Recently I saw the trailer for ‘The Human Centipede’, a Dutch horror film that makes a very convincing case for submerging the entire nation of the Netherlands and all of its population beneath a sea of holy water. My soul almost prolapsed in a tiny tsunami of moral horror. I started to imagine what this film might look like if it were made in a parallel universe, where people weren’t prurient and cruel and where entertainment was entertaining, rather than dreadful and traumatic. So here is the redeemed version of ‘The Human Centipede’, baptised in the waters of niceness and born again:
The film opens upon a wide-angle view of the outside of a prison. Inside, a six-foot creepy-crawly dressed in prison suit is led into an office, where he is presented with a box of his pre-incarceration belongings. Prison regulations require that he stands behind a line, a foot from the desk, when signing for the box. He leans over comically and marks his ‘x’. The prison official lists the contents of the box contemptuously. Ten dollars. A breath mint. And a harmonica. Sweet. The tall centipede picks up the harmonica and blows out a tremulous solo. The prison official frowns. The tall centipede puts on a trilby hat and sunglasses and exits the building.
Outside the prison, the tall centipede’s brother, played by Dan Ackroyd, is waiting outside a beat-up police car. They embrace rigidly, nay, robotically, then get into the car. Sam and Dave’s ‘Soothe Me’ floats from the radio, and off they drive, with a cigarette casually pincered in each of the centipede’s many legs. The adventure has just begun!
The plot of this film centres around the attempts of the tall centipede and his brother to re-unite their old band and, in so doing, rescue their old orphanage from closure. In spite of the attempts of piggy-eyed Nazis, Winnebago-driving hicks, and spurned ex-squeezes, the brothers triumph and rock the gussets off a baying crowd of music enthusiasts. First they throw down “Shake” by Sam Cooke, although their version owes more to the Otis Redding interpretation than the original. When the tall centipede sings “A ring-a-ling-a-ling, honey shaking is the greatest thing” you know he is singing from experience, as each of his many legs (each shod in its own exquisitely polished loafer) wobble to the idiosyncratic Stax-inspired rhythms.
Eventually, our heroes wind up in stir again, but not before they have saved the orphanage and struck a blow for Blues Power. There may be prisons and Nazis out there, but it is comforting to know that the spirits of the heroes – Gaye, Cooke, Redding, Wolf and Waters – are looking out for us from a heaven that is equal parts Detroit, Chicago, Clarksdale and Mount Olympus.