I suppose one writing a review on a film like this is a kind of rite of passage for any reviewer. Whenever I have read up on this movie, I always think to myself beforehand “What stance will they take?”. Many admonished the film for its vulgarity, berated it for its revolting and uncomfortable scenes. A few celebrated it, embracing a movie in a way only a horror fan could. The question I pose after hearing the stir and then seeing this movie for myself is “is it really that bad?” (apologies for the Carrie Bradshaw prose).
The film itself is formulaic in every sense of the word during the opening scenes. The pretty but dim Jenny & Lindsay (Ashlynn Yennie & Ashley C. Williams) are driving to a club when they accidently pop their…tyres. Trapped in the middle of nowhere (I know, clubs are generally situated in rural Germany), there is the faux scare when a local pervert stops and propositions them for sex in German. The girls lament their situation and come up blank when they try to detail a solution. They eventually decide the best course of action is to wonder through the woods aimlessly (instead of sticking to the road) with no way to contact anyone and no reason to believe their chosen path will lead to anything but more woods (smart). They become increasingly hysterical until they happen across the home of the bizarre and creepy Dr Heiter (Dieter Laser). Nothing too bad so far right?
So, this is where the film starts to turn. The girls are drugged, taken down to Heiter’s makeshift hospital room in the basement and are forced to watch as a third “incompatible” man is killed. When a suitable replacement is found in a Japanese tourist Katsuro (Akihiro Kitamura) who does not speak a word of English, the mad doctor finally reveals his master plan to everyone’s (including the audiences) horror. After some brief delays in the form of an escaped Lindsay, she is swiftly recaptured and made the middle section as punishment for her insolence. What ensues is “diabolical”, “depraved” and “corrupt”. Somehow it manages this mostly with suggestion and showing minimal to moderate gore; surely a technique of a horror genius not low-brow hack Tom Six?
The rest of the movie meanders along as Dr Heiter admires his handiwork and begins a strict training program to tame his new pet. He is eventually interrupted by the police and a long drawn out conversation, completely in German, eats up another 15 minutes of running time. Tack on a slap dash final struggle with a long monologue (in Japanese this time) and a few more bodies for the depleted pile.
I think the hype surrounding this movie has built it to a behemoth exploitation flick when in fact it’s a small gremlin in a huge metal frame. A small idea that in itself is enough to plant itself in people’s mind and manifest as horror and indignation. Maybe I’m just too jaded after all my years immersed in horror but for me I ended this film thinking “is that it?”.