The Human Centipede is a notoriously controversial film from Tom Six. It follows a group of three people who are surgically stitched together to create a living centipede joined by digestive tracts.
There are some films where you can just mention the title and everyone in the room begins to feel exceptionally uncomfortable and ready to leave; The Human Centipede is one of those films. From the moment the film was marketed to the masses, we all knew that it was going to cause an outrage amongst the cinema audience and divide critics of the horror genre on whether or not this is a film that should have been made. Director Tom Six relishes in the status of his stomach-churning films and loves the attention that was garnered through creating something so perturbed and disgusting that it was banned by the BBFC in the UK. So why are audiences so fascinated with this film? Even though many of us detest admitting to our sick curiosities, this film seems to be the ball of yarn that caused the kitten to discover the meaning of curiosity.
Released in 2009 to an inhibited and unsuspecting audience, The Human Centipede follows two girls who call upon an isolated house when their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. The German gentleman who provides them with shelter for the night doesn’t seem too strange, and the girls cannot be anything but grateful for the help that he has provided them. That is until they wake up in the morning to find themselves confined to a homemade basement hospital along with another man who looks just as horrified at the situation as they do. It is soon explained to the trio that they will become the first people to endure a sick and twisted surgery that not only defies logic but also hinders to the doctors psychotic perversion; he will stitch them together by their gastric system to create the very first human centipede…
The Human Centipede is a film that causes the audience to accept that they are ruled by their innermost curiosities about disgusting acts that shouldn’t even seem thinkable. One question that people often state is “How did someone even conceive such an idea as this?” and it’s a question that essentially helps to define the horror genre and how people see those who have a love of the genre. If you were forced to pen something on paper which were the most brutal and dehumanising story you could imagine, you would be able to push past your own personal boundaries and write something that would be in the contending for worse than Marquis De Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom. We often become fascinated with the fact that certain minds can come up with ideas that shouldn’t be fathomable, which is why The Human Centipede causes such a controversy and still sparks a debate to this day.
The concept that three people are transformed into a living breathing human centipede attached using their gastric systems is horrifying. What made this aspect seem more terrifying and shocking than anything else was that it was marketed as “100% medically accurate”, which forced those who could not even face the viewing experience to question the factuality of this statement and how research was conducted to come to understand that it was accurate. Of course these claims were dismissed by doctors and critics, but our attraction to this procedure that disgusted and repulsed us was almost unbearable. Three humans attached from mouth to anus in order to share one digestive tract from the moment of food consumption to the moment of bodily fluid excretions… The moment in the film that seems to shock the audience the most and cause outrage is the unveiling of the centipede itself, and subsequently the desecration acts that have to happen in order for the centipede to survive against the conditions that it most likely shouldn’t. It was condemned by critics for providing the audience with no substance, and only shock value, which is exactly the type of reaction that Six was hoping to evoke in anyone that would go near it.
As humans, we are drawn to everything we shouldn’t be drawn to; from a young age we will poke at dead worms, touch everything our parents tell us not to and secretly watch films that are regarded as too disgusting for anyone. Anything considered slightly controversial draws on our subconscious want to peek through the cracks and see something that we shouldn’t and then reel in disgust and reiterate how much it repels us to prove that we have the morals society demands of us. Even though there are many horror audiences who do find enjoyment from watching The Human Centipede, we will also exclaim that we dislike the subject matter and find the concept of what is happening to the victims somewhat stomach churning, because otherwise we would be demonised. However, even audiences that haven’t witnessed the full film, have sought out the trailer, read the entire plot on wikipedia and left reviews on IMDb just to note how sickened they are by the thought of the film and how no-one should ever go near it. This proves that even though some may not psychically watch the entire film, there is still some morbid curiosity around it that cannot be diminished.
The Human Centipede creator Tom Six went on the use the blasphemy against his movie to fuel two others, with the sequel being more horrific and extreme than the first ever was. The second film is almost a middle finger to those that continue to throw insults at Six’s masterpiece of boundary pushing artistry by making it a homage to his first with the main character being a THC fanatic and using it as his sexual fantasy. Even though the second film was banned in multiple countries and again condemned by critics and audiences alike, it seems that Six wanted to cause another wave of controversial outcries and present a film that is mocking his first in some ways. The second film in the trilogy pushes the boundaries that people are comfortable with even more so, and includes depictions of masturbation using sandpaper as a lubricant, sodomy with barbed wire and a scene with a newborn baby that resonates with the awful tones shown in A Serbian Film.
The way the human mind words will forever be debated and therefore we cannot completely ascertain why we are drawn to films such as The Human Centipede. We can only conclude that it perhaps stems from curiosity and our yearning to understand why certain people do certain things. We have this ongoing infatuation with everything that we shouldn’t because it’s just in our natural instincts to need to know about the horrible things that could happen. Tom Six will continue to deliver his twisted visions that come from a place of unimaginable horror, and the audience will continue to outcry at what a sick mind he is, yet still be fascinated by the concepts that he gives us.