By Ezra Stead
The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence), USA, 2015
Written and Directed by Tom Six
As both of my readers know, I work at an indie/art-house movie theater in New York City. What you might not know, and might even find surprising, is that that is the type of venue at which the pretty much universally reviled Human Centipede movies get their theatrical exhibitions. The first one was kind of a big hit, to the point where we ordered enough promotional T-shirts that they were still on sale during the run of the third one, six years later. The novelty has worn off, though, and we only actually sold one of those T-shirts this time around.
The Human Centipede 3 did pretty healthy business, though; healthy enough to get its exhibition extended by a couple of weeks. The crowds weren’t as predictable as you might imagine, either. Sure, opening night was a collection of obvious scumbags, but over the course of a few weeks, curiosity (or masochism) brought in a lot of folks you wouldn’t immediately peg as Human Centipede crowd. I actually felt the need to make sure one group of four college girls knew what movie they were standing in line for, and when they enthusiastically replied in the affirmative, I said, “But you all seem so nice.”
I had to admit it then, and I’ll admit it again now: I’m no better. My own morbid curiosity had already compelled me to sit through the first two atrocities, and I knew then that it was only a matter of time until a combination of whiskey, loneliness, and an active Netflix account would have me buckling in for one more. The title promises this is the last one, anyway. If there is a fourth sequence one day, I’ll probably watch that one, too. I’m no better.
So, is it any good? Of course not. Like the first two, it’s vile and tedious, often at the same time. But, like the first two, it’s weirdly compelling just the same. There’s also a certain perverse populism to championing this awful series (“trilogy” seems too classy). After all, why is it that Matthew Barney, for example, can put a diarrhea close-up onscreen (you clicked it, didn’t you?) and people call it art, but the Human Centipede movies are trash? I realize that sentence does more to denigrate Barney’s work than it does to elevate The Human Centipede, but I stand by it.
Anyway, after the artsy (black-and-white, no less), meta hijinks of The Human Centipede 2, this latest one follows the fourth wall-shattering to its (sort of) logical conclusion, which means it’s the best and the worst one of all. Dieter Laser returns from the first film, but as a new character. This time out, he’s a sadistic prison warden whose assistant (Laurence R. Harvey, star of the second film, also playing a new character) insists that the first two Human Centipede movies are the solution to the mutinous hatred coming at Laser from all directions in the overcrowded prison. I mean, he could always just stop being such a rancid prick to everyone, but I guess it’s easier to just sew them all together ass-to-mouth.
The first half (at least) is definitely pretty tedious, despite the fact that Laser (who has the greatest name this side of Thurl Ravenscroft) does his best to chew all the scenery in sight. He is the hammiest ham to ever ham, but his performance is 90% tone-deaf screaming, and not nearly as delicious as, say, a good Nic Cage ham. He does a great job of justifying the prison inmates’ hatred of him, but it’s not a tremendous amount of fun to watch.
Most of the fun to be found in this movie, especially in the first half, comes from its sheer absurdity. I’m not even talking about the whole sewing faces to asses part, either. It’s the quieter absurdities that interest me, like the way Harvey’s character says he grew a Hitler/Chaplin mustache to look more like Laser, despite the fact that Laser is completely bald and clean-shaven. It’s the way a particularly rowdy inmate (Robert LaSardo, go-to actor for any project that requires a terrifying, heavily tattooed dude) threatens to rape Laser to death, and then the chant “death-rape” gets picked up by the rest of the prisoners. It’s the fact that Eric Roberts is in this movie, and at one point actually says, “This is exactly what America needs.” Well said, Eric. You truly are the best of the best.
Tommy “Tiny” Lister (I always still think of him as Deebo) is in here, too, in the slightly more dignified “head” position in the ultimate 500-prisoner centipede, as well as the extremely undignified “being in this movie at all” position. Bree Olson, best known as a regular consort of Charlie Sheen at the height of his “tiger blood” phase and, secondarily, as a porn star, is practically the only woman in this movie. Based on the preceding sentence, you can probably guess how undignified her role is, but you’d still come up short. The treatment of her character is arguably the most reprehensible thing about this utterly irredeemable movie.
Director Tom Six, however, is the worst of the celebrity guest stars, an element that was absent from the first two movies. Consider it faint praise that he is a vastly better director than he is an actor. He’s not irritatingly loud and abrasive like Laser; he’s just wooden and boring, which, in a movie like this, is far worse. As the writer of the movie, he’s also responsible for other characters singing his praises throughout, apparently without a trace of irony. At one point, he even throws up at the horror of what he’s seeing inside the prison, which serves two functions: to establish that this installment is so offensive that it even sickens its creator, and to get some vomit onscreen, because the movie just wasn’t gross enough without that. Did I mention that, at one point, someone gets raped in the kidney?
So, no, of course it’s not good. Will I watch the whole series again someday, though? Almost certainly. There’s a strange fascination about the whole thing that can’t be denied and, much as I didn’t really enjoy watching any of them, they haunt me. They’re not important movies, they couldn’t be any less important, and yet, somehow… I kind of think they’re important. This is exactly what America needs, after all.
I’m no better.
Ezra Stead is the Head Editor for MoviesIDidn’tGet.com. Ezra is also a screenwriter, actor, filmmaker, rapper, and occasional stand-up comic who has been previously published in print and online, as well as writing, directing and acting in numerous short films and two features. A Minneapolis native, Ezra currently lives in New York City, where he is working on his first novel.
For more information, please contact EzraStead@MoviesIDidntGet.com