I’m starting this new series of reviews on my website: once a month, we’ll explore together the borders of horror through some of the most outstanding examples of international extreme horror cinema. It goes without saying: this series is not for the faint of heart!
Despite people usually not reading the introduction to this kind of articles, I do need to explain the criteria behind this new series. Basically, I decided to delve into some of the titles that are considered utterly disturbing or extreme within our beloved genre. In order to do so, I will focus on one specific topic every month, most of the times covering films that are generally considered infamous by people. It means that only 2-3 out of the articles I will write this year are based on my personal opinion: since I planned only a couple of the next instalments in this series yet, please give me some suggestions – if you like – and tell me what depraved films I should cover.
Before we start, let me just make clear that I will not rate the movies in this series according to my usual scale, which is based – of course – on how good a movie objectively is. Here, I’ll give a grade at the end (from 1 to 10 out of 10) purely based on how extreme and effective the film is in that department. So, if you also want to know whether the film I’m reviewing is genuinely good (not just disturbing) or not, you’d have to read the full article: bummer, am I right?
Let’s start this adventure with a rather popular – in certain circles, that is – trilogy, which gained an infamous reputation over the years. The Human Centipede: The Complete Sequence.
THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE: FIRST SEQUENCE (2009) – In 2009, seemingly out of nowhere, Dutch filmmaker Tom Six created this movie that soon was labelled as one of the most disturbing films ever made. Does this movie deserve such a reputation, though? The Human Centipede starts off as your average horror flick, with a car breaking down in nameless German woods and two American girls seeking shelter in a house nearby. The morning after, they find themselves trapped in a basement, where a former surgeon tells them how he plans to attach them – and a Japanese tourist he kidnapped previously – mouth-to-anus.
The premise sounds pretty intense and, indeed, extreme. In fact, when I watched this movie for the first time (and I knew what was going to happen), I went in it tense like the shirt of a speed eater. However, if you think about it, The Human Centipede never gets as graphic or extreme as the idea it’s based on.
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Sure, this is not your thirteen-in-a-dozen PG horror flick, but the graphic depiction of the operation and the way the three miserable victims react to it is never as over-the-top or disturbing as the concept itself. In actuality, The Human Centipede is – in my opinion – a good, entry level extreme horror film: it’s no Serbian Film or Angels’ Melancholy, but it’s quite out there compared to more popular torture-porn flicks a la Saw (2004) and Hostel (2006).
When judging it as a real movie, the First Sequence is rather average but enjoyable: the acting ranges from decent to silly, the characters are hollow but not unlikeable, the cinematography is claustrophobic and anxiety-inducing at times but can be plain and uninteresting in other scenes.
If you’re looking for an entry-level experience with extreme horror, The Human Centipede can be a good way to start, also because the movie is rather enjoyable as a horror flick, with its clichés and conventions that should make you comfortable in familiarity.
The Human Centipede: First Sequence 5.5/10
THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II: FULL SEQUENCE (2011) – the Full Sequence is quite a different story. In this movie, the original The Human Centipede is only just a film that tickled the sick fantasy of Martin, a very disturbed person who wants to create an actual human centipede with 12 people involved. This film truly deserves a place on an ‘extreme horror’ catalogue: shot in black&white, giving the whole picture a nihilistic and bleak feel, The Human Centipede II is the type of deranged shocker that doesn’t shy away from showing a fat man raping a girl with barb wire around his penis. Yes, if this sound too much for you, then maybe you should avoid a movie filled with similar scenes, such as this one.
Unlike the original, however, in The Human Centipede II Tom Six’s only concern is to make an extremely graphic and sick collage of depraved scenes: the story is non-existent, the acting (aside from Laurence Harvey, who plays Martin) is worthless, and the technical features are just there to provide a frame to all this sickness and depravity.
As a movie, the Full Sequence is pretty much pure schlock. As an example of extreme horror, though, it’s very affective, mean-spirited and nasty. However, after the first 45-50 minutes, I started to experience all the violence and gore as too over-the-top to be disturbing: it became almost ridiculous. If you check the special features in this box-set (click on the image below), you’ll see that Tom Six intended this film as a very dark comedy! What a peculiar guy, am I right?
Overall, The Human Centipede II is a truly extreme example of horror cinema, a film that pushes boundaries and definitely the most disturbing in the trilogy.
The Human Centipede II: Full Sequence 8/10
THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE III: FINAL SEQUENCE (2015) – when this movie came out, I was kind of scared to watch it: if it was more extreme than the Full Sequence, it might have been too much for me to handle.
However, I watched it and found out it was a horror-comedy… but an atrociously bad one. Written and directed, once again, by Tom Six, the Final Sequence takes place in a prison where the warden looks to create a 500-person human centipede as a solution to his problems. Here, the premise doesn’t sound extreme anymore: it sounds dumb. And the movie is, indeed, very dumb.
The two actors who played the villains in, respectively, the original and its sequel are back here and team up to create this huge centipede made of prisoners. However, none of the scenes depicted here are disturbing, even in the slightest. There are a few disgusting sequences, but they make the movie even more unwatchable. Also, the practical effects in the first two movies are replaced by either unconvincing makeup or low-budget, abysmal CGI that, due to the low budget, looks fake as whole hell.
Does it work as a comedy, though? Short answer: nope. This is a painfully unfunny movie, with loads of screaming that just becomes annoying and unbearable after the first 10 minutes. Yet, the Final Sequence has the longest runtime out of the three instalments, which makes such a painful viewing experience even more hard to get through.
Often regarded as one of the worst horror movies of the last decade, The Human Centipede III is truly an endurance test: not because it’s extreme, but because it’s extremely annoying, stupid, unfunny and wrenched.
The Human Centipede III: Final Sequence 2/10
A quick recap: if you want to explore the world of extreme horror, the 2009 Human Centipede is a good starting point. The movie if entertaining, albeit not very well made, and it benefits from a combination of conventional horror elements and seeds of disturbing cinema. The Human Centipede II is, instead, a true example of extreme horror, where both the concept and its execution will most likely leave you with a nasty feel. Watch it only if you either want to test your limits or are already used to extreme horror flicks. The Final Sequence is pure crap (I’m such a professional critic, don’t you think?): don’t watch it.
What movies would you like to see covered in this series? What did you think of this first part? Let me know in the comments!
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