There's quite a sociable day on your agenda, thanks to an affable astrological assembly, unanimously intent on making things as easy on you as possible. If you've missed out on any of the good gossip that's been going around lately (not that you ordinarily indulge in such things, of course), here's your chance to catch up. Do keep in mind, however, there's far more than chatting on the menu: Say, more than just a touch of intense romance, for example?
Chris: I heard someone got Meghan-ed last nightme: WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!?!?!
Few countries get as consistently good press as the Netherlands. Smiling blond capitalists, neat as a pin among their dykes and windmills, offering legal drugs and regulated prostitutes. One of the few European countries that fought a war of independence, they won their freedom from the haughty, unpopular Spaniards and spent a long time as a content little republic before becoming a content little kingdom. Their royal family, the House of Orange-Nassau, regularly spits out pleasant little queens with adorable names: Wilhelmina, Juliana, Beatrix. They own a few little Caribbean islands and have an nice, funny-looking language with a lot of “aa,” “oo,” and “ij.” A sane, cozy oasis between sour, bureaucratic Belgium and will-they-do-it-again Germany, it’s the jewel in Europe’s crown.
Or so we all thought before a Dutchman wrote and directed The Human Centipede: First Sequence. As you read the following review, keep in mind that this was, by a comfortable margin, the movie most requested for Worst of Netflix. It was not my idea.
The Human Centipede: First Sequence: After their car breaks down while in Germany, Americans Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) wind up at a remote villa -- and soon find themselves trapped in a nightmare. Dr. Josef Heiter (Dieter Laser) kidnaps them for his demented experiment to create a human "centipede." The plan includes removing their kneecaps so they must walk on all fours, then surgically connecting them to a Japanese man to create a bizarre human chain.
The screenplay is essentially one giant bunt, assuming that people won’t be bored by the low-dialogue script or annoyed by the parts that don’t make sense if they’re too disturbed by the vivisection and coprophagia. It doesn’t lend itself well to summary, but I’ll try:
We open with a long, moody shot – the first of many. This one is of a highway. We paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, at a snail’s pace, to a car, where a man is looking at pictures of dogs lined up, one behind the other. A truck driver pulls over to have a bowel movement in the shrubbery (God, Europeans and their comfort with the human body), and the man in the car gets out and shoots him with a tranquilizer dart, mid-movement. A sane man would wait until his quarry was finished for obvious reasons of cleanliness, but the shooter’s nervous twitches and plug-ugliness have already marked him as A Villainous Madman, so there we are.
We cut to those glorious archetypes who blaze like shooting stars across the firmament of low-grade shock features: two slutty American girls abroad. Remember those old social studies textbooks that listed the major imports and exports of every country? “Niger. Exports: uranium, camels. Imports: UN aid, Marxist revolutionaries, camels.” Do you know why they stopped publishing those? Because it was too embarrassing to read “United States of America. Exports: Oblivious young women who leave cheap eyeshadow streaked across foreign pillowslips, democracy. Imports: tin, low-wage workers.” These particular young women have names, but I missed them, so we’ll call them Curly Hair and Straight Hair. As we meet them, they’re both on the phone: Curly with the hotel concierge, asking for driving directions to a nightclub called “Bunker;” Straight with a friend “back home.” This conversation with Back Home lets her explain that they’re in Germany (Exports: the Holocaust, luxury cars. Imports: Turks) and are going to “party” for a couple of days before moving on to Italy (Exports: Catholicism, news stories about corrupt politicians. Imports: tourists). But they bought her a present in Holland! No, they’re not going to tell her what it is. (Holland. Exports: souvenir clogs. Imports: slabs of unfinished clog-grade wood.)
Curly and Straight are next seen driving in the woods. Why is there a forest between the hotel and a popular nightclub? Were post-war German cities rebuilt that decentralized – “Firebomb this, assholes?” They have a flat tire, if you can believe it. Neither of them knows how to change it, which pissed me off. Everyone should know how to do that, especially A Woman Alone, and even if you technically don’t know how, it’s not too hard to figure out. A car pulls up next to them, and a fat man in a wifebeater sexually harasses them in German. I suppose this is meant to highlight their vulnerability in a foreign land, or something, but it really just confuses the viewer. The man’s first line is “I have a hot video of you sluts together” – it turns out to just be talk, but for a minute the viewer wonders if there’s going to be a Lesbian porn subplot. (If only.)
