The Human Centipede's Delicate Touch

Slate's Culture Blog
April 30 2010 11:25 AM

The Human Centipede's Delicate Touch

I know you've heard about it: The Dutch indie horror flick about a deranged plastic surgeon who sews people together, top-to-bottom , in an effort to create a human triplet with a continuous digestive tract. Yesterday, the Vulture blog offered a guide for how to watch the movie without throwing up . New York film critic David Edelstein called it a "monstrosity" and " torture porn ."

Does The Human Centipede tell the story of a man who tortures his victims in the basement of a secluded house? Yes. Does the head of the centipede confess, at one point, that he has to go to the bathroom?  Uh-huh. And does the evil surgeon respond by throwing up his hands, and crying, "FEED HER!  FEED HER!"?  Sure.  But to call the movie torture porn goes a step too far. For a movie about three people sewn together mouth-to-anus, The Human Centipede is surprisingly restrained.

The film has less nauseous gore than you'd find in many mainstream American horror movies, and what scares there are tend to be of the who's-behind-that-door variety. (There's more crying and whimpering than on-screen disembowelment.) The crux of the story that biological interface between one victim and the next is never shown on-screen.

All this may sound like cold comfort, but seriously consider how director Tom Six compares to his fellow horror auteurs. The sadism of splat-packers like Eli Roth, James Wan, and Darren Lynn Bousman far exceeds anything on display in The Human Centipede .

Let's put things in perspective: Six's monstrous film opens today in exactly one theater . Meanwhile, here's a sampling of the genuine torture porn that turns up on a regular basis in suburban multiplexes around the nation:

/blogs/browbeat/2010/04/30/the_human_centipede_s_delicate_touch/jcr:content/body/slate_image

In Hostel , a man is handcuffed to a chair while someone puts holes in him with a power drill. Later a young woman's eyeball gets burned out of her head with a blowtorch, and snipped off with a pair of scissors . Goo dribbles out. (2,300 theaters; $80 million.)

Advertisement

In Saw , Cary Elwes is shown cutting off his own foot with a rusty hacksaw. (2,500 theaters; $100 million.)

In Saw II , a victim must tear a dozen metal rings from his own flesh, one by one, in order to escape a trap. (3,000 theaters; $150 million.)

I won't say The Human Centipede is a good movie. But next to films like these, it's a stone cold masterpiece.

 

Daniel Engber is a columnist for Slate

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.