My Attempt to Explain the Horror that is The Human Centipede

Many of you, like myself, have been visually raped by the trailer for the horrific spectacle that is the Human Centipede. I had the unfortunate pleasure of watching the trailer yesterday and was literally at a loss for words. For those of you not in the know, the Human Centipede chronicles the quest of a psycho German doctor to create a human centipede by connecting three subjects together via the gastric system, creating a Siamese triplet. It means what you think it means. He surgically grafts them together, mouth to anus, and removes his victims’ kneecaps to prevent their escape.

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?


  1. You quite brilliantly pinpointed the gruesomeness of the film, Monster Scholar. I haven't seen it myself, but when I heard of it I also thought of those whispers of WWII surgical atrocities I've heard over the years. Truly chilling. Just the thought that humans can do this to one another is almost enough to make you sick. Great essay though!

    P.S. Not to sound like a cad, but you referred to Joseph as the "Angle" of Death in one paragraph. Did you mean Angel instead?

  2. Joe Monster,

    Forgive my goofy gaffe on the Angel of Death ;) But I completely agree with you. I thought immediately of Mengele and Six confirmed my suspicions. I feel like a trauma victim. Now that I've talked about it I can move on :).

  3. MS - So I take it you haven't seen it yet?

    I had the pleasure of seeing it with Tom Six and the cast present and having a Q&A really was a plus after seeing the flick.

    I liked it alot (
    But graded it on a curve. I like your take on the innate fears of medical horrors as well as the fact the movie plays on taking normals and turning them into freaks.

    Because the freak part is where the movie hooks you (that and Dieter Laser's dastardly black humor performance)

    Solid dissection of the flick (pun so intended)

  4. It's terribly lame, but the first thing I always think when I hear about this film is "now that's just taking the whole ass to mouth concept way too far!"
    On a more serious note, one does think of the monstrous stuff that someone like Josef Mengele did to his prisoners. Then somehow it doesn't seem all that far fetched.
    I tell you, I will never go to some spooky house in the boonies if my car breaks down. The likelihood that said house is inhabited by a sexy transvestite from space is pretty unlikely. It would be more likely to be inhabited by an axe/chainsaw murderer, or some guy who wants to stitch my mouth to my friend's ass.

  5. jaded,

    I thought your review was spot on and thanks for the heads up that what's actually shown of the centipede digestion falls short of 2girls 1cup (shudder).

    I first thought of Clerks II and the whole ass to mouth conversation.


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