‘The Human Centipede III’ Review: Tragedy + Comedy = Slime
With his third Human Centipede movie, writer/director Tom Six has finally produced what his first two horror shockers boldly refused to become: just a geek show.
The truly disturbing concept of this franchise – in which a series of people are surgically connected from the rectum to the mouth, from the rectum to the mouth, and so on – was the selling point of The Human Centipede and The Human Centipede II, but the real terror came from wondering what type of person would not only come up with this perverse idea, but also actually commit the atrocities necessary to turn it into a reality. These were not films to be enjoyed, but films to endure, if only as a badge of cult cinema honor.
But there was a twisted intimacy to The Human Centipede and The Human Centipede II, which took place in a tucked away corner of the world in which a single, sick individual could hide a small group of people and perform unspeakable acts. In The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence), Tom Six has decided to up the ante by showing 500 people attached in their icky spots, and that takes space, that takes accomplices, and that takes an enormous stretch of the imagination.
So one can imagine why Tom Six decided to turn this third, and supposedly final film in the series into a farce. The Human Centipede III takes place in an over the top world in which Warden Boss (Dieter Laser, from the first film) and his accountant Dwight Butler (Lawrence R. Harvey, from the second) are in charge of an overcrowded, violent and unruly prison. With Governor Hughes (Eric Roberts) breathing down their necks to fix all the prison’s problems in just two weeks, they embark on the crazy idea to combine all their prisoners into a giant human centipede, cutting down on roughhousing and food costs, and acting as a grotesque deterrent to all future offenders.
Yes, it could indeed be argued that the thought process behind The Human Centipede III makes a certain amount of sense, if only in a Troma sort of way. Tragedy only strikes the movie because Tom Six – who also plays himself, in an intentionally self-congratulatory cameo – doesn’t have a clever sense of humor. The Human Centipede III has two distinct problems that compound into an inhuman bad ideapede: the humor is so crass and tone deaf that it doesn’t make the violence easier to accept, and the violence is so egregiously disturbing that the shrieking, sexist and misanthropic jokes come across like an unnecessary attempt to bully the audience.
Dieter Laser’s abrasive performance as Warden Boss might have worked in small doses, but instead he’s Six’s main character, and it barely takes a whole scene before he wears down any sensible audience member’s patience. He’s a castrating cannibal murderer with no modulation to his delivery: if he wasn’t shouting, it seems, then Six didn’t bother to print the take. Boss molests his poor secretary (Bree Olsen, whose vast porn career is riddled with more respectable roles), rips out his prisoners’ testicles by hand (in closeup), and dreams of getting “death raped” by his inmates, which is just about as funny as it sounds.
It’s too easy to point fingers and say that The Human Centipede III is sick, but “sickening” would be fairly accurate. It’s a confrontational film, but the confrontation yields no constructive results. Six’s movie ends in what was presumably meant to be a sharp indictment of a corrupt government system, arguing that – like the psychopaths of the first two films – the political machine has no respect for human life, only a need to fulfill its unhealthy, short-sighted goals. But one has to wonder whether that same cynical point of view should also be aimed at the makers of The Human Centipede III, which for all its shallow commentary exists primarily to be suffered through. If you survive this experience you will be scarred, and unlike the first two disturbing but effectively horrific films in this series, it won’t even feel like a personal achievement. It will feel like you have been wronged.