Before watching The Human Centipede III (The Final Sequence), I reread my previous reviews of the other two films (I here, II here) in the Human Centipede trilogy. I labelled both films as torture porn created by a self-adulating huckster/director named Tom Six. I dogpiled on those two films outright like almost every other reviewer did at the time. Regardless, the film, or maybe just the very concept of the film, permeated pop culture. Even those who hated the movie made human centipede references and jokes. Maybe this transgressive work and the previous entries really are saying something and I’m just too readily dismissive. It’s possible the trilogy was, like Hobo With A Shotgun and Cabin Fever, a celebration of past exploitation films or maybe the series is, like Martyrs or Salo:120 Days Of Sodom, a transgressive art born out of frustration or melancholy.
Maybe there is more to this film than meets the eye. It’s entirely possible that beyond the shock and outrage the Human Centipede series has created over time, it really is saying something that will only be appreciated twenty years down the line.
I doubt it though.
Tonally similar to a 60’s mad scientist monster movie, The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is about a psycho doctor (played by Dieter Laser ) sewing three people butt-to-mouth to form a human centipede. The second film, The Human Centipede (Full Sequence) was a meta-sequel involving an obsessed Human Centipede fan (played by Laurence R. Harvey) kidnapping an actress from the first film as part of his own twelve person human centipede. This third film begins on a meta note like the previous film, with Bill Boss ( a psychotic warden played by Laser) and Dwight (his timid accountant played by Harvey) watching the conclusion of the second Human Centipede film … making it’s own “moviepede” of sorts.
Dwight is trying to convince Boss to use the human centipede method as a way to keep prisoners in line at George H W Bush Prison. When not sexually degrading his secretary (played by Bree Olson) or yelling incomprehensibly at Dwight, Boss tortures his prisoners like an amped up version of Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. There are over-the-top scenes of castration, sexual abuse and racist rants thrown in to either drive home how shockingly cruel Boss is or to compensate for the film’s threadbare plot. At about the halfway mark, the third film gets more meta when Tom Six makes an appearance, helping Dwight sell Boss on the virtues of making the prisoners into a human centipede. The inevitable five hundred human centipede occurs and Boss yells some more while the credits roll and the Star Spangled Banner plays underneath. A shrill tone-deaf ending to a dull film.
This is a bad movie.
It’s not bad acting (The Room), silly plots (Showgirls), or unintentional goofiness (Plan 9 From Outer Space) that make bad movies. It’s being inert and dull that makes a bad movie. It’s bad when you see gross scenes and all one can think is “okay and?” The previous entries warranted a good steel wool shower afterwards but, this film is actually dull once you’ve gotten used to the shrillness and gruesome subject matter.
There are some OK parts of this film — they’re just few and far between.
Laurence R Harvey, like his performance in the second installment, delivers a character that outshines the material. Whereas before he played an unhinged loner with a resemblance to Peter Lorre, here he’s more like a character from a screwball comedy, reminiscent of a Bud Cort and Stan Laurel hybrid. The appearances by film vets Clayton Rohner (from mid 80’s nostalgia classics April Fool’s Day and Just One Of The Guys),Tommy “Tiny” Lister (“Deebo” of Friday and The Dark Knight) and Eric Roberts ( another Dark Knight alum and Julia’s formerly more famous brother) are nice surprises. Oh, and there’s a random fart joke. My inner 12 year old is a sucker for those.
Like the previous entry, this film takes the meta angle. Maybe there is a rich meta satire buried beneath all the gore and the unpleasantness.
In some scenes,the characters alternately praise and deride the previous Human Centipede movies. In one scene, prisoners gag as they are forced to watch the movies. When Six makes his appearance, Olson’s character breathily states, “you’re even more handsome in person.” At one point a character references the South Park “Human CentiPad” episode. So maybe it’s a riff on the previous films’ effect on pop culture or a celebration of Tom Six’s genius.
The prison is named after George H W Bush and Bill Boss gives a couple long winded monologues that mention America and Star Spangled Banner closes out the film. Maybe Human Centipede III is a very belated swipe at the American cowboy mentality of our prison system.
Even if these two “messages” have been shoehorned into the story, it doesn’t matter. All the half-baked satire in the world doesn’t negate the fact that this film is still the celluloid version of an attention whore. Liking the movie isn’t the important part. The audaciousness of Human Centipede III, and more importantly Tom Six, still got our attention long enough to remain in the public consciousness for a little bit longer.
Besides, the human centipede series will always make a great meme.