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Wednesday, 12 October 2011

'IT'S ALIVE!!!' Mad Scientists of the Screen: #3 Dr. Heiter (The Human Centipede)

 Dr. Ian Champion and his PhDEvil are back (very nearly to the Future) with today's Mad Scientist: Dr Heiter from 2009's The Human Centipede.

Natty white outfit? Aviators? ToTD have been talking about making Top Gun 2: Goose’s Revenge for a while now, but maybe Tom Six has beaten us to it . . .

Its the usual thing: two girls with car trouble ask for help at the home of the wrong person and become surgically grafted onto each other's anuses. But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. By way of a prologue, we are treated to an enigmatic motorist on a road, studying photos of three rottweilers in a line, nose to tail. He notices a truck driver pulling over for a leak, and on impulse, whips out a rifle and shoots him. Already we are asking a lot of questions...

The two young funsters, as hinted at earlier, are American girls, vulnerable and impractical, touring Germany and on their way to a party, and one dark night their car tyres blow out, leaving them drenched and with no choice but to arrive at the home of a lone man answering the door in his bathrobe. Not only is this our earlier opportunist gunman and dog-fancier, but he is, we will discover, Dr Heiter, played by the fabulously-named Dieter Laser, a veteran of medical roles on screen over the years. As yet in this story, he reveals nothing. The girls’ desperation in the rain blanks out any street-wise impulses, which should already be firing on hearing his first chilling question: 'Are you alone?' The gentleman does not introduce himself yet, but with his lantern jaw and over-dyed black hair contrasting with his pallid complexion we are reminded of Christopher Walken. By now, the girls would do well to have said 'Ah, thanks anyway,' and headed back out into the rainstorm...

He invites them, unsmiling, with a watchful and unsettlingly calm manner and perfect lightly-accented English, into a curiously antiseptic but coolly minimalist home, perfectly in keeping with Laser's subtly inscrutable insanity. The girls ask for water and a phone call, both of which he cheats on, by faking the call and adding pills to the drinks. Within seconds, one of the girls falls into a drugged slumber. Such is the strange host's utter confidence that he points out reassuringly to her friend: 'That will be the rape-drug, the Rohypnol'.

One injection to the other girl later and we find ourselves in his home medical ward where the peculiar gentleman reveals to his total of three guests (tranquilised truck driver included) not only his identity, but a satisfying flair for showmanship, announcing his name and his status as the world's foremost Siamese twins surgeon. However, these days he's rather more interested in sewing people together than cutting them apart. By now, of course, it’s not just the ladies' survival instincts that are screaming...

Dr Heiter's plan is to create a human centipede, composed of three bodies surgically grafted to each other , mouth to anus. (It’s never explained by our neurological nutbar what the purpose of this is, but then again, would it be any help if it was?) There is some notion of exploring the world record for a triple-length digestive system, but even so Dr Heiter's obscurity of purpose is such that it actually enhances his mystique and thus ensures a place in this Hall of Infamy.

We then endure the excruciating torment as our guinea pigs (or -pedes) are put under the knife and emerge as a three-segment kneeling conga of the utmost depravity and humiliation. Something tells me they bypassed pitching this to 'A list'-ers like Julia Roberts and Michelle Pfeiffer, but it must have been a hard sell even to unknown actors. Can even a fledgling performer convince themselves that puckering up to someone's else ass for weeks on their knees will lead to other opportunities? (Maybe if you decide to do telemarketing later...)

The plot of the film is as thin as a face graft, and other than the unfortunate truck-driver being offed for being a bad tissue match and being replaced by another even less fortunate Japanese man, the only other tension or conflict is the suspicion aroused in two local police officers. Dr Heiter's method of helping them with their enquiries consists of shooting them, but not before a stray bullet plugs him fatally in the forehead.

The Japanese man at the front of the human centipede by now has committed Hari-Kiri with a shard of broken glass, and the poor girl at the back dies from post-op infection. This leaves the girl in the middle in receipt of the ultimate bad news situation, and on that bleak note the film ends.
Aside from a warning to travellers to aim for the best possible mobile roaming coverage, the only other moral is: Be very careful of the hospital(ity) of strangers . . .

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