The harasser drives off, and Curly and Straight have an argument about if they’re going to get out and walk or wait in the car until morning. Ultimately, they decide to walk. Not along the road, through the woods. Darwin works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform… After a lot of whining, they find a house in the woods, kind of. It has a well-manicured lawn and is clearly in some nice little suburb of Rotterdam. It doesn’t look like it’s in the middle of the woods at all, but there we are.
The girls knock, and the door is answered by the dart-shooter from earlier. A lot of empty-calorie “ominous” dialogue follows:
“Do you live here with your wife?”
“No. I don’t like… human beings.” (I know how he feels.)
“Are you girls here alone?”
“Yes, we’re alone.” (Is it too soon for another Charles Darwin joke?)
with the end result that the Mad Scientist roofies the girls (one rohypnol in a shared glass of water disables them both in less than five minutes) and they wake up tied to hospital beds. The crapping truck driver from earlier is in a third bed. The Mad Scientist announces that he is to be killed because he “does not match” – presumably this refers to tissue type, but one hopes he means that his coloring clashes with the rug. A disjointed little clump of scenes follows in which the Mad Scientist kills the truck driver, buries him, and then arrives at the house (his departure isn’t shown) with a captive Japanese man. I’ll apologize here for all the dashes and parentheses. Ideally the writing would be smoother, but it’s that kind of movie. If I told you about it in person, I’d be overusing “apparently,” “it turns out,” and “for some reason.” And, of course, “to my horror.”
The Japanese man turns out to be the star of the show. Since all his lines are in Japanese, (the rest of the movie is in German, English, and terrified grunts) we can’t tell if he’s saying dumb shit like everyone else, so he can just emote with abandon. During this scene, the subtitles report one of his lines as “The Japanese possess incredible strength when backed into a corner!” He repeats this Dragonball Z war cry as the Mad Scientist sets up a light projector, the kind you had in elementary school, and explains how he intends to turn the three of them into a human centipede. This idea occurred to him during his illustrious career separating Siamese twins – if you pay attention, you’ll note that the paintings in his house are of conjoined fetuses. He practiced this centipedification with his three Rottweilers earlier, and is now ready to move on to humans. In short, he plans to cut the tendons in their knees to force them to walk on all fours, and, uh. Uh. May Chaucer forgive me for using English to write this sentence: He intends to sew the anus of the preceding segment to the mouth of the next, joining them by the digestive tract. I admit, I didn’t see that coming. I imagined some kind of chest-to-lower-back graft, but I suppose that isn’t upsetting enough.
Straight Hair manages to escape, setting up the standard girl-runs-from-madman chase plot – except he catches her, and goes ahead with the surgery, creating the human centipede. This is about half an hour into the movie, leaving an hour for an extended reflection on how awful it would be to be a human centipede. I refuse to describe any more. That awful implication that just occurred to you? It happens. Whatever it is, it happens. The only detail I’ll give is that we see the dog-centipede’s grave, marked “Mein Leibe 3-Hund.”
I’ll admit, I watched much of the latter two-thirds of the movie on double speed. I lost nothing: the dialogue was in Japanese or German since the English-speaking characters lost the use of their voices. The lazy, luxurious camerawork drags a fifty-minute movie into an hour and a half. Looooong shot of the centipede undergoing something appalling. Looooong shot of the room. Nonsensical cut to the Mad Scientist, doing something mad. Rinse, repeat.
I watched the bonus features, which was a mistake of nearly the same magnitude as the movie itself.
Casting tapes: The two American girls’ audition. It’s the worst audition I’ve ever seen. “You have a LOVELY… home?”
Deleted scene: As the centipede waits in the background, the Mad Scientist does a prancing little dance around the living room.
