Studio: IFC Midnight
Director: Tom Six
Writer: Tom Six
Producer: Ilona Six, Tom Six
Stars: Dieter Laser, Laurence R. Harvey, Eric Roberts, Robert LaSardo, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Jay Tavare, Clayton Rohner, Bree Olson, Akihiro Kitamura
A demented prison warden uses “The Human Centipede” films as inspiration to keep his rioting inmates docile and disciplined.
Sauntering with proud confidence onto the stage at the Los Angeles premiere of “The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence),” accompanied by a white-suited dwarf “bodyguard” silently holding a cigar ashtray, writer/director Tom Six set his status in stone as the P.T. Barnum of genre filmmakers. Love him, loathe him, fact of the matter is Six excels at showmanship on and off the screen. Six understands spectacle sells and he is unashamed to market himself and his productions as sideshow oddities worthy of curious chatter at a minimum or academic admiration at a maximum.
Presuming the word “sensible” can be used in description of a series premised on fusing together oral and anal orifices, the third tier in his “Human Centipede” trilogy is in some expected way a sensible extension of Six’s mindset to up an outrageousness ante that keeps critics screaming supposed death threats while fans giggle delightedly at the dementedness. Where else but all the way over the top can a creatively-limited concept tread to shock a desensitized audience daring to find the final frontier of repulsion, revulsion, and disgust?
On that level, it makes sense that Tom Six takes “The Human Centipede 3” to the uncomfortable places it goes. However, on the level of justifiable boundaries and reasonable tastes for even an admittedly extreme horror movie, the progression from subtle psychological disturbance to uncensored gross-out tactics sees the “Human Centipede” trilogy ending in a pointlessly puerile punctuation mark.
“The Human Centipede 3” may be the first of its kind as a “meta-meta” movie, taking place in a skewed version of “reality” where “The Human Centipede 2” exists as a film. Since “The Human Centipede 2” takes place in another skewed world where the first film exists, this makes the “Human Centipede” trilogy a weird movie mutation of its own as a film within a film within a film.
Franchise vets Dieter Laser and Laurence R. Harvey return respectively as bigoted bastard prison warden Bill Boss and his lickspittle lackey Dwight, tasked by the governor (Eric Roberts) with turning around the high-budget, high-crime George W. Bush State Prison in just two weeks. The warden’s first solution is medieval torture-style castration. When that doesn’t result in the anticipated disciplinary results, Dwight turns to his Tom Six DVD duology for inspiration and convinces Boss that sewing 500 inmates together is the efficient answer to minimizing riots and budgetary concerns by giving them 499 less mouths to feed.
A seeming majority of those offended by the first “Human Centipede” decided to be so sight unseen. The initial mind’s eye imagining of what such a monstrosity must entail is something far worse than what the onscreen depiction ultimately creates through employment of prosthetics and strategically-placed diapers. The actual representation is handled with surprising style in service to a thriller that is unexpectedly frightening and fun, albeit in twisted fashion.
Taking the franchise in an atypical direction with a black-and-white meta expansion for the first sequel was an inspired move. Six bucked convention again with “The Human Centipede 2” by smartly opting not to water down the concept as a next-generation slasher property, which it easily could have been, instead crafting a unique follow-up achieving a creatively different purpose than its predecessor while still fitting firmly inside the mythology.
Defending “The Human Centipede 3” on similar grounds is impossible. The third movie is such a comically warped conclusion to the trilogy that it diminishes the legitimacy of the first two as influential horror films. No matter how any scene is dissected, inspected, or scrutinized, finding artistic or entertainment merit within the film’s contents is a goose chase challenging the searcher to not be unimpressed by a relentless runtime of unfiltered shock value.
Below is a summation of some of the vilest moments in “The Human Centipede 3.” Basically, everything anyone needs to know in order to prejudge a personal inclination towards the film can be found in the following paragraph.
A needle and thread pierces directly into the wrinkles on a rectum in graphic close-up. Ejaculate drips down Bree Olson’s chin before the recipient of Olson’s oral services forces her to swallow. Dieter Laser eats from a jar of fried clitorises cut out of circumcised African women. Laser castrates an inmate from behind, bathes his bald head in the genital blood, and dines on the testicles with a knife and a fork. Laser fires his sidearm into an infirmary patient’s stoma, creating a violently gooey eruption of blood spatter and fecal matter. Robert LaSardo uses a shank to carve into Laser’s kidney and proceeds to rape the resulting hole.
A full rundown of the movie’s offenses reads like Six checked off an exhaustive list of typically taboo topics and made sure to cover every base from racism and rape to torture and genital mutilation. “The Human Centipede 3” presumes it can get away with being staunchly misogynistic, insensitive, appalling, and offensive under the pretense of, “that’s the point.” Yet without any legitimate wisdom to impart, social commentary never works as a disguise for its purpose.
The shame is that brief instances highlight how Six’s devious mind is capable of imaginative flashes that consider his concept creatively, such as comically contemplating how to handle Crohn’s disease or a colostomy bag as links in the centipede chain. But “The Human Centipede 3” is more interested in a protracted sequence of Laser pantomiming pleasure while receiving blackmailed fellatio than offering scenes with substance of authentic comedy, drama, or horror.
Capped in a cowboy hat, caressing a flag, swigging from a bottle of “Cirrhosis” brand bourbon, puffing on a Dominican (not Cuban) cigar, and applying a liberal trigger finger to his security blanket assault rife, Dieter Laser’s egomaniacal Bill Boss embodies a bevy of stereotypes intended to punch jabs at “America, f*ck yeah” excess. There’s no meaningful message underneath the bark, though. Boss is a hollow characterization of hatred made additionally antagonizing by an inability to decipher Laser’s second language cadence through consistently shrill shouting.
The reveal of the completed 500-person centipede, an image already spoiled by the film’s poster anyway, is anticlimactic because by the time it arrives, it isn’t even close to being the most terrible visual depicted by the movie. Instead, it arrives with the realization that while the first two “Human Centipede” films offered envelope-pushing horror as storytelling devices, this second sequel is less about being conceptually disturbing and more about being some weirdo hybrid of “Oz” meets “Garbage Pail Kids” for visceral value alone.
Tom Six and his team appear to be having fun with the bizarreness. Whether or not an audience does is dependent on disposition and a sense of humor for stomaching deliberately offensive outlandishness as entertainment. Just don’t automatically assume because you made it out of the first two movies without being nonplussed, that the third one is incapable of shaking even indelicate sensibilities.
Review Score: 35