Even if you're the sort of person who runs from horror movies screaming in terror and disgust, you've probably heard of the basic principle of The Human Centipede movies.
A human centipede - the brainchild of twisted filmmaker Tom Six - involves the connection of three or more humans, joined by mouth-to-anus connections, into a single digestive system.
Here's a helpful diagram.
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So far, so revolting - but is it scientifically possible? Plenty of the branding for the original Human Centipede movie included the tagline '100% Medically Accurate,' but what do real life doctors think?
Two scientists, Dr. Philip Coakley and Dr. Louise Owen - speaking with Vice and Film School Rejects respectively - help to shed some light on this particularly repellent yet strangely fascinating question...
Is The Human Centipede Scientifically Possible?
First off, the biggest problem with the Human Centipede is not so much poor nutrition - more on this later - but the danger of asphyxiation. Dr Coakley says:
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.
Dr Owen concurs that the vomit reflex would probably be the most problematic aspect of connecting a lasting centipede:
As anyone who has vomited knows, it is a violent process and likely to dislodge the staples. In addition, as there is not a place for vomit to go for two of the victims (B and C), they would likely inhale vomit. This would cause chemical injury to the lungs from stomach acid, difficulty breathing, and pneumonia
The Annals of Anal Anesthesiology
Dr Owen notes that one of the most difficult and dangerous parts of any medical procedure is the appropriate application of anesthetic. Seeing as Dr Gruber puts his subjects under general during the operation in the first HC movie, Owen states that it would be almost impossible for one crazy guy in his basement to keep all three alive during such an invasive procedure:
Surgeons are not trained in how to administer pain medication or ventilation for a surgical procedure. That is the job of the anesthesiologist. Using those drugs is very dangerous, and it is likely that the victims would have complications from being drugged (such as difficulty breathing, and death).
Stupidity vs Putridity
Dr Coakley voices dissent over whether a man such as the obviously mentally challenged Martin in The Human Centipede 2 could manage to keep 12 people alive with so many injuries in such unsanitary conditions:
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.
Apart from all of the other problems with the movie, Dr Coakley points out a couple of general inaccuracies with the movies, particularly Part II. Laxatives, the good doctor says, cannot be injected and do not work immediately:
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.
Also, the ease with which Dr C watches The Human Centipede 2 and drops comments such as 'he's cutting into the buttocks now, I wouldn't expect that much bleeding from the arse.' is just marvelous.
The Problems with the Poop Diet
Dr Coakley is refreshingly authoritative here:
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.
Yes, it would be an interesting experiment. Please don't do it, though.
One Disturbing Approach to the Centipede Procedure
So, is the Human Centipede possible? Yes, with a team of dedicated, skillful surgeons - who, by the very nature of these qualities would almost certainly refuse to participate - and even then, it would probably die very quickly of asphyxiation or infection.