Foley session: A shirtless Dutchman shows an unseen narrator the various meats he intends to use for special effects. This includes a cow’s leg and a skinned, jawless sheep’s head, neither of which were in apparent use during the film.
Interview with the director: He’s wearing a silly hat. He got the idea for the movie from “a running joke,” when he would see “a child molester or something on TV” and tell his friends the molester-or-something deserved “to have his mouth sewn to the anus of a fat truck driver.” Not that the truck driver’s wishes are considered, or anything. He must be a blast at parties. “This crab dip is terrible! Whoever made it should be refashioned into a monstrous oddity by a sadistic surgeon playing God.” He thinks a Hollywood remake should star Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lopez, and Paris Hilton as the centipede (no argument there) and plans a “more disturbing” sequel which will feature a twelve-person ‘pede. He claims that the movie is 100% medically accurate, which it isn’t. Tissue types are very hard to match across race, and if he didn’t tissue-match them and put them on anti-rejection drugs, they’d have a brutal immune response to each other’s bodies.
So. There’s The Human Centipede. I take a little comfort in the fact that the actors did have to spend weeks with their faces in each other’s asses. The writer/director is named Tom Six, and the producer is Ilona Six. Two more “Sixes” are thanked in the closing credits, which opens the alarming possibility that this was a family project. I don’t even really know if I thought the movie was bad. There’s no character development or explanation of anything, but it set out to disturb and it did. Also, and this sounds like a backhanded compliment, the lighting was really good. I’m too wrung out to close this properly – all I can think of is the fact that Queen Anne called her Amsterdam-born brother-in-law “the Dutch Abortion” and how bad I am at the arcade classic “Centipede.” (I get distracted shooting the mushrooms.) Also, I want my mother. This is more a reflex than a considered decision; my mother is the kind of person who’d point out medical inaccuracies during the move, and then want to talk about how it made us feel. I want someone else’s mother, who will just read me Jemima Puddleduck untli I forget all about The Human Centipede.
Oh, dear readers. The things I do for you. I tasted vaginal dye. I watched a Jenny McCarthy vanity project. And, in my most bizarre sacrifice yet, I intentionally went on a terrible internet date last weekend.
A word of explanation is in order. You know how strong emotions like grief and Kentucky Deluxe can cloud your judgment? Here’s how I was thinking:
“Meg goes on dates and writes about them sometimes. But I don’t. I’m letting her down. I’m letting them all down. I have to contribute. I have to go on a bad date. That’ll show… someone… something.”
So I logged on to my old OkCupid account. I had a few messages, but they were all from normal or borderline people, not the kind of moon-unit freak I needed for this project. I sat back to plan my next move, when I got an instant message that proved that the deus in my machina is Loki, god of tricks and mischief:
DarkVenomKitty91: hey wat’s up boi
TulaneChris69 (to himself): Oh, jackpot.
Over the course of this conversation I learned that DarkVenomKitty91 is a nineteen-year-old art student in Philadelphia. He likes to go to raves (which apparently still happen, how 2002) and experiment with audacious hair and makeup. He finds it offensive that many people assume this his tendency to wear feminine hairstyles, heavy makeup, and women’s clothing leads some people to assume he has some sort of gender issue. He smokes pot and is amazed that I don’t. (It makes me nauseous.) He’s “into Asian culture,” which I read to mean that he likes Pocky and The Grudge. Despite being Pennsylvania born and raised, he refers to Americans as “them” when complaining about Hollywood remakes of Korean movies. He asked if I was “sure” I didn’t smoke pot, and then asked if I wanted to hang out later anyway. For you, dear readers, I accepted.
A word in my own defense: I didn’t embark on this enterprise with the intention of humiliating DarkVenomKitty91. I planned a sort of case study of how awkward internet dating can be, using whatever happened to me as a template. Ideally, I could have written up a formula, something like Greeting; Awkward “So…” Conversation; Silence; Desultory Attempt at Seduction; Departure, peppered with amusing one-liner from my own date. Had it worked well enough, I would have given it to Meg for input and run it as a 2Birds Investigates, but it was not to be. DarkVenomKitty91 had his own ideas.
