Based on a jokey comment made by filmmaker Tom Six (about a suitable punishment for paedophiles), this film has such a repulsive premise that it's difficult to stomach. Athough what we see isn't nearly as vile as what we imagine we're seeing.
Lindsay and Jenny (Williams and Yennie) are naive Americans driving through Germany when they get lost on the way to a nightclub. Disoriented in the woods, they find the home of Dr Heiter (Laser), who quickly drugs them so he can use them for an experiment he previously tried on his dogs, namely sewing them together with a third victim (Kitamura) into a three-part "centipede". Lindsay wriggles out of her bonds before the operation, but can she escape? And what will Heiter do to the cops (Leupold and Blankenstein) who come snooping around?
Frankly, the mad doctor's experiment is so hideously unthinkable that only a screenwriter would come up with it. Six claims that it's all perfectly plausible from a medical standpoint, but that doesn't make it any less horrific. Just the idea makes us feel queasy, so we can be thankful that, despite a few yucky cutaways, he leaves much of the real horror in our minds.
Which makes it even more repugnant.
But it's also a stylishly made movie packed with dark humour. Six's direction is sleek and understated, quietly building suspense even if the film is never really scary. It is, however, stomach-churning. If the concept isn't vile enough, the expert make-up and costumes continually hint at graphic grisliness.
While the icy filming style contrasts cleverly with the believably terrified performances from the three victims. And the camp, over-the-top Laser is thoroughly creepy.
The main problem, of course, is that it seems to have no real point. The film feels like the Hostel movies, poking fun at dumb tourists who fall into the clutches of sadistic psychopaths. Or maybe it's a jab at how we let scientists indulge in all kinds of experimentation without properly questioning it.
Whatever it is, at least it too engaging to be called torture porn. And it certainly marks Six as a filmmaker to watch. After he makes Part 2, that is.