Of all the grotesqueries in which The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence) calculatedly wallows, the relentless contortions of actor Dieter Laser’s face are the hardest to stomach. As Bill Boss, the psychotic warden of the George H.W. Bush Penitentiary, Laser tilts his bald dome, juts his tight, angular chin seemingly three feet out from his wiry body, and rolls his eyes and darts and curls his tongue in a never-ending series of cunnilingus gestures. Physically, he suggests the terrific character actor Ed Lauter, if the latter were playing a gecko while high on PCP. Simultaneously, the German-born Laser is charged with delivering a ticker-tape of English obscenities, most of it indecipherable, except for certain utterances of “nigger,” “fuck,” and “pussy,” which are sounded with an extra burst of self-congratulatory zeal, and usually accompanied by a series of sloppy, fleshy breathing sounds, presumably to assure that we get just how irredeemably bonkers this “character,” or maybe the actor, really is. Watching this disgusting spectacle, it’s nearly impossible to remember how effective Laser was in The Human Centipede (First Sequence), which seems to be the point.
Reuniting with Laser, director Tom Six has achieved the seemingly impossible: He’s made a film even less watchable than The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence). The Human Centipede sequels are Six’s collective tantrum, which he appears to have thrown in response to the first film’s unexpectedly warm reception. The sequels aren’t merely deliberately bad, but claustrophobically contemptuous of their audience, daring us to somehow not hate them and the smorgasbord of jokey racism, sexism, castration, rape, dismemberment, and, of course, the now de rigueur ass-to-mouth shenanigans that they offer up for our anti-delectation. And, weirdly, one strives to enjoy the sequels for a few minutes each, out of spite, so as to somehow avoid playing into Six’s infantile hand, but the filmmaker, and Laser, his primary co-conspirator, aren’t to be trumped.
For the third film, Six has hitched his franchise’s flag to a meaningless faux-parody of America, specifically Texas and its overcrowded prisons and obsession with corporeal punishment, indulging a European’s smug, predictable approximation of ’Murica as a land of gun-crazy hillbillies. Clad in cowboy hat and bolo tie, often swigging bourbon and occasionally waving around an AK-47, Boss tortures his prisoners until his sidekick (Laurence R. Harvey, the star of Full Sequence), happens upon the first two Human Centipede movies, suggesting that they fashion their own “prison centipede” as a means of criminal deterrent. For the better part of 75 minutes, Boss resists, and the film follows him as he dines on fried clitorises and inmates’ nuts while browbeating his secretary (Bree Olsen) for blowjobs that are cinematically represented by close-ups of Laser’s face as he exhales in mercilessly prolonged gestures of cartoonish ejaculation. When these guttural orations exhaust the director’s interests, he instructs Laser to scream randomly to the point of hoarseness, for long uninterrupted moments that suggest the human throat’s previously undetermined capacity for simulating the sound created by scratching nails against a chalkboard. The titular monstrosity barely even figures into the proceedings, existing only as a weak punchline to a feature-length indulgence of Laser’s redneck vaudeville. At a couple of points, Eric Roberts shows up as the governor for no other reason than to prove that Six was somehow able to talk the actor into participating in a Human Centipede sequel.
The film and its immediate predecessor would be less offensive if Six were untalented, because they could be rationalized as the work of a hack optimistically cashing in on shock tactics. But the first Human Centipede is a lean and viscerally empathetic treatment of an outlandish Nazi-horror-film premise, and both sequels, despite their studied vileness, evince a certain confidence of aesthetic. Full Sequence contained unnerving black-and-white imagery that parodied European art films, and Final Sequence is memorably lit in grainy, oversaturated orange hues that heighten the film’s fevered flophouse atmosphere. And a few images, particularly of Boss up in a prison watchtower alone and even crazier than usual, are haunting. But these occasional hints of elegance only intensify, perhaps purposefully, one’s painful awareness of Six’s decadent, neurotic desperation.