Last year, The Human Centipede (First Sequence) squelched its way into our lives boldly claiming that it was "100% Medically Accurate". If you haven't seen the film, or are unaware of its central premise, the chances are you don't have access to the internet. But, just in case: a reclusive German scientist kidnaps and performs surgery on three wayward tourists, creating this:
It was all sorts of mess. The sequel, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), has just been released following a period of drawn-out haggling with the pernickety British Board of Film Classification. Depending on the press release/ poster/ interview you come across, the film is variably referred to as "100% Medically Accurate/ Inaccurate", leaving some to wonder whether director Tom Six is taking the realism in his films seriously any more. Others simply wept at the ambiguity of it all.
To put things straight, we decided to make an expert watch the film and deliver a verdict. Here we introduce Dr. Philip Coakley. That's right, our very own Dr. Phil.
Dr. Phil is a real doctor in a real hospital and is currently training to specialise in, amongst other things, gastroenterology and the respiratory system. This pretty much covers all the bases in a mouth-to-anus scenario. (We don't know why his shirt was ripped, by the way. When we asked, he told us that it was a "casual shirt".)
The film begins with an odd-looking security warden watching the end of the first film in a car park somewhere in the UK. At this point, Dr. Phil jumped in to clarify his position:
Dr. Phil: I just want to make clear that I haven't seen the first film, but I did some research on it. Basically, with the original procedure – a mouth-to-anus join – there would be all sorts of problems. Assuming it's an airtight seal, her natural instinct would be to swallow whatever's in her mouth, but if someone were to shit into your mouth, it is likely that you would vomit it back up. That vomit would have nowhere to go and it is probable that some of it would be aspirated. In this case, you could immediately choke or die quite quickly of pneumonia. Also, I'm assuming they manage to breathe through their nose. When you cry that blocks your nose so you can't breathe. If you had an anus sewn to your mouth, you would probably be crying. Even with a cold you often can't really breath through a very blocked nose.
VICE: I have a blocked nose.
Avoid having your mouth sewn to an anus.
Watching the film it became clear that this odd little man was quite preoccupied with First Sequence, and that this preoccupation was probably going to be his justification for putting the unfortunate souls from the first film through the same horrible shit all over again in the second. For example, he had a scrapbook, but instead of filling it with pictures of JBieb and RPattz, it was full of medical notes and mental illness. At this point, Dr. Phil seemed to become worried by the man's physical appearance.
Dr. Phil: He looks syndromic. The central obesity, the bulging eyes, the shape of the face – he looks like he has some kind of syndrome. Exophthalmos, when the eyes bulge out, happens in certain diseases. The moon-face, the shortness in stature… he might have Cushing's syndrome. Assuming he is meant to look like that, then it is really reinforcing a stereotype that different looking people are weird and, potentially dangerous. Having some sort of syndrome would not make him more likely to be a killer, obviously. Although it may enforce a sense of alienation that could lead to psychological problems such as psychosis.
True to Dr. Phil's diagnosis, the weird looking guy – whose name turned out to be Martin – was soon killing people all over the shop. The initial dramatic bludgeoning brought us to the first fall-down point (there were many):
Dr. Phil: From the amount of blood coming out when he shot her in the thigh, it looks like he got an artery.
VICE: So, how long would she have to live?
So, she shouldn't be alive right now.
She'd at least be unconscious. You go into shock and lose consciousness after you lose about a litre of blood, because your cerebral blood flow reduces. Without a tourniquet, you die in around half an hour.
What about the guy?
He did thwack the guy on the head pretty hard. The question is, was it a lethal blow? I reckon the impact of a metal crowbar to the head would probably dent the skull and almost definitely cause an intracranial bleed. In reality, you'd be dead very quickly.
But he's tying them up. I think they're supposed to be alive.
That's error number one then, isn't it?
