Horror movies tend to elicit visceral, audible reactions from viewers (and also, shouted warnings to characters that they will definitely not heed). And as someone who has purchased expensive AMC tickets for each installment of the Saw franchise, just about every exorcism-related and found footage-style horror film made in the past 10 years, and plenty of 3-D slasher flicks you've probably already forgotten (Sorority Row, anyone?), I've witnessed quite an array of audience responses. But none were as incredulous as those I heard during a midnight showing of The Human Centipede at Prytania in August.
And rightfully so. The movie goes from being entertaining — it employs just about every awesomely-bad horror movie trope within the first 20 minutes — to downright unwatchable rather quickly. When things got really gross, audience responses included a variation of existential inquires such as: "Seriously?, ""Why is this happening?," "Why am I watching this?," plus lots of nonsensical noises and a contagion of walk-outs.
Before things delve into insanity, two American girls who have obviously never watched a horror movie before are on their way to a nightclub in Germany while vacationing in Europe (foreign countries! Where bad things happen!). Of course it's dark, of course it's stormy, of course they're terrible actors, and of course they get a flat tire and lose cell phone reception soon after. Like good female horror protagonists, they set off with mascara running down their cheeks, high heel-ing through a forest in search of help. They stumble upon the home of Dr. Heiter (played brilliantly by Dieter Laser, whose career pretty much consisted of German TV spots before this), who is incidentally in the market for two dumb tourists.
Soon the girls are drugged, and they wake up strapped to hospital beds next to another man. That's when we learn Dr. Heiter was once a famous surgeon for his work in separating conjoined twins, and now he's a crazy recluse who dreams of creating a "human centipede" of three people connected by their gastrointestinal systems (mouth to anus!). A genuinely suspenseful chase scene involving one of the tourists follows (her unfortunate position — not that there's any "fortunate" position — in the 'pede is her punishment for attempting to escape), and the lack of obvious special effects gives the movie a strange verisimilitude. But then things start getting disgusting and, predictably, it does not end well. But as Tom Six, the film's writer and director, always likes to say interviews — it's "100 percent medically accurate!" Because that makes everything better.
Chalmette Movies screens the film for the New Orleans Film Festival on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 9:15 p.m. and Thursday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. If you'd like to use the NOFF as an opportunity to get a head start on Oscar contenders, maybe you should check out something like Black Swan (Monday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. at Prytania Theatre). But if you have a strong stomach and a sense of humor, The Human Centipede makes for an amusing — albeit sleepless and nauseating — night (and plus, you'll be ready for the sequel!).