Every now and then a film is released (usually within the horror genre) that turns heads with controversial and provocative material. In the early 1970’s, it was Wes Craven and Sean S. Cunningham’s The Last House on the Left (1972). In 2000, there was Takashi Miike’s Audition, and in 2010 it was Tom Six’s The Human Centipede. Unlike many provocative titles, though, The Human Centipede has since spawned its own sequels. The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) was released in 2011 and now, just under four years later, the second sequel has arrived. Does The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence) stand out and above its predecessors, or is this entry merely overkill?
Six’s Centipede trilogy is a rare breed, not for it’s insane and impractical surgical nightmares, but for its unique take on overarching continuity. Rather than having all three films take place within the same universe, each entry serves as a self-contained piece that regards the previous film as just fiction. This time around, the third installment follows prison warden Bill Boss (Dieter Laser) as he attempts to gain respect for and control over his establishment. Bill Boss contemplates suicide when he’s faced with the possibility of losing his job at the hands of the state Governor Hughes (Eric Roberts) for a lack of results. His accountant Mr. Butler (Laurence R. Harvey) suggests a radical new proposition: to form a human centipede using the entire prison’s incarcerated population. With no other alternative for success, Bill Boss agrees to Butler’s proposal.Outside of this set-up, however, there isn’t much else to the film. A well-developed story has never been a strong characteristic of the series, and that holds true with Final Sequence. The above synopsis is more of a plot point that occurs roughly two-thirds of the way through the film. In other words, the film’s pacing can be fairly slow. That’s not to say that the film is uneventful. Up until its conclusion, Final Sequence has its memorable moments including an all out prison riot, scenes of torture, and a particularly gruesome, yet hilarious, dream sequence.
The title may feature the words ‘Human Centipede,’ but this outing is all about its central character: warden Bill Boss. Present in practically every scene, Bill Boss is unquestionably the star of the show and the film knows it. Throughout the hundred minute runtime there are numerous close-ups of Bill Boss staring into the camera, his gaunt face occupying the majority the screen. When he’s not making-out with his reflection, Bill Boss launches temper tantrums, tortures his prisoners, and forcefully solicits sex from his significantly younger secretary Daisy (Bree Olson). He’s a truly vile and despicable individual, one with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Part of what makes the film compelling, in spite of the pacing, is the possibility of watching Bill Boss lose everything to Karma and receive his sharp end of the stick.The two prior installments both sported a very bleak and serious tone, a tone that clashed with the ridiculousness of the series’ underlying premise. With Final Sequence, however, things have changed. Featuring an absurd and self-aware vibe, Final Sequence is undoubtedly the funniest of the three films. An example of the newly adopted sense of humor comes when a restrained inmate insults the warden. Bill Boss chokes him to death, orders the doctor to resuscitate the man, and then begins strangling the inmate all over again upon his being revived. This humorous angle is definitely a welcomed change for the series, one that should have been adopted sooner.
The film’s self-awareness and humor also extend to the casting. Actors Laser and Harvey have both been present in prior Human Centipede films (a remark is made early in the film regarding Butler’s physical similarities with that of the second film’s deranged protagonist). Likewise, original Human Centipede alumni Akihiro Kitamura also shows up in the film, destined once again to become part of a literal human centipede. Of course, the casting wouldn’t be complete without director Six making a cameo appearance as a consultant on the facility-wide experiment.
On the whole, Final Sequence’s cast is great. Laser is simultaneously intense and over-the-top as the larger-than-life Bill Boss. It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the role. Likewise, Harvey (now sporting a southern accent) does a good job as the timid and earnest Mr. Butler. Roberts, in the role of Governor Hughes, is appropriately condescending yet calm in the face of the very loud and unapologetic warden. As the only actress in the film, Olson gives a commendable performance as Daisy. Her character is easily the most sympathetic and relatable of the bunch, mainly because of her lack of torturous urges, but also because of how horribly her employer treats her. Her tears and sobs feel genuine and help to make her more believable. While none of the performances are likely to win awards, the acting does help to accentuate the outrageous story.
At the end of the day, The Human Centipede series has always been about presenting an uncomfortable viewing experience and the Final Sequence exceeds expectations. Whether it’s a prisoner being explicitly castrated or the facial expressions of Bill Boss as he receives fellatio from his secretary, the film is outright squirm-inducing. It’s a masterpiece of discomfort, an extreme piece of cinema that will garner extreme responses. This is definitely not a movie made for everyone and not everyone should see it, but gore-fiends and more sadistic viewers will absolutely devour the on-screen carnage and silliness. It’s a fitting end to a series that, to many, has overstayed it’s welcome.
For a different perspective read Kyle’s review here.