Giving New Meaning to the Phrase "Tongue-in-Cheek" 

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The Human Centipede
Directed by Tom Six

You know a subgenre is in decline when the films that ride in on its second wave botch satire and ultimately replicate the very clichés they should be exploding. Thus is the case with The Human Centipede, Dutch director Tom Six's torture porn quasi-parody that takes "tongue in cheek" to new levels of disgusting but hollow literalism. A la Hostel, Centipede delivers its young, pleasure-seeking American tourists (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie) into the hands of a sadistic European, here the demented German surgeon Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser; a hint of the film's intended irony lies in a translation of his character's surname: jovial). Using the women and a Japanese man (Akihiro Kitamura) as specimens, Heiter constructs his titular experiment in terror, a chain of people connected mouth-to-anus and forced to assume the role of the good doctor's late trial run "three-dog."

Despite a plodding, go-nowhere narrative Six's direction is visceral enough in conveying the victims' pain and humiliation, but The Human Centipede never does more than fulfill the basic dictates of its shock concept due to Laser's hammy performance, which makes of Heiter a camp Josef Mengele rather than a convincingly psychologically motivated madman. Neither genuinely horrifying nor disarmingly charismatic, Laser evokes pathology only through a cartoonishly waxen, androgynous appearance (Freudians take note) and stereotypical displays of Teutonic severity; he therefore emerges as the perfect empty villain for a film content to coast entirely on its premise and remain just as lazily nihilistic as the very predecessors it fails 
to send up.

Opens April 30

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