Sadistic prison warden Bill Boss, (Dieter Laser, the bad guy from the first Human Centipede) is going to get fired if he doesn’t turn his madhouse prison around. After prodding from his sidekick accountant Dwight Butler (Laurence R. Harvey, the bad guy from HC2,) he turns to the films for inspiration. To describe it as a movie, though, I must just simply say HC3 is the most complexly layered object of manifested insanity that has ever been put to film. You have two guys that you watched attach peoples’ asses and faces before stumble upon the idea and ask Tom Six (the director of the movies) for help in figuring out the logistics of the full chain!
This movie presents us with perhaps the most intensely camp portrayal of insanity ever from Dieter Laser. Bill Boss commits gut-wrenching acts of brutal violence with manic glee, and Laser shouts and gurgles out every single line. He’s absolutely enthralling; it’s like watching a method-acting Tommy Wiseau in a feverish rage. So much of the film depends on Laser’s performance that it feels a lot like Dr. Strangelove. Both films follow crazed leaders dragging those under their command closer and closer to the unspeakable, and you can’t help but watch with alternating joy and horror at what unfolds.
The movie is darkly humorous where the first two films didn’t embrace this wholeheartedly. HC3 is pure madness and deserves a spot on your bad movie night, but it’s somehow more than just B-movie camp. It’s an experiment in how meta you can make something, and really, it’s Tom Six going out with a bang. It feels like the realization of something resembling an artistic vision (if that vision was to put the most ridiculous thing on screen). Or maybe the vision was of a sea of pissed-off, grossed-out people. For the rest of us, Human Centipede 3 is pure, pulpy joy.
Going into Human Centipede 3, I pretty much expected it to follow the formula of the previous two and try to top them. It successfully hits the mark in being vulgar, vile and offensive at every opportunity. As the movie progresses it pokes fun at the previous two entries and had me laughing throughout. I also enjoyed Dieter Laser’s performance and his ability to scream every other line. But honestly this is a movie I’d only watch once. While I enjoyed the first movie, it was kind of a one and done concept for me. If you enjoyed the other two movies I feel you will probably enjoy this one for the fact it is the end of a somewhat insane series, from concept to execution.
Well, it’s a lot like the plot of the entire series – and by that I mean it’s roughly 5 hours of someone cramming shit down your throat. What may have started off innocently enough has taken on a life of its own; culminating in a 3rd installment that is every bit as pointless as it is annoying. I used to think everyone loved this series and I was just being a Negative Nancy – but these days you are the envy of the horror community if you have somehow neglected to watch the mess that is known as The Human Centipede.
I remember the exact moment I found out about The Human Centipede. I was in a video store at the time (relic that they are now). I was strolling down the aisles as I listened to a movie podcast discussing promising genre fare emerging from England’s Fright Fest film festival. There was one in particular that caught my attention.
I listened as they described this crazy sounding movie about a doctor who turns his patients into a freakish creature that shares one digestive tract. The idea sounded ludicrous. It sounded like the plot of a bad b-movie. I imagined a corny low budget horror film with a cackling scientist and fake looking special effects. I soon realized how wrong I was when the first clips from the film started to appear online. The movie looked incredibly suspenseful. Then the first trailer for the film arrived and it actually looked scary! I couldn’t believe it, could this mysterious director Tom Six actually produce a serious horror film from such a silly concept?
The Human Centipede (First Sequence)
Of course most of us know how that turned out. The film landed and became a phenomenon. People who didn’t watch horror films knew what a human centipede was. This was due to the manner in which Tom Six presented his dark little tale. He discovered a complete madman for the lead role who could creep you out without speaking a word. He presented the concept with such unerring sincerity that it was hard not to take it seriously. Of course the film started as you might expect. A couple of ditzy girls are ready for a night of debauchery and bad acting. Their performances are SO bad, this becomes a signature element of the film. When people talk about the first Human Centipede they always mention the bad acting first. When the girls run into Dieter Laser’s Dr. Joseph Heiter the film transforms. Laser’s performance is transfixing. His steely gaze and unnerving voice demand your attention. He is German of course. Naturally this is a cheat, but it absolutely works.
With the appearance and casting of Dieter Laser, Tom Six reveals his ace in the hole. He has been skillfully leading you down a false path. The terrible acting is designed to make you think the film will be as terrible as the plot synopsis makes it sound like it will be. But Tom Six is a cunning filmmaker. He manages to make Human Centipede cheesy, scary, suspenseful, hilarious and coherent. This is the true achievement of the film.
