The set-up of the first human centipede film was all too familiar; two pretty girls foolishly trust a kindly stranger who appears on cue when their car breaks down on a deserted strip of woodland road, at night, during a storm. It was enlivened only by the fact this particular stranger was a campy, demented-doctor sort with the grandiose, slightly nonsensical desire to stitch people together, mouth-to-anus, in a bid to create a human centipede.
This was all fine. Director Tom Six clearly intended this first film to be something of a pastiche (right?!); poking fun at itself and the horror movie in general. Despite the relatively large cultural buzz The Human Centipede imparted (I’m sure many will have seen the South Park parody), the film broke little fresh ground and shortly resigned itself to the usual ‘escape from the evil loon’ conventions once the new form of entrapment had been sufficiently paraded about (quite literally) the screen.
The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) raised the stakes (a bigger centipede! Who’d a thunk?) and displayed more ambitious intent, albeit with mediocre results. Who could really have predicted that this sequel would be a B&W, referential and faintly austere outing, which tried (and failed) to channel the likes of Man Bites Dog (Rémy Belvaux, 1992) and I Stand Alone (Gaspar Noé, 1998)? This film had a simplistic yet developed sense of narrative, and was, without exaggeration, at least 100 times more shocking than the original. So just what are we to expect from a third instalment?
This time out the people from the previous centipede films – Dieter Laser and Laurence R. Harvey (I won’t call these men actors) – are back as a sort of odd-couple duo at a prison in the desert. Former adult-film star Bree Olson is also in the mix as a secretary referred to only as ‘tits’. She provides fellatio. That is all. Laser plays Bill Boss, the ululating prison warden who snacks on African clitorises (because why not?), lights cigars with a blowtorch, communicates mainly in spewed racial or sexist epithets, and believes his prisoners are in need of a greater form of punishment to deter them from re-offending.
Harvey plays Dwight Butler, the heavy-breathing deadwood who toddles along behind Bill Boss as he abuses the prison minorities – snapping their arms, pulling out their stoma bags, and relieving them of their testicles. Soon enough Dwight is suggesting the creation of a human centipede (oh really?) as the ultimate form of prisoner punishment.
At this point Tom Six appears in his own film (4th wall smashed!) to confirm the medical efficacy of the human centipede (witty). The prisoners are then sedated and the surgical fun begins.
Viewers tuning in for more centipede-related madness (whoever you are) may be disappointed to find that this final instalment doesn’t feature nearly as much. Tom Six evidently wanted to make a broader exploitation film; channelling the likes of genre stand-outs such as Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (Don Edmonds, 1975).
If nothing else this film does, I suppose, succeed in meeting the exploitation/grindhouse quotient, so maybe there is a certain audience for all this calculated misogyny. While The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence) does plumb new depths of inhumanity, it’s poorly crafted, and the film really only served to remind me of this kid in the school canteen who used to smear ketchup all over his face for attention – the overall display is neither funny or gross, just vaguely pitiful.