Ah, the Human Centipede films, a twisted fascination in the world of body horror that leaves most people both disgusted and strangely captivated. If you’re familiar with these movies, you’ve ventured into the bizarre; if not, consider yourself on the saner side of things. The brainchild of director Tom Six, The Human Centipede is a notorious trilogy released in 2009, 2011, and 2015, infamous for its depravity and, well, extreme ickiness. The story revolves around three unfortunate individuals who find themselves at the mercy of a deranged German surgeon after their car breaks down. This unhinged surgeon harbors a sick and twisted desire to subject them to various inhumane torments, ultimately culminating in the creation of a human centipede. Now, how does he plan to achieve this, you might wonder? Well, he ingeniously connects them via their gastric systems, naturally! In simpler terms, he has them crawl on all fours and stitches them together from mouth to anus.
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But would you believe that The Human Centipede actually draws inspiration from a nightmarish slice of history? It might sound implausible considering the film’s abominable premise, but it’s true! A dark amalgamation of Nazi Germany’s gruesome past and a jest shared among Tom Six and friends gave birth to the twisted world of The Human Centipede.
Is ‘The Human Centipede’ Based on a True Story?
During the dark days of Nazi Germany, some shockingly unethical doctors and surgeons conducted horrific experiments on inmates in concentration camps. Among these sinister figures was Dr. Josef Mengele. According to reports by the Chicago Tribune, Mengele is accused of being responsible for the deaths of approximately 400,000 Jews at Auschwitz in just two years. In a chilling testimony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, 30 survivors bravely came forward to recount the nightmarish atrocities perpetrated by Mengele. These survivors owe their lives to one chilling fact: they were twins. Mengele was an advocate of eugenics, a disturbing ideology aimed at improving the human population by eliminating groups deemed “inferior.” For eugenicists, twins were a perfect subject because their differences were believed to result from behavior rather than genetics. This twisted belief led them to think they could eradicate what they deemed undesirable traits through selective breeding. The conclusion is unmistakable: Mengele was a truly heinous individual.
The survivors who shared their testimonies revealed some of the unimaginable horrors inflicted by Mengele. Among them, one account described him tearing a newborn from its mother’s womb and callously tossing the infant into an oven, all because it wasn’t a twin. Another recounted his macabre practice of pinning eyeballs to a wall like a sadistic mural. Many of Mengele’s subjects who managed to survive endured profound trauma, lifelong disfigurement, and worse. Mengele was notorious for attempting forced sterilizations, injecting diseases, amputating limbs, and even sewing twins together to mimic conjoined twins. It becomes painfully evident that the deranged surgeon, Dr. Josef Heiter (played by Dieter Laser), in The Human Centipede was not only named after but also inspired by the abominable legacy of Dr. Josef Mengele.
‘The Human Centipede’ Was Also Inspired by a Joke
Tom Six candidly shared with IndieWire that he was undoubtedly driven to craft a film that would leave audiences profoundly uncomfortable. To say that he achieved that goal might be the understatement of the year, Mr. Six! He attributes the film’s success and popularity to its audacious departure from the conventional horror genres like ghost stories or slashers. In an interview with The Guardian, Six went on to reveal his unapologetic stance: he doesn’t concern himself with moral lessons, and The Human Centipede trilogy unequivocally reflects that perspective. Interestingly, the initial spark of inspiration for The Human Centipede emerged from a rather dark joke exchanged between Six and a friend of his. This joke, like the film itself, is disturbing in a quintessential Tom Six manner. It revolves around the notion that the most fitting punishment for a child molester would entail being sewn to the posterior of an overweight truck driver.
What Else Did Tom Six Want ‘The Human Centipede’ To Convey?
The sheer shock value of The Human Centipede can sometimes overshadow the deeper metaphors lurking beneath the surface of the film. When you’re confronted with a grotesque monstrosity on screen, coupled with the haunting command to “feed her,” it can be quite challenging to engage in critical thinking. The initial installment of The Human Centipede delves into the theme of purity, and this goes beyond the visceral content involving intestines. The film takes a stark look at how the Nazi regime obsessed over the notion of purity, deeming anyone outside their “master race” as impure. Tom Six, the creator, juxtaposes this history of corruption and monstrosity against the backdrop of his narrative.
In the subsequent films of the trilogy, metaphors are explored through different lenses. The second installment examines the blurry line between fantasy and reality, particularly in the context of obsessive adoration. The film’s antagonist becomes obsessed with the events of the first film and Dr. Heiter’s work, driving him to replicate the human centipede experiment. In the third and final sequence, Dr. Heiter reappears as a prison warden who collaborates with his colleagues to create an even larger human centipede, inspired by the events of the previous films (it’s almost like horror Inception). Here, the film confronts issues of racism, xenophobia, violence, and the flaws in the prison system.
The Human Centipede has certainly earned its reputation as a test of endurance in the horror genre. It dares viewers to endure its entirety without feeling the urge to turn away, cover their eyes, or switch it off. While some critics may dismiss it as excessively repulsive, those who revel in body horror might find themselves marveling at the sheer audacity of these films. Beneath the surface, The Human Centipede serves as a stark reminder of how society can take a toxic turn in the wrong hands. For those brave enough to venture, you can watch The Human Centipede on platforms like AMC+, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple Video. Just remember to keep a barf bag handy – you might need it.