For a good amount of time the film consisted of Martin hitting people on the head with a crowbar and taking them to an industrial unit. At one point, Martin started to have an audio-flashback: "You're just making daddy's willy harder." There's no real reason to include this other than to make the audience hate humanity. The comment definitely altered the mood in the room. Dr. Phil cheerily recommended we finally open the Doritos. Doctors don't give a shit.
A series of flashbacks revealed that Martin had a complicated relationship with his mother. At her behest, a bearded man kept appearing to grope Martin, who was now clearly depicted as mentally retarded. Martin killed him. He also killed his mum by destroying her head with his trusty crowbar. But before all of that happens, Martin gets a kicking from a skinhead for banging on the ceiling. He then urinates blood, which Dr. Phil said was "medically accurate due to the trauma to the abdomen". Thumbs up to bloody-piss.
Around this point shit got real. Martin had got all his "segments" together, killing a few by accident along the way. We could sense some mouth-to-anus action was brewing. We could smell it in the air. Martin started chopping away at knee tendons to stop people getting standy-uppy when in centipede-character. It was really graphic and horrible and I wanted to cry.
Dr. Phil: Well, it seems like he's pulled out a piece of tendon between the patella and the tibia, but it's much bigger than that. I guess they're just depicting it for an audience, making it look like a piece of string or rope or something. Okay, so he's cutting into the buttocks now, I wouldn't expect that much bleeding from the arse.
Next came the attaching.
Dr. Phil: Okay, so, it looks like he's stapling a mouth to an arse. Now we have our centipede. He's forcing the tube down her throat, it would be in her stomach so she wouldn't be gagging, what's that he's pouring in the funnel?
VICE: Errr… Campbell's soup.
He has some laxative there.
Yeah, that usually takes about an hour or two to kick in.
Hang on, he's injecting it.
Well, they're all oral. They usually work through osmosis, I'm not aware of any intravenous laxative. OK, they're all shitting now. No, I don't think that's accurate.
Woah, cutaway scene. The woman we thought was dead just gave birth to a baby whilst driving.
[firmly] No. Labour lasts anywhere between one and 24 hours.
Could it be instigated by shock?
I'm not aware of that being the case and it would be hard to find out experimentally. But I don't think a pregnant woman could give birth that quickly. We saw her water breaking, there is no way she could give birth five minutes later. The cervix has to dilate to 10cm and that can take hours.
The film ends in a flourish of partial revenge involving Martin's actual pet centipede and an orifice. We finished the Doritos and reflected upon what we had just seen.
VICE: How did the film fair overall?
There were a lot of things those people could have died from, even just tied up on the floor like that, let alone the initial wounds: hypothermia, dehydration, possible infection of wounds, some of those people may have had blood poisoning. Septicemia can kill you very quickly.
Generally do you have any other thoughts on the idea of sowing together three digestive tracts?
There are a lot of issues.
Well, there are bacteria that are native to the large bowel, like E.coli, that cause profuse diarrhoea and vomiting if you ingest it because it's not native to the stomach and the small bowel. So, is it realistic? From the second person onwards they would have profuse diarrhoea and vomiting, thus the next guy is just ingesting liquid diarrhoea in his mouth. And they're probably all vomiting a lot as well.
What would be the 'end product'?
It would just be profuse liquid by the time it's gone through several cycles of diarrhoea. They would get dehydrated very quickly.
Would the high water content of each other's diarrhoea help with that?
Potentially, but disease and infection would likely kill them before malnutrition. For example, something like E.coli septicemia.
Disease aside, say if it was just three people, and airtight, and they managed to swallow their own vomit, would the food even get from one end to the other?
Yeah, the guy at the front eats, the passage of that would be normal that would come out as normal faeces. So the next person would ingest faeces and then it would probably come out as just more faeces. That said there's not a lot of goodness left, that's why we poo it out. There's not zero nutrition in there, a lot of animals feed off faeces. That would be an interesting experiment actually, feed a human nothing but human excrement and see how long they can survive.
Thanks for seeing us, Dr. Phil.