To my surprise, you don’t have to wait very long to see the horrifying creature on the film’s poster. The Human Centipede makes its appearance relatively early in the film’s running time. What happens afterward is the true magic that Six wields. The film turns out to be a wicked comedy. The humor is black as pitch. Perhaps you have to be a little twisted to see it but it’s there. This twist is what really solidified the movie as a classic of the genre to me. I will be the first to admit that Tom Six can be grating. The man is a salesman, but he is also a skilled filmmaker and he didn’t waste his opportunity here.
The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)
After the first film captured the world’s attention, what was Tom Six to do? Make more films about people stitched together of course! Six reminds me of Lloyd Kaufman. Kaufman is the owner of Troma film studios. Troma is famous for many things but they are most remembered for their creation of the Toxic Avenger in 1984. That film was a trend setting piece of celluloid when it first came out. It built Troma and cemented Kaufman’s place in (or outside of) Hollywood. Many sequels featuring Toxie followed but many of them fell short of the success of the original.
I mention Troma because Kaufman is a consummate salesman. In fact, it could be argued that Lloyd Kaufman may be a better salesman than a filmmaker. Tom Six is also a skilled salesman. The distinction between the two is that Tom Six realized how important the art of filmmaking was to his future. Human Centipede and it’s sequel are well made movies. They are shot well. They are paced well. The effects are fantastic. The acting is ….. mostly good. Tom Six realized something important when he made HC 2. He knew he couldn’t repeat himself. He also knew this is what people were expecting.
I didn’t like Human Centipede 2 when I first viewed the film. In fact I despised it. The entire film is uncomfortable from beginning to end. It’s completely different from the first film. It’s shot in black and white. The gore is more spectacular. The characters are more repugnant. Laurence Harvey’s Martin is so disgusting and awkward that you can’t really feel sorry for him even though it’s obvious he is a damaged character. If you thought the first Human Centipede was subversive, the second is a fucking Grindhouse Masterpiece. Shit spews at the screen, aborted babies are murdered in front of your eyes. Nudity is splayed across the screen everywhere. Nihilism infests every frame. The movie is DARK, both in the literal and the figurative sense. This was a shock to my system that I wasn’t ready for when I first watched it.
Watching the film recently for the second time was a completely different experience. Viewed on it’s own merits, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is also a genre classic of a different kind. I didn’t think anybody could be more insidious than Laser’s Dr. Heiter from the first film but Lawrence Harvey succeeds in crafting a thoroughly unpleasant monster. I give Harvey tons of credit for this. His performance is bold. He puts a lot of himself out there. But credit has to go to Tom Six too. Make no mistake about it, he takes a massive chance in this film and it pays off.
The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence)
And so we come to the most recent film in this shocking and visceral shocksploitation journey. After outdoing himself once, could Tom Six replicate this herculean feat again?
If the first film was a chiller, and the second film was a shocker, Human Centipede III is a cheesefest. Where else was Six to go? He’d already explored two aspects to his interesting universe so why not follow his hero, Lloyd Kaufman. Troma films are loud, disgusting and crude. Most of them are filled with sex, bodily fluids and elements that offend anybody and everybody. The formula has worked for Kaufman for over thirty years and it seems no one else has been able to replicate it successfully (although let’s give Full Moon and Charles Band credit for trying).
So Tom Six decided that he would make a Troma film. Dieter Laser yells every line in broken english. Laurence Harvey plays a thoroughly unremarkable normal man this time. There’s even a former porn star in the cast. Human Centipede III is a complete disaster. For some reason there’s less gore than previous films. There’s also less nudity on display. Some elements have been amplified (like the absurdity) but other elements are nearly vacant (like the entertainment value). I can see what Tom Six was going for but he fails completely. It’s obvious the man has talent and ambition. This makes it all the more confusing why this movie was made right now. It was inevitable that we’d eventually see another Human Centipede film but why in God’s name didn’t Six use the cache he’d earned from the first two films to explore a little?
Of course this is the nature of Hollywood. We got seven years of SAW in a row. We got nearly a decade of Friday the 13th in rapid succession. We are still getting Paranormal Activity films. For some reason the horror genre is incredibly needy. When horror strikes gold, it cuddles in close and won’t let go. You push it away but it keeps moving back into your personal space until you violently shove it away and then it disappears for so long that you begin to wonder if you hurt it’s feelings. There is no middle ground with the horror genre. You either have feast or you have famine. Human Centipede is a decadent feast of excess in all the wrong areas. It might be a sad nail in the coffin of this strange and talented filmmaker’s career. It’s certainly going to put the Human Centipede on ice for a while. Let’s just hope that Six takes a hint and backs off a little.
What do you think of the Human Centipede franchise? Do you like it? Do you hate it? What do you think of Tom Six? Shout at us here or on Twitter.