To get it out of the way: the film is really not as much of a gross-out as you would expect. Centipede is not torture porn, it doesn’t revel in showing you every gross and repulsive detail. Obviously it means to shock you silly but in truth most of it is left to your imagination. That thing you immediately thought of when you saw the trailer is not the focus of the movie. It is in exactly one scene, the camera pans away and the entire situation is surrounded with some light comedic elements to help the audience along.
But despite its sporadic comedic elements this is not a dark comedy as some people claim. Centipede is shot as too realistic (100% medically accurate, remember?) and tragic to be a comedy. Laughter is a shock reaction, a defence mechanism (think back to that Harry Potter scene with Snape in a dress). Granted, the film’s beginning is super campy, the girls act stupid and well, it’s just not very well written and ends up being unintentionally a little funny at first.
But when things get going there is just nothing funny about it. The girls sob throughout the entire thing, and no matter how ridiculous you think the premise is, the shocking despair, agony and hopelessness you see on the screen should be enough to hold back your giggles.
It really does get to you, or at least it did to me. It’s all so… hopeless. Centipede is throughout shocking but also filled with true horror. It ends on an extremely depressing note, a scene which will stick with me for a while… It’s actually a well-made film too, with pretty good photography for a low budget endeavour. Dieter Laser who plays the doctor should get an award urgently; he’s seriously one of the best Mad Scientists to ever grace the screen.
Above all, Centipede is effective and successful as both drama and horror. (But for the love of God, Tom Six, please work with a proper screenwriter next time — I’m available.) I don’t know if I should recommend The Human Centipede to anyone as it’s pretty intense, so watch at your own peril.
Tip: if the trailer really got to you but you’re afraid to watch the film, do take the plunge. It will put your mind at ease.
Here‘s Roger Ebert’s review. It’s a mostly positive critique though he gives the film no stars (not zero stars!)