I can’t say I was especially fond of The Human Centipede 2, and much of the merit that exists in that film is more attempt than necessarily execution. Perhaps the issue is that if we choose to read The Human Centipede, the original incarnation, as a perverse joke (which is what it started out as), the second was a joke about the joke. Jokes about jokes are seldom funny, and just as seldom successful. And we come to the third, which is a joke about a joke about a joke, which is as self-indulgent as it sounds. Freudian analysis of comedy will tell you that a joke can be a tool, and choice of tools often reveals something about the joke teller.
Though I feel as if I’m echoing James Rocchi and Matt Prigge, transgression for the sake of transgression is lazy: an attack on the general public’s sensibilities at this point in the game is like taking a hit at the same subject over and over again. This third entry’s tagline “100% Politically Incorrect” is indicative of its motivations. While the former films played with various ideas about man and creation (in a dutifully vulgar fashion), treatment of mental illness, the critical lambasting of the films, The Human Centipede 3 has very few tricks up its sleeve and very little to say.
Reusing actors from its previous films as a sort of void or Mobius strip isn’t interesting either and instead reads as self indulgent. I suppose it takes a certain amount of audacity to make the same joke three times over, each version of it looking at its reflection, so to speak. The return of the good doctor (Dieter Laser) as the head of a correctional facility is cutesy; his large performance reminding me of a review I read in Variety about Faye Dunaway’s turn in Mommie Dearest: “Dunaway does not chew scenery. Dunaway starts neatly at each corner of the set in every scene and swallows it whole, costars and all.” Laser doesn’t deserve that kind of praise, his flamboyancy kind of tone deaf. The assumption is that Laser’s pseudo-menacing glares are supposed to be campy, and while that’s accurate, the fact that he seems to read every line at 11, without much fluctuation in performance, makes one grow weary very quickly. (If I want foreign people shouting expletives at me, I’ll rewatch In the Loop. Again.)
So, here we have a prison with swaths of male criminals, abused and tortured, but it doesn’t really work as a commentary about incarceration in the United States, and it’s far too on the nose to be a good satire of the abuse of power in that regards. So Six, whose formal skills were left behind in the first film, just sort of wanders around a power mad prison warden, with something that sounds vaguely like the National Anthem wafting in and out of the background from time to time, with no clear ideology.
Six also seems to have an issue with comic timing, or really, just timing. He plays gross out bits too frequently, for too long, without any kind of rhythm, and any jokes to be had are presented similarly. And lulls between scenes of torture would surely make Bela Tarr yawn. More shocking than its rape jokes or conceit is how ill paced the film is.
The film’s final act has a monologue given by the prison warden like a perverse version of the final speech from Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. But Chaplin has a specific target, which he replied to incisively and honestly. Six is just an equal opportunity offender (the laziest of them all), throwing darts any which way he pleases with little technique.