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Human Centipede 3, The (Final Sequence)

Review by: 
Black Gloves
Release Date: 
Monster Pictures
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Tom Six
Dieter Laser
Laurence R. Harvey
Eric Roberts
Bree Olsen
Tom Six
Bottom Line: 
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For all the orchestrated ballyhoo, and the often hysterical tut-tutting of the media during the subsequent column inch-generating  ‘controversy’ that came to be associated with it, Tom Six’s 2010 film “The Human Centipede” is actually worth the time of day. Not because of the undoubted grossness of its aims, or its staging of the kind of sadistic B-movie depravity implicit in the unwholesome idea around which the entire film is based … but because of the deadpan minimalism and the relentless, serenely Kubrickian detachment with which Six unexpectedly portrayed such a bizarre idea and the lengthy, teasingly methodical lead up to it. Six presented, with an asthetic of stylistically modulated affectation, a work that, if it was never in any way really scary as such, certainly attained a weirdly provocative power to unsettle with the manner in which such extreme, debased and disgusting ideas became imbued across its run time with a glacial, Antonioni-esque gloss of existential gravitas. Six showed us he could direct, with a rational economy, self-written material that was inherently unhinged, unabashedly dumb and deliberately calculated to offend, while still actually succeeding in creating something that was artistically credible almost despite itself.

The first sequel “The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)” was inevitably drawn, like most follow-ups to an unexpected commercial success, into the game of having to up the ante by making more explicit the nastiness of some of the biological/anatomical details only implied by the first film, and revelling in the torture and blood and filth unleashed by its mentally disturbed protagonist, the sequel’s writer-director-producer this time exploring, in a satirical attack upon the moral fears of the pro-censorship lobby, the abject depths of human misery with a grim tale of mental and physical degradation that becomes only bearable because its stark, black-and-white Ingmar Bergman-imitating photography obscures its more unpalatable details with inky shadows. Even here, with a (admittedly thin) veneer of arthouse respectability applied to puerile shock imagery and a prurient obsession with bodily functions, Six was still reminding his viewers that filmmaking craft was a major part of what he was all about -- even if the point was inevitably somewhat lost in the movie’s climactic flood of faeces and a (censored-in-the-UK) set-piece aborted foetus incident. 

Now there comes “The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence)” … And anything that ever made the first two films in the trilogy in any way defensible has been forcibly removed from the formula, leaving an empty vacuous husk of a movie with little to redeem the franchise. This film wants so badly to be as grossly offensive, unwatchable, wretched and dumb as possible, and it does largely succeed in this … Unfortunately, the way Six has chosen to fulfil his aim also results in him committing the irredeemable sin of any artistic endeavour …  being boring! This is a shrill, hollow, tonally inept and predictable self-parody that plays a self-reflexive one-note tune that never varies, and which soon becomes immensely tiresome long before we reach the film’s stated raison d'être, which is the on-screen creation and depiction of a human centipede chain that sees more than three-hundred bodies linked mouth-to-anus!

The idea itself is, of course, a sort of absurdist parody of the logic that drives most other film sequels – which is to do more of whatever is perceived to have made the original a success in the first place, but to do so on a much grander scale, therefore resulting, it is presumed, in something that will be thought even better and which will therefore be more successful. This thinking hardly ever works out in practice, but unfortunately, Six, somewhere down the line, has actually bought into the fallacy himself judging by his approach here. The entire film seems like a singularly ham-fisted attempt to offend as many people as possible, attacking every shibboleth modern culture has to offer about what constitutes unacceptable subject matter in art: racial and religious slurs pepper the dialogue throughout; sexual violence and the abuse of women are a constant motif (even though there is only one woman in the entire film!) along with homosexual prison rape; the culturally controversial practice of female genital circumcision gets its due also. But – cop-out alert:  it’s all ultimately okay, because Six has a politically progressive agenda to sell behind it all, namely a poke at America’s use of torture in recent foreign military adventures and its counter-terrorism policy; while the centipede idea also gets to become a reduction ad absurdum argument against the economic inequities that drive the US penal system. Who’d have ever thought there would turn out to be a legitimate point behind Tom Six’s marketing strategy madness?

The trouble is, Six is this time working to a generic, over-familiar B-movie schlock template rather than anything that even mimics artistic cleverness. A million low-budget flicks get churned out each week in this unadventurous comedy splatter sub-genre, and there is nothing that is truly shocking about any of what the viewer is presented with here, thanks to the over-the-top comic-strip nature of the film’s approach. It’s overlong and self-indulgent and the only truly offensive thing about the movie is its tendency to induce a headache in the viewer from the constant SHOUTING of Dieter Laser, who returns from the first film to play a role that’s supposed to be even more disgusting than his character of Dr Heiter in that original instalment, but which is in reality too embarrassingly awful in conception and performance to be taken as anything but a tiresome parody of Dennis Hopper during that part of his career during which he was regularly playing psychotic characters such as Frank Booth in “Blue Velvet” or Lefty in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2”. Dieter isn’t the only returnee: peppering the cast is a selection of supporting players from both previous films, as well as the lead of the second, Laurence R. Harvey, who this time gets to play alongside Laser in a sort of Laurel and Hardy-style double act of deviance.

