Directed by: Tom Six
Premise: An insane prison warden (Dieter Laser) and his accountant (Laurence R. Harvey) attempt to bring order to a state penitentiary by stitching all of the prisoners together mouth to anus.
What Works: The most interesting thing about The Human Centipede trilogy is the series’ meta-textual or self-reflexive qualities. With each installment writer and director Tom Six has added a new layer of diegesis. The original Human Centipede was a self-contained story of a mad scientist, played by Dieter Laser, who sewed three people together to create a single gastric system. The sequel took place outside the world of the original film, as a disturbed man, played by Laurence R. Harvey, repeatedly watched The Human Centipede DVD and eventually replicated what he saw on screen, kidnapping a group of strangers and turning them into his own centipede. The third film broadens the diegesis even further, with the staff of a Texas penitentiary watching the two earlier films and then using them as inspiration to sew their prisoners together. Actors Dieter Laser and Laurence R. Harvey return for the threequel (as new characters) as do some of the supporting players from the earlier installments. The filmmakers occasionally point out the ridiculousness of the Human Centipede premise with some of the characters paraphrasing the negative reviews of the previous movies and series creator Tom Six even shows up to play himself. On review, it is quite obvious that Tom Six intended to create one big sick joke. The Human Centipede trilogy is a three film Aristocrats joke. The premise exists for the purpose of grossing out the audience and on that score Six has succeeded.
What Doesn’t: The Human Centipede 3 is considerably wider than the other two films. The first two pictures had a very intimate scale, taking place mostly in a house and a storage garage, but the third film is located in a state prison and it does not seem that the production had the means to fulfill its ambitions. The movie is just not very well made. A lot of the sets and make up effects look very cheap and the movie has the production values of a late night Cinemax skin flick. Human Centipede 3 is terribly shot; a lot sequences play out in master shots and the movie frequently looks cartoonish. This undermines the raison d’être of the movie. If the goal of the Human Centipede was to make something disgusting that affects the viewer in a visceral way, the lousy filmmaking diffuses the impact. The cartoonish look of Human Centipede 3 is likely a result of the political focus of this installment. This film aspires to be a satire. The story takes place in a Texas state prison and the sets and costumes are clearly inspired by the torture imagery of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Tom Six may have wanted The Human Centipede 3 to channel the second half of Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers; the many parallels between those movies certainly suggest that Six was headed in a similar direction. The trouble is that the commentary is about a decade too late and Tom Six isn’t much of a satirist. Had Human Centipede 3 been released in 2005 when the government’s torture policies were still in place this movie had the potential to be provocative but no matter when it came out the attempts at satire fall flat. In places, the film seems intended to be a full on comedy but it’s never very funny. Human Centipede 3’s failure as satire is exemplified by the performance of Dieter Laser as the warden. From his first scene, Laser turns his hysterics up to eleven and keeps it there for the entire movie. He is constantly yelling things that are probably obscene but his voice is so shrill it’s impossible to make out what he’s saying. That’s indicative of the problems with this movie; it’s trying so hard to gross out the audience that it becomes obnoxious.
Bottom Line: The Human Centipede is more interesting as a trilogy and as a concept than it is for the actual content of its instalments. Human Centipede 3 is deliberately unpleasant and it succeeds at that but the movie falls well short of its aspiration to be a violent satire in the vein of Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, American Psycho, or even South Park.
Episode: #553 (August 2, 2015)