The goal of director Tom Six for his Human Centipede trilogy seems to be to create the most disgusting, offensive, and unwatchable horror film ever made. He uses such words in a teaser trailer for the second film in which he walks towards the camera, smiling at the mass chaos his film has caused. He’s aware of the criticism and doesn’t shy away from making each of his films more vile and putrid than the last. So I’m sure it would please Six to see yet another review in which he is thrashed as an inhuman director for aspiring towards little more than the spectacle of seeing human beings with their lips surgically attached to other people’s butts.
But The Human Centipede 3 is not the worst or most disgusting entry in the trilogy. This doesn’t make it a pleasing film, but it does surprise in how it’s elevated from being unwatchable to simply a terrible experience. Similar to the last film, The Human Centipede 3 takes place in a universe where the previous films exist as actual films. Unlike the previous installments, however, this one is played more as a comedy.
Dieter Laser and Laurence R. Harvey return to the series as the managers of a Texas prison. Laser plays warden Bill Boss as a hateful person in every way—he screams nearly every line, beats prisoners to the point of death, makes his dumb secretary service his carnal desires, and spouts a mouthful of racial slurs at his diverse group of prisoners. Harvey plays Boss’s Chaplin-mustached accountant, Dwight Butler, who is so obsessed with pinching pennies for his angry overlord that he formulates the worst idea possible. Inspired by the two existing Human Centipede films, he convinces Boss to use the human-centipede concept as a means of criminal rehabilitation. Why does Butler seem to think this is a good idea? His rationale is as big a mystery as the character from the previous film who was similarly inspired.
Tom Six does his best to play up this film as over-the-top insane as he can. Every line from Laser comes with a sinisterly loud cackle. No scene misses an opportunity for a bloody display of gore and violence or a gross act of sexual arousal (both, in some cases). But I never felt as completely disgusted and grossed out as I did by the other Human Centipede movies. Maybe I’ve just grown numb from the vile displays of blood, stitches, and fecal matter, but the third film just didn’t bring about that feeling where I wanted to smash the stop button repeatedly. This is a much better film in the sense that it doesn’t rely on the gritty and vomit-inducing nature of seeing people die from the unspeakable act of waste transference.
The Human Centipede 2 was ground zero for Laurence R. Harvey’s character amateurishly trying to stitch naked humans together in a dirty warehouse. In the third film’s surprisingly clean prison, a team of skilled surgeons are assembled to make sure the horrible procedure proceeds without failure. Unsuitable candidates are turned away (or shot), prisoners get to keep their clothes on during the process, and the procedure is so clean that the surgical team can successfully remove links from the chain without loss of life. The method has been so perfected that Boss expands the chain to reach all the way around the prison yard, sometimes intersecting between prisoners, which brings about some questions about mechanics of the process I’m thankful were never divulged. And as if that weren’t grotesque enough, Boss also introduces the human caterpillar, a chain built specially for those without limbs. One can only hope this doesn’t become its own spinoff horror franchise.
All of the characters are trying their best to play their roles up for Troma-style laughs, which is probably the best route to take with such a concept. Laser does not hold anything back in the role of the warden and spews out hateful words as if he were a beast fused with the DNA of the most offensive racists, rapists, and murderers. The heat has damaged this mind from corrupt to monstrous. Harvey does little more than stammer and stutter as the weaselly, fat man who sweats at conflict and squeals when he’s “done good.” The only big name in the picture is Eric Roberts, who appears as the governor, entering every scene with a patriotic soundtrack. You’d think he’d be the straight man in all this, but he, too, is given his moment to go bananas. Even Tom Six pops up at the prison to give its human centipede his seal of approval, as if he owns a copyright on the idea.
When Boss is selecting more subjects for the centipede chain, one prisoner is jumping up and down with glee about the chance to be part of such a project. Boss pulls out his gun to shoot the prisoner in his own cell and screams, “Nobody should enjoy this!” It’s a scene that seems to exemplify Tom Six’s message and the failure with the final entry in his trilogy. He wanted to make a film that was more putrid, offensive, disgusting, and shocking than any horror film out there. Instead, The Human Centipede 3 comes off as the cleanest and least visually repulsive film of the series with its better cinematography and dark sense of humor.
But it’s still a terrible movie I wouldn’t recommend to anyone, even as a party movie for those with an iron stomach. So if Six was truly aiming for his series to be completely unwatchable in more ways than one, then mission accomplished on helming the worst trilogy in movie history.