“The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence” was passionately crafted by Dutch writer-director Tom Six to be one of the most viscerally repulsive horror movies of the last decade. But bigger usually isn’t better for most franchises, even when the filmmakers are in on the joke: The third entry, “The Human Centipede Part III (Final Sequence)” takes the mouth-to-butt torture porn idea from its predecessor and adds more victims, more butts to which mouths are fasted, and takes a big, wide swing at its detractors. However, it’s not just the disgusting premise bound to invite criticism of this mediocre entry in a series that probably outstayed its welcome with the first entry, and somehow stuck around anyway.
It looked like things couldn’t go much more depraved than “The Human Centipede 2,” in which a man has a scorpion dropped into his rectum and a woman gives birth in a car, then crushes the newborn’s skull while stomping on the accelerator. (Hers is the most graceful of the many death scenes.) However, “The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence)” is just as repulsive, but far louder, and in color.
Dieter Laser, the mad German scientist from the first film, returns as a sociopathic, violently nationalistic prison warden named Bill Boss. Portly Laurence R. Harvey (the maniac of the second film) also returns, this time as a squirmy accountant. He fares far better than Dieter, whose sole method of acting here involves shouting, sustaining the “uh” part of the word “fuck” (which he howls incessantly), and flailing his arms about when those other methods fail him.
Dieter’s prison warden laments the lapse of medieval torture as a crime deterrent, calling lethal injection a wussy way to die. His prison’s record is apparently very poor, as the governor of what we can only assume is Texas, played Eric Roberts (he plays the governor, not Texas), threatens to fire Boss if changes aren’t made. (Roberts’ motives for joining this project are mysterious, but he brings a welcome blip of competence to his brief scenes.) After castrating an inmate to no avail, Boss brings in no less than director Tom Six himself for permission to borrow Six’s idea and turn his inmates into a human centipede.
Setting aside the absurd mayhem of the plot, “Final Sequence” is more visually lavish that the previous two entries in the series, and expands its view, literally and figuratively, stretching the frame to widescreen while casting its demented gaze on the United States penal system. Six sews ostensible cultural commentary throughout his fecal-filled movie, with lines about how much money the country spends on inmates and executions; he depicts his bluntly conceived warden, whose prison is named after George W. Bush (zing), as a monstrous nutjob who enjoys blowjobs and waterboarding in equal measures.
Despite the cartoonish elements in play, these symbolic elements lack much incisiveness when threaded around shots of people eating fried clitorises and medium-rare testicles. (Six is an equal-opportunity offender.) Women are treated like sex toys obtained from a yard sale. No true criticism or satire ever arises, unless you count “Wow, this guy treats women badly” as a profound observation.
On the other hand, it does present a savage depiction of American tyranny. Why, you may ask, does everyone go along with Boss’ obviously awful idea? Because they’re all terrified of losing their jobs. Each time someone expresses discomfort or skepticism regarding Boss’ penchant for torture, he reminds them that he’ll fire them if they don’t cooperate. Tough economy.
He also threatens to rape all kinds of people with alarming frequency. Between the constant threat of rape, the actual instances of rape, the dreamed instances of rape (including a man cutting a hole in someone’s side and having sex with his bleeding kidney), and the general air of sexual abuse that lingers throughout the picture, the obsession overtakes any kind of purpose for wielding it.
Nevertheless, the director’s camerawork and editing has improved since “Full Sequence.” The odd, disorienting cuts and poor understanding of spatial continuity are mostly alleviated, though Laser’s insufferable performance negates the few decent technical qualities “Final Sequence” offers up. His performance makes one appreciate Harvey’s mostly mute turn as Martin in the earlier entry.
A gory, disturbing horror movie with real ideas doesn’t have to be deplorable. “The Exorcist,” “The Thing,” “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,” and most of David Cronenberg’s movies deftly use bodily mutilation to scare and enlighten at once. They offer craft to match their ambition. But even when Six’s movie shows the slightest whiff of ambition, he squanders it with an all-too-eager and empty set of grotesqueries in near-celebratory fashion. Rather than deplorable, however, it’s simply an empty-headed endeavor. “Final Sequence” is too self-serious to be camp, but too silly to be scary, so Six just settles for gross.
“The Human Centipede: Part III (Final Sequence)” opens in select theaters and on VOD on May 22.