Sometimes, the idea of a movie ends up being more compelling than the movie itself. Such is the case with The Human Centipede (First Sequence), a film that, in bare description, sounds like the greatest outrage ever put to screen, but ends up being fairly tedious when watched. Here’s the plot, for those who haven’t been paying attention to Internet memes of late: In Germany, a mad scientist (the wonderfully named Dieter Laser) decides to construct a human centipede. How does that work? He kidnaps three tourists (two American women and a man from Japan), and via an intricately described surgical process, stitches them together mouth-to-anus to form one long, continuous organism. Ta-da.
Beyond that one gross-out idea, however, Tom Six’s film doesn’t have much going for it. Laser is wonderfully unnerving as the sort of character who likes to bark lines like “I don’t like human beings,” and the scene in which he explains his plan to his centipede-segments-to-be via overhead projector provides a priceless bit of black comedy. Behind the camera, Six is skilled enough to bring a professional sheen to the low-budget production. But the film takes forever to get started, then gives a lot of time over to one character running in all the wrong directions and making bad decisions as she attempts to flee. As for the human-centipede material itself, the sight of scarred mouths sutured to anuses isn’t easily forgotten, but once one character announces, “Shit! I’ve got to shit!”, then does, the movie has nowhere else to go, but just keeps going anyway. (Whether a promised sequel, subtitled “Full Sequence,” will be able to top it remains to be seen.) What’s most shocking here is how quickly disgust can curdle into boredom.