 Just as the original film itself existed as a self-reflexive reality within the first sequel’s own fictionalised world, with one of the lead actors from the first film’s appearance in it as herself rather than her character driving much of the action, so both movies and their white-suited director now exist in this third film in the trilogy's much more obviously comic-book world, even opening with exactly the same film-within-a-film recontextulisation trick as “The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)”, the camera panning out from a TV screen displaying a Blu-ray of that film’s final moments to reveal Laurence R. Harvey -- now in the guise of his new character, prison accountant Dwight Butler -- watching the activities of his previous screen persona alongside his boss, the sadistic, abusive, racist prison warden Bill Boss (Dieter Laser).  For this instalment we are now transfered deep into the boiling dust bowl of the Texan desert; more specifically the George H.W. Bush Prison, where Boss and Butler reside over a failing establishment: costs are spiralling, inmates are unruly and the duo face imminent exposure and dismissal at the hands of Southern State Governor Hughes (Eric Roberts – whose salary probably took up much of the budget judging from the cheap look of this movie in comparison to the slickness of the original) if they don’t come up with a rescue plan pronto. The first half of the film is taken up almost entirely with the demented, insult-spewing and lizard tongue-flicking Bill Boss’s efforts to exert sadistic control over his inmates while taking regular breaks to sexually humiliate his long-suffering secretary Daisy (porn star, Bree Olsen). This is a man who eats circumcised clitorises as an imported African delicacy (“Thank God for Africa; thank God for female circumcision!”) and punishes one of his more recalcitrant prisoners by (graphically) castrating him with a knife and then having the man’s gonads cooked and presented to him on a garnished plate in his office for lunch! Other wheezes include mandatory water-boarding using scolding hot water, and throttling an inmate to the point of death then having him revived so he can kill him all over again!

At regular intervals during the presentation of such on-screen delights, Boss’s diminutive, toothbrush moustache-sporting sidekick Dwight (Laurence R. Harvey) flashes Blu-ray copies of the first two movies in Boss’s face and attempts to explain his own plan to improve discipline and save on food costs by making a human prison centipede out of the non-life sentence-serving inmates -- even organising a prison visit by the film’s director (Tom Six) in order to have him reassure the couple that his claims about the 100% anatomical accuracy of the procedure depicted in his two films were all true! However, Boss is resistant to the idea (‘I won’t speak with a stupid filmmaker about his poop fetish!’) until he realises that he can take revenge with the scheme on a particularly hated inmate and also “improve” on the sheer hideousness of Six’s concept with a few innovations of his own, lopping off the limbs of Death Row inmates to turn them into a ‘Human Caterpillar’ -- an idea that even revolts the movie version of Six when he sees it being put into practice. If one thought that the all male prison setting at least let women off the hook as victims this time, then a prison riot caused by a newly enthusiastic Boss’s determination to make his inmates aware of exactly what’s in store for them by compelling them to a attend a screening of both films in a double-bill, soon disabuses one of that notion when it leads to Daisy being beaten into a coma by an escaped prisoner and then raped by Bill in her hospital bed while still unconscious. Boss subsequently has her sown into the middle of the three-hundred-strong chain in a procedure that  Six is, this time out, determined to show in as much graphic detail as possible, with one lucky support actor getting to have his face stitched on-screen into the gaping anus of a rubber prosthetic arse (now there’s something for the résumé) …

Hysterically pitched throughout, with Laser giving one of the most ludicrously uncontrolled performances in movie history, “The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence)” moves from one gratuitous outrage to the next; Bill Boss facilitates torture after torture and dehumanising carnage reigns supreme while he fantasises about being gang-raped in a stab wound in his kidney made by one of his own inmates! There is nothing else that really needs to be said about this sad, uninvolving spectacle. The wryly ironic ending turns the entire three film exercise into a satirical attack on the convergence of right wing attitudes to retributive punishment and neo-capitalist economies of scale, but it rings hollow coming from a place so cynically calculated to court controversy for controversy’s sake. The Blu-ray presentation from Monster Pictures is decent enough and includes optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing. The extras are restricted to a ten minute behind-the-scenes on set ‘making of’ and an alternate ending, which adds an extra scene cut from the theatrical and disc version that makes the entire three film trilogy a cycle that takes us right back to the start of the original film by positing that everything we’ve seen in this instalment was dreamed by the character of Dr Heiter on the night before the events that subsequently transpire in “The Human Centipede”!

Read more from Black Gloves at his blog, Nothing but the Night!

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