During the days between our online conversation and out meeting (I refuse to dignify the actual event by calling it a “date”) I got a number of texts. They included:
DarkVenomKitty91: how do u want me to do my makup on saunday
DarkVenomKitty91: i can do liek casual everyday or like full drag queen
DarkVenomKitty91: god my parents driev me crazy
DarkVenomKitty91: can u bring beer when u come
I am 25. I have been abroad. I have a college degree. I am a registered voter. I am not going to be ejected from a freshman art school dormitory for trying to sneak in a six-pack of Keystone Light in my drawers ever again.
Time passed, and eventually it was time to go meet this kid. Before I left, I called Meg to set up an escape call:
Meg: Hey, what’s up?
Me: I may or may not but definitely do need you to call me at four thirty so that if my pseudo-date with a stoned teenage drag queen goes south I can get out of it.
Meg: Okay, cool. I’m at Renfest, so I have to go drink beer out of a big horn, but I’ll call.
So I walked to DarkVenomKitty91’s building and texted him:
Me: Where do I go in?
DarkVenomKitty91: just wait for me in front of the Olive Garden
NO. NO, NO, NO, NO, NO. I’m not a person who waits for stoned teenagers in front of the Olive Garden. I can’t be that person or the last quarter-century of reading, writing, and pretending to be able to tell the difference between wines has been for nothing and I might as well redecorate my apartment as a womb and never leave again. So I took the block until he showed up, which turned out to be the right choice since it took him four laps to get down, which would have been a long time in front of the Olive Garden. These things I noticed right away:
1. In some cases, the camera adds ten pounds. In this case, it subtracted seventy.
2. Dreadlocks. They were multicolored and contained much ribbon and lace.
3. Oh, my God, Home Depot pajama pants? What kind of whore do you think I am?
4. Remember the Hellraiser movies with Pinhead? Like that. Piercings a-go-go, with no apparent thought to how they looked, or the eternal dictum “less is more.”
Overall impression: Last piñata on the shelf. Full of sardines and CVS store brand lip liner instead of candy.
So I drew abreast and said “hello,” and he stuck out his paw. Fool that I am, I shook it, only to have him pull his hand away, flap it, and say “No, silly. Your ID. I need it to check you in at the desk.”
So he checked me in at the desk. The look on the security guard’s face was priceless – the poor man was trying to be professional, but had clearly never really gotten used to DarkVenomKitty91. He was nearing retirement age, and I like to think he was working one extra year to give himself and his wife a little comfort in their old age. I want his having to deal with DarkVenomKitty91 to have brought him something positive. I got this blog post; maybe the security guard can take his wife on a cruise.
So, counting meeting me in pajama pants as strike one and pulling his hand away when I shook it as strike two, here’s a strike-by-strike play-by-play:
We got upstairs, and he had a fag hag over. (Strike three, you’re out, the Rangers go to the World Series.) DarkVenomKitty91 and Fag Hag start doing the dishes, having an animated conversation with each other about the dishes and ignoring me. (Strike four.) This goes on for about ten minutes, then linner is served. I had eaten and politely refused, which didn’t stop him from spearing a vegetable on his chopsticks (strike five) and thrusting it into my face (strike six) with a “mischievous” grin on his face, like an eight-year-old has if it tricks a slow kid into eating a bug (strike seven.) I ate it to get it out of my face – never thought I’d say that again, but time is cyclical – and it turned out to be heavily, heavily overcooked asparagus the consistency of old rags. (Strike eight, really, because I love asparagus under normal circumstances and it is incredibly easy to cook.) I’m given a Wendy’s cup full of Diet Coke and Laird’s American vodka (I love this country and it is my home but barring a few local brands we are not a vodka-producing country) and we adjourn into the other room… to watch cartoons. (Strike nine.) There’s nothing inherently wrong with cartoons, but riddle me this: do you want someone’s first impression of you to be “Oh, DarkVenomKitty91. He points out plot holes in SpongeBob Squarepants?” I sat on the bed, and DarkVenomKitty91 braced a pillow against me and leant on it, as though we were at a slumber party in a crowded room and I were a sturdy piece of period furniture. (Oh, strike ten. I’m a lot of things, but I’m not a fucking breakfront.)
