My Attempt to Explain the Horror that is The Human Centipede
Though I am repulsed, sickened and downright disturbed by what writer and director Tom Six has created, I am also fairly impressed by how this film has gotten under my skin. The answer to why that is lies in the film’s exploration of surgical de-evolution and its echoes of Nazi medical crimes during the Holocaust.
The Human Centipede plays with fears of species de-evolution as Dr. Heiter turns three individual human beings into a single deformed insect. Back in the day, Victorian scientists believed that the newly theorized process of evolution could also run backwards, and racial mixing in England’s imperial holdings abroad could lead to the downfall of the superior Anglo Saxon race. The concept of interspecies mixing is the same idea that inspires horror in House of a Thousand Corpses, when Otis turns the unfortunate Bill into the sideshow attraction “Fish Boy,” fusing Bill’s corpse with fish parts.
While this curious marriage of animal and human aspects has been the staple of sideshows for years--oddities like the wolf boy, elephant man and the camel girl both delight and horrify onlookers with bodies that violate the border between man and beast--that the border crossing taking place in the Human Centipede is surgically constructed is particularly horrifying because it presents the possibility for all “normal” human beings to be reduced to physical freakery.
The fact that the deranged Dr. Heiter is a German physician also taps into the history of Nazi medical atrocities during the Holocaust. Josef Mengele, popularly known was the Angel of Death, was a Nazi doctor who, from 1943-1944, performed experiments on sets of twins at Auschwitz. Mengele was intrigued by the supposed mind connection that is rumored to exist between twins, and performed dissections, injected chemicals into the eyes of twins to turn them blue, and even sewed some sets of twins together in an effort to create artificial Siamese twins. This last horrific experiment has the most resonance for Six’s film, as Dr. Heiter has spent a lifetime separating Siamese twins, and now wants to a create a new life form via surgical intervention. Six even confesses in an interview with Capone of Ain’t It Cool News that his “absolute nightmare would be being operated on by Nazi doctors”
Despite my initial reaction, I have to give this film its props for completely freaking me out. What do you think?