Denouement: The Profound Dismay of Watching ‘Human Centipede (Full Sequence)’


It's strange to think about it, now that I've seen "The Human Centipede (Full Sequence)," but there really was a time when the "Human Centipede" enterprise felt almost whimsical. The whole business had a satirical, almost cute bent to it; it was an ironic commentary on the torture porn genre and thus itself. You think Rube Goldberg contraptions and "Hostel" are gross?Try THIS! This is the craziest thing we could think of! The concept was so absurd that it felt like an in-joke: Sewing mouths to anuses to make a centipede: Sure! I've always always thought Dieter Laser helped "Human Centipede" seem almost legit. He was such a parody of this type of movie, and himself -- that name! -- that it gave "Human Centipede" a certain faint respectability. This wasn't no Uwe Boll. This was trash, but it was smart about it.

Thus: Musicals! "South Park" jokes! Porn parodies! It was all in good fun. We all had a grand laugh.

And then "The Human Centipede (Full Sequence)" came out.

Now, I am not going to get into particulars here, so let me just say this: "The Human Centipede (Full Sequence)" is the most useless movie I've ever seen. I don't mean that it's the most disgusting. (Though it might be.) I don't mean that it's the most offensive I've ever seen. (It isn't.) I mean that there is no reason for it to exist. Now, that's fine: Lots of movies have no reason to exist. (Like, for example, almost all of them.) But this movie came about because of the unlikely "success" of the first film -- and I use "success" lightly; "The Big Year," the biggest flop of the last six months, made more money in its horrid opening weekend than the "Human Centipede" movies can even fathom -- which means that, theoretically, it should build on the "success" of that film, cater to that audience, or at least acknowledge them. That's why any of us know who in the world Tom Six is. It's the only reason for any of this.

After seeing "The Human Centipede (Full Sequence)" -- and I really did watch the whole thing, because I am an extremely stupid person -- I can report that Tom Six is either: a) completely uncomprehending of why anyone cared about "Human Centipede" in the first place; b) a raging psychopath; or c) both. Now, I know how that sounds. That sounds good, right? Our cultural discourse has regressed to the point that calling someone a "psychopath" is somehow a compliment: Dude that film is psychotic. But seriously: Tom Six needs serious help, and I'm not saying that in a positive way, I mean he needs help, I mean someone needs to help him.

I am not going to recount the witless grotesqueries of "The Human Centipede (Full Sequence)" other than to say that the film that contains them does not know the power of them: It treats them the way a four-year-old might treat a loaded bazooka. And at least a four-year-old might eventually find the trigger. I was initially impressed by Six's eye for composition in the first film; the man knew where to put his camera, no matter what he was recording. That skill appears to have left him here, to the point that I almost wonder if the guy from the first film was even on set. The "gross" scenes in "Human Centipede" are indeed gross, but lacking in even the slightest secondary thought; Six came up with a repulsive thing to happen, he filmed it (unconvincingly; Six lacks the skill to make any violence stick past the "oh, so that's freaking nasty" initial reaction), and then he came up with another one and filmed that. These aren't even particularly inventive disgusting things: If you gave a 15-year-old boy a couple of hours to come up with the most disgusting permutations on 12 people sewed together mouth-to-anus, this is pretty much what he'd come up with. It's really just the surface level. That's it. There's nothing happening.

The early numbers on "(Full Sequence)" have been impressive, but they're gonna fall immediately, and I'd say the odds are excellent this is the last we'll ever hear of Tom Six. There's no wizard behind the curtain and there is no trick. It's just a guy who stumbled into one small cultural moment -- one that's smaller than he realizes, one that only seems bigger because the Internet makes everything seem bigger while actually shrinking everything -- and tried to capitalize on it in the only way he knew how: by excreting on it. I know now that's what Six is. I feel kind of stupid for thinking otherwise.

But I did sit through this entire movie and didn't look away once, no matter how much I wanted to get up and walk out of the room. I feel like I owe every movie that. I bet I'm one of two percent of moviegoers to afford Six that privilege. I suppose, at this point, that almost makes me one of his biggest fans.