Things kept on rolling downhill. Excerpts:
Me: I bought these new shoes and I like them a lot.
DarkVenomKitty91: I hate them. I feel like I want to burn them. They’re not fancy. Fag Hag, show him one of my platforms. With the wallpaper on it. (Strikes eleven and twelve, obvi.)
Me: I’ve never had the money to travel as much as I’d like.
DarkVenomKitty91: Oh, I have a lot of money. (Strike thirteen.) I’ve never been out of the country, though. (Strike fourteen. Canada is like RIGHT THERE.)
DarkVenomKitty91: I’m really mad at my brother.
DarkVenomKitty91: He got a girl pregnant again. I’m going to get back at him though. I’m going to have sex on his bed and come on his pillow and just rub it in. (Strike googol.)
Me: We all got very sick when we returned after the hurricane. There was a lot of mold and such.
DarkVenomKitty91: There was a hurricane?
DarkVenomKitty91: When it rained so much a few weeks ago?
Me: No, the real hurricane. K---ina. I haven’t lived in Philadelphia my whole life.
DarkVenomKitty91: That’s right, you are old. Strike googolplex.
DarkVenomKitty91: Do you have any pot with you?
Me: No, I don’t smoke pot.
DarkVenomKitty91: Really? That’s weird. Will you buy us alcohol later?
Me: Sure! If it gets me out of here I’ll buy you C4 and the plans to Fort Knox.
My phone: And as she walked up to the blackboard I can still recall….
Meg: Hi. We, uh, have a writing emergency. And I need you to get me the McCleary report in an hour or you’re fired, or something. Whatever. Is it going badly?
Me: Yes, you could say that.
Meg: That sucks. I’m ripped on medieval ale! They let me drink out of the horn!
Me, trying to be convincing: So the meeting is Monday? I guess I’ll have to get to work, then.
Meg, drunk: Meeting? We have a meeting?
Me, still trying to be convincing: Yeah, I know Larry is anxious to see our drafts, so I’ll go get the revisions done tonight.
Meg, still drunk: We have a meeting with Larry? What? Are you writing a post tonight? Say “uh-huh” if you are.
Me: Uh-huh. Well, I better go get these revisions done…
Meg: Can you talk? I’m having SO MUCH FUN at Renfest, although I guess I shouldn’t have gone since we apparently have a meeting Monday? Anyway, I got to drink beer out of a horn!
Me: I need to let you go so I can do these revisions…
Meg: What revisions? Are you mad at me?
So I escaped, which was easier than expected. DarkVenomKitty91 had gotten a text he apparently didn’t like and had started sulking, so I had been talking to Fag Hag about New Zealand and World War One propaganda for about fifteen minutes. I made my excuses and left. Over the next few days, this textversation:
DarkVenomKitty91: so that day was a fail
Me: Well, everyone has a bad day.
DarkVenomKitty91: so wat do u think of me now
DarkVenomKitty91: where u able to get ur work done hun
DarkVenomKitty91: hey r we stil talkin or do u want me 2 delete ur number
DarkVenomKitty91: i take that as a no u coulda at least told mec
To be fair, I could have, except that would have required talking to him. You have one shitty hangout with me, and you think that allows you to call me hun? #overfamiliarityfail.
The moral of the story, such as it is, is that I love my friend Butter Legs:
Butter Legs: So how did your investigative reporting date go?
Me: He wore pajama pants and wanted to meet me in front of Olive Garden.
Butter Legs: Oh, he didn’t even get dressed for bottomless breadsticks? That’s disgusting. I hope you hit him with a hammer a number of times.
And now, lest you doubt my love, dear readers, I have to go watch The Human Centipede. For you, dear readers. For you.