Saturday, April 9, 2011

Is "The Human Centipede" Good?

It has come to my attention that not everyone likes The Human Centipede (First Sequence). The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "It's hard to say whether Tom Six's horror film 'The Human Centipede' is more appropriately reviewed by a critic or therapist." Melissa Lafsky, the Horror Chick, titled her review, "Do Not See 'The Human Centipede' Unless You Are a Sick, Sick Puppy, And Even Then Reconsider." These are some of the kinder comments made about the film. Because tastes are subjective, I am not going to try to persuade anyone who dislikes the film to like it. But I am going to explain why I think The Human Centipede is a good horror film, even if it is not to everyone's taste.

To be a good horror film, a film has to fulfill the primary purpose of horror films, which is to present a deformed destructive being, or DDB. This satisfies the audience's desire to know a new form of being that would be inaccessible in real life (because unreal and dangerous). In most horror films, the DDB is a single monster, but every once in a while, the DDB is a composite of monsters. This is the case in The Human Centipede.

In this film, the mad scientist, Dr. Heiter, is, in Horror Chick's words, one sick puppy. Following a deranged yet logical plan, he captures and sews together three living victims into a single organism, arranged rectum to mouth, an organism crawling on its hands and knees--a human centipede. As far as anyone can tell, Heiter does this for the sheer pleasure of creation--the making of a new type of life form through the deformation of three existing life forms.

In doing this, Heiter is exceptionally destructive, killing an unsuitable victim and mutilating others to the point of robbing them of their species essence. Because he is insane and sociopathic, he is also psychologically and morally deformed. Thus, Heiter is a DDB--a deformed destructive being. But the thing he creates is also a DDB. Physically, it is lavishly and grossly deformed, in just such a way as to give rise to a new type of being. It is not especially destructive, except for an attack on Heiter. Yet its grandiose deformity, coupled with Heiter's bizarre destructiveness, make for an amalgamated DDB of considerable power. The human centipede has a head that is intimately connected although not physically attached, and that head is Heiter.

There are five aesthetic virtues that make for a good DDB--it has to be plausible, original, memorable, coherent, and horrifying--and the double-DDB in The Human Centipede is all these things. A horror film is only as good as its DDB, and since the human centipede is a good DDB, The Human Centipede is a good horror film.

George Ochoa
Deformed and Destructive Beings: The Purpose of Horror Films

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