Do You Have The Intestinal Fortitude For ‘The Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence’
Filmmaker Tom Six brings his triptych to an audacious close
Friday, May 29, 2015
KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews the final installment in Tom Six's trilogy, "The Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence."
"The Human Centipede: First Sequence" (2009)
"The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence" (2011)
"Man Bites Dog" (1992)
Tom Six’s “Human Centipede” triptych has even some horror fans saying you can go too far. But that’s why I am eager to host screenings of “Human Centipede 3” this Friday and Saturday at the Digital Gym Cinema. Warning: Proceed with caution.
I love films that divide audiences. Tom Six’s “Human Centipede” did that in 2009 by serving up a tale of a crazed but fastidious doctor (Dieter Laser) who surgically sewed three people together, “ass to mouth.” The first film had an almost antiseptic quality to its visual presentation, and despite the disturbing subject matter, Six actually exercised surprising restraint. But then with subject matter like that you can use all the restraint in the world and still find your film in censorship trouble. And that was fine with Six.
When I interviewed him in 2010, he said, “The fun for me as a filmmaker is to see if you can make a movie where people talk about it. I don’t like movies that you leave the theater and you think, ‘What’s for dinner?’ And you forget about the movie immediately. I like when people can talk about a movie for hours, days, or maybe even years. That’s a big challenge for me. For me a film is pretty controversial like this and that’s very fun for me.”
Then came the sequel, "Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)." Gone is Dieter Laser's mad scientist Heiter and in his place is Martin (Laurence R. Harvey), a disturbed loner obsessed with Six's "The Human Centipede."
Martin keeps a scrapbook about the film and decides to gather 12 victims so he can create his own extended human centipede as a tribute to the film and to satisfy his own perverse fantasies. But instead of the sterile environment of a medical facility (albeit one created by a mad man) was the do-it-yourself, staple gun approach of the coarse black and white sequel.
The ending of the film (SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN IT) – in which we discover that all we had just seen was a perverse fantasy taking place inside Martin’s head -- was a defiant statement by Six that made the argument that part of the function of horror is to serve as a release or catharsis. By making "First Sequence" and then placing that film inside "Full Sequence" as something that a troubled man watches, he suggests how a horror film can offer escape and stimulate a fantasy life while not necessarily encouraging actual violence.
In the end, "The Human Centipede 2" is an artist's argument and justification for his art.
Now Six serves up “Human Centipede 3: The Final Sequence” and he turns the dial up to 11.
If “Full Sequence” was self referential “Final Sequence” proves to be a fun house of meta mirrors. The film opens with end of “Final Sequence” in which Martin is watching “First Sequence” on TV. Then Six pulls back to reveal the two actors from the previous films – Laser and Harvey – as two new characters watching the character of Martin watching the second film. And one character even notes how the other would look exactly like Martin if he would just shave off his mustache.
The new setting of this “Final Sequence” is a prison run by the sadistic Bill Boss (Laser). Bill Boss gleefully tortures and abuses his inmates and fusses about all the trouble they cause him. Then his assistant suggests they take their cue from Six’s films: “We have to make a human centipede of our prisoners sewn ass-to-mouth, sharing one digestive system.” That he says will take care of all their problems. So they bring in Tom Six (the director playing a version of himself) since after all, Six said the film was “medically accurate.” They coerce the prison doctor to go along with the plan and then Bill Boss screens the films for the inmates who condemn the film as sick and perverse. But Bill Boss tells them to look at the film as an instruction manual for what’s about to happen.
“The Human Centipede 3” is like a B movie amped up on cocaine. It is so outrageously over the top and just plain insane that all you can do is react in shocked laughter because it is sick, wicked fun. It is also most definitely not for the faint of heart and there’s not a politically correct bone in its body.
But for all its extremism and brutal violence, it is ultimately a well-crafted and thought out film. Once again Six takes horror to a higher level. And, I do mean a higher level. The fact that he designed this trilogy of films with careful thought as to how the violence and visual storytelling of each would work reveals a dedication to the genre that is too rare today. Six understands how to tell a story and to engage us in a story even though he may repulse us with the subject matter. And storytelling skills are sorely lacking in most of today’s horror films, which only seem to display cleverness in how they think of ways to kill people and even there they lack innovation.
In the end, I admire for Six and his films for their craft and dedication to pushing the envelope on horror.
You can call Six sick and twisted, but his films form a savvy horror trilogy that provocatively comments on the genre. Each film has upped the ante in different ways and “The Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence” (the film currently has no MPAA rating but is definitely only for adults) is an audacious finale that I dare you to watch.
NOTE: Each film does stand on its own but they do work better as a complete trilogy and benefit from being seen in order.
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