After the bloody, perverse creepfest that was The Human Centipede II, viewers might have wondered if there was any place left for writer/director Tom Six to take his Human Centipede concept. As it turned out, Six had one more trick up his sleeve. In The Human Centipede III, he throws out the horror element and plays up the sick humor elements that were part of the fabric of the first two films, going for a bizarre attempt at shock-comedy that is pitched somewhere between Troma movies and John Waters’ ’70s output.
The Human Centipede III brings back the star of the first film, Dieter Laser, for a new role as Bill Boss, the warden of the George W. Bush State Prison. The governor (Eric Roberts) has let him know that his unruly enterprise is in danger of being closed down so he gives in to an idea proposed by his sleazy accountant, Dwight (The Human Centipede II star Laurence R. Harvey): to transform the prison population into a giant centipede, using the first two Human Centipede movies as a guide. Six even writes himself in a cameo as himself, called in to consult on the medical viability of the operations.
The Human Centipede III is odd even by the standards of this series for a few reasons. For starters, the plotting is weirdly episodic: the storyline of the film could be fulfilled in a half-hour so Six pads it out with a series of showstopping atrocities: Boss cutting the testicles off a prisoner, a waterboarding session with steaming water, a nightmare scene with a perverse version of rape that pays homage to Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein. It’s almost like a variety show aimed at the darkest-minded members of the cult/horror audience.
The other source of the film’s oddness is a flamboyantly bizarre performance from Laser. It seems like Six simply stood back and allowed the actor to handle the scenes however he pleases because he is never in sync with his fellow actors, who are all trying to play the story in a deadpan-straight manner. Laser veers from mumbling in a hungover manner to making weird faces at the other actors while they talk to throwing childlike fits as he shouts lines at the top of his lungs, extending each syllable past its breaking point with a Teutonic roar. It’s more performance art than performance and it’s the weirdest, most atonal performance in any commercially released film in years.
In short, The Human Centipede III is a gutsy but misguided experiment that never really takes flight. Six has carried his meta-movie conceits too far, showing more interest in being a perverse showman rather than trying to tell a story (the film doesn’t even have a proper ending) or create a mood. It strains too hard to be the bad boy of the cult movie set and its aggressive mix of brutality and weirdness is more likely to alienate viewers rather than drawing them into his bizarre world.