As both of my readers might know, I work at an indie/art-house movie theater in New York City. What you might not know, and might even find surprising, is that that is the type of venue at which the pretty much universally reviled Human Centipede movies get their theatrical exhibitions. The first one was kind of a big hit, to the point where we ordered enough promotional T-shirts that they were still on sale during the run of the third one, six years later. The novelty has worn off, though, and we only actually sold one of those T-shirts this time around.
The Human Centipede 3 did pretty healthy business, though; healthy enough to get its exhibition extended by a couple of weeks. The crowds were not as predictable as you might imagine, either. Sure, opening night was a collection of obvious scumbags, but over the course of a few weeks, curiosity (or masochism) brought in a lot of folks you would not immediately peg as the Human Centipede crowd. I actually felt the need to make sure that one group of four college girls knew what movie they were standing in line for, until they enthusiastically replied in the affirmative. And they seemed so nice.
I had to admit it then, and I will admit it again now: I am no better. My own morbid curiosity had already compelled me to sit through the first two atrocities, and I knew then that it was only a matter of time until a combination of whiskey, loneliness, and an active Netflix account would have me buckling in for one more. The title promises this is the last one, anyway. If there is a fourth sequence one day, I’ll probably watch that one, too. I am no better.
So, was it any good? Of course not. Like the first two, it was vile and tedious, often at the same time. But, like the first two, it was weirdly compelling just the same. There is also a certain perverse populism to championing this awful series (calling it a trilogy seems too classy). After all, why is it that Matthew Barney, for example, can put a diarrhea close-up onscreen and people call it art, but the Human Centipede movies are trash? I realize that sentence does more to denigrate the work of Matthew Barney than it does to elevate The Human Centipede, but I stand by it.
Anyway, after the artsy (black-and-white, no less), meta hi-jinks of The Human Centipede 2, this latest one followed the fourth wall-shattering to its (sort of) logical conclusion, which made it both the best and the worst one of all. Dieter Laser returned from the first film, but as a new character. This time out, he was a sadistic prison warden whose assistant (Laurence R. Harvey, star of the second film, also playing a new character) insisted that the first two Human Centipede movies were the solution to the mutinous hatred coming at Laser from all directions in the overcrowded prison. I mean, he could have always just stopped being such a rancid prick to everyone, but I guess it was easier to just sew them all together ass-to-mouth.
The first half (at least) was definitely pretty tedious, despite the fact that Laser (who has the greatest name this side of Thurl Ravenscroft) did his best to chew all the scenery in sight. He was the hammiest ham to ever ham, but his performance was ninety percent tone-deaf screaming, and not nearly as delicious as, say, a good Nicolas Cage ham. He did a great job of justifying the prison inmates’ hatred of him, but it was not a tremendous amount of fun to watch.
Most of the fun to be found in this movie, especially in the first half, came from its sheer absurdity, and not just the whole sewing faces to asses part, either. It was the quieter absurdities that interested me, like the way Harvey’s character said he grew a Hitler/Chaplin mustache to look more like Laser, despite the fact that Laser was completely bald and clean-shaven. It was the way a particularly rowdy inmate (Robert LaSardo, go-to actor for any project that requires a terrifying, heavily tattooed dude) threatened to rape Laser to death, and then the death-rape chant got picked up by the rest of the prisoners. It was the fact that Eric Roberts was in this movie, and at one point actually said, “This is exactly what America needs.” Well said, Eric. You truly are the best of the best.
Deebo from Friday was in here, too, in the slightly more dignified head position in the ultimate 500-prisoner centipede, as well as the extremely undignified position of being in this movie at all. Bree Olson, best known as a regular consort of Charlie Sheen at the height of his tiger blood phase and, secondarily, as a porn star, was practically the only woman in this movie. Based on the preceding sentence, you can probably guess how undignified her role was, but you would still come up short. The treatment of her character was arguably the most reprehensible thing about this utterly irredeemable movie.
Director Tom Six, however, was the worst of the celebrity guest stars, an element that was absent from the first two movies. Consider it faint praise that he is a vastly better director than he is an actor. He was not irritatingly loud and abrasive like Laser; he was just wooden and boring, which, in a movie like this, is far worse. As the writer of the movie, he is also responsible for other characters singing his praises throughout, apparently without a trace of irony. At one point, he even threw up at the horror of what he saw inside the prison, which served two functions: to establish that this installment is so offensive that it even sickens its creator, and to get some vomit on screen, because the movie was just not gross enough without that. Did I mention that, at one point, someone gets raped in the kidney?
So, no, of course it was not good. Will I watch the whole series again someday, though? Almost certainly. There is a strange fascination about the whole thing that cannot be denied and, much as I did not really enjoy watching any of them, they haunt me. They are not important movies, they couldn’t be any less important, and yet, somehow… I kind of think they are important. This is exactly what America needs, after all.
I am no better.