspect of the survivors (their plight from weak to strong) and from the law enforcement perspective, how they track these sick people down.

  9. Gregg

    I am strangely drawn to want to see this film, and yes, it must be gross. Netflix it is!

  10. Brian White

    Thanks for having an OPEN mind Gregg 🙂

    I’ll be interested to know what you think of it.

  11. Aaron Neuwirth

    Ok,if it goes on “watch instantly” and I have friends with me, I may consider this…

  12. Brian White

    Maybe we can all watch it when I’m out in LA later this month 🙂 I’ll pack the Blu-ray.

  13. Aaron Neuwirth

    Dear god, this is actually going to happen 🙁 … ;( … 😕

  14. Gerard Iribe

    I want a Human Centipede t-shirt.

  15. Brian White

    @Aaron… Ha ha!

    @Gerard..Awesome!

  16. Bob Ignizio

    I was actually surprised at how much fun this movie was. Sure it pushes some boundaries, but it’s not just about that. And I really appreciated the humor in the film. Can’t wait for the sequel.

  17. Gerard Iribe

    My UK Steelbook and T-shirt arrived today, therefore, I will watch this tonight with my Human Centipede t-shirt on.

    /fanboy

  18. Brian White

    Awesome G! Let me know what you think. The steelbook is still 2.0 audio, huh? 🙁

  19. Gerard Iribe

    Brian, it is.

    I was told that it’s technically lossless 2.0, so that will trump any basic stereo recording out there.

  20. Brian White

    I don’t know how you can praise 2.0 audio (in this day and age) no matter if it lossless or not, but anyway…how did you like the film?

  21. Gerard Iribe

    Just finished it. I thought it was pretty cool. Disturbing and fascinating, too. Yes, it was worth the purchase.

    Brian, maybe there wasn’t money to give it a full blown DTS lossless track? BTW, Criterion Collection release many films with 2.0, Mono, etc., tracks and all sound great, so I don’t know where your argument comes from. The new Grindhouse BD only has a basic 5.1 448 kbps track and all the fanboys are going crazy, because there’s no lossless track.

    There’s just no pleasing some people.

  22. Brian White

    Just sucks though. I did not buy all my fancy equipment to watch a 2010 Blu-ray release in 2.0. I’m fine with just a basic 5.1 mix. It doesn’t have to be lossless. Just give me something to work with.

  23. Gerard Iribe

    Well, if that’s what it was mixed in or shot naitively as, you have no choice. I’d go with the latter, that they just didn’t have the money to do a 5.1 mix. I think it comes down to post production dollars or the lack of.

  24. Brian White

    I will gladly give them some money to do the next film RIGHT.

  25. Gerard Iribe

    Well, the second film is already in post production.

    I thought this was going to be a trilogy, but looks like they’re going for the “full sequence” as part 2.

    *Possible Spoilers if you haven’t seen the first film:

    Teaser trailer – Human Centipede 2

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpmPJzLmGdI