With occasional reflection on the perpetual absurdity/intrigue of life and society in general.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Human Centipede - "Shock Cinema"? - Roger Ebert Review and Official Trailer

Alright, as I promised to revisit it, here is the full scoop on The Human Centipede according to Roger Ebert (by the way, he optioned out of giving it a star rating - he didn't give it 0 stars, just withheld the rating - interesting). I think this pretty much covers it. Upon reading this review, my interests and curiosity remain peaked and my stomach uneasy.

I have particular interest in (and have studied extensively as well as written on) a fringe contemporary movement in French Cinema referenced as the Cinema du Corps. The term was coined by Dr. Tim Palmer (University of North Carolina Wilmington), the leading scholar on the movement. I have had the privilege of studying under Dr. Palmer (also one of those rare born-to-teach professors - the one that makes every class an intellectual joy). A common critique of the Cinema du Corps filmmakers (Marina de Van, Gaspar Noe, Bruno Dumont, etc.) is an accusation of "shock cinema" due to the direct and stark manner in which they explore physicality. It is argued that the imagery is propelled by the desire to shock alone with too little value or subtext to justify the extremity of the imagery (Noe being the only one to embrace and own this critique proudly). I have commonly and adamantly argued against this surface assessment of the movement by the more traditional guard of film academia - and actually find it to be amongst the more groundbreaking/intriguing modern cinemas. I also embraced recent cult horror film, Dead Girl, which received similar critical accusations (I had the privilege of screening this film at a festival, followed by a Q&A with the young filmmakers - only 20 people or so were left by the end - the others walked out too disturbed - it was an exceptional festival experience). However, in reading the reviews of The Human Centipede (not directly associated with the cinema du corps movement in film, yet garnering the same critical tag of "shock cinema"), I have to admit, while leaving my mind as open as possible, it will take quite a bit for this film to shed the gratuitous "shock" tag - if it even cares too.

It's not death itself that's so bad. It's what you might have to go through to get there. No horror film I've seen inflicts more terrible things on its victims than “The Human Centipede.” You would have to be very brave to choose this ordeal over simply being murdered. Maybe you'd need to also be insane.

I'm about to describe what happens to the film's victims. This will be a spoiler. I don't care, because (1) the details are common knowledge in horror film circles, and (2) if you don't know, you may be grateful to be warned. This is a movie I don't think I should be coy about.

OK. Dr. Heiter is a mad scientist. He was once a respected surgeon, but has now retreated to his luxurious home in the German forest, which contains an operating room in the basement. His skin has a sickly pallor, his hair is dyed black, his speech reminds us of a standard Nazi, and he gnashes his teeth. He is filled with hatred and vile perversion...

Heiter plans to surgically join his victims by sewing together their mouths and anuses, all in a row, so the food goes in at the front and comes out at the rear. They will move on their hands and knees like an insect. You don't want to be part of the Human Centipede at all, but you most certainly don't want to be in the middle. Why does he want to commit this atrocity? He is insane, as I've already explained. (follow the link for the entire review and watch the trailer below).

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