I used to watch the drunks in the Boston Common, the ones who sat on park benches and talked to themselves. They'd occasionally lash out at someone, or break out into song. I'd watch them, unable to understand how they'd reached this point. They occasionally made me laugh, and now and then they revolted me with their stupidity and base behavior. I watch the human centipede movies in much the same way, wondering what inspires director Tom Six to make them, and what drives his fascination with bodily functions. I'll admit, without an ounce of guilt, that I liked the first two HC movies. They were weird and, in their own way, vaguely artistic. Each had a distinct look and tone. Six, to me, is a kind of artist. Not a great one, but he has his own vision. That's why the latest chapter is a sort of letdown. The Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence is not exactly a fall from greatness, but it feels like the work of an artist who wasn't particularly inspired.
Part of the problem is that Six doesn't appear to be trying to scare us. The first two HC films were frightening. This one aims to be a sort of gross-out comedy, as if Six is parodying himself for his own amusement. He even appears in the film as himself, meeting with insane prison warden Bill Boss (Dieter Laser) who wants to use the human centipede technique to deal with his unruly prisoners. On paper, the idea must have sounded good to Six, but to me it felt as if he'd simply run out of ideas, and decided to blow us away with sheer numbers. The climactic visual of 500 prisoners sewn together, snaking across the prison yard, is stirring, but not to the degree that Six had probably hoped.
In short, the movie hits on most of the same gruesome details of the first two films, but without the originality, or the sense of impending doom. It might be because the centipede gimmick already feels old. If you've seen one person with his mouth sewn into another person's ass, you've seen 'em all. But it's as if Six knows this, too, so we don't get much centipede action in HC3 as we did in the other movies. Instead, we get jokes about Crohn's disease and colostomy bags, which only deaden the movie's momentum.
The plot is ridiculous. The first two films were actually vaguely plausible. But what Six knows of prison life seems to come from Machete movies. Hell, Roger Corman's old women in prison movies were probably closer to reality than anything in HC 3. It's as if a demented high school kid put this story together, with no nod to reality or common sense. Maybe he thinks the people who watch these movies aren't concerned with such details, but I'll bet they are.
Somehow, Eric Roberts agreed to be in HC, but he wanders around like he's lost. He plays a Texas governor who wants to shut down Boss' operation. This means 1) Six can now attract actors of Robert's stature, or 2) Roberts no longer has any stature. Roberts didn't even bother cutting his hair for the role, playing a Texas politician with a hippie haircut, another reason to suggest Six is clueless about a lot of things. Adult film actress Bree Olson appears as Boss' secretary, and she's not as bad as you would think, though her previous film work comes in handy for a scene here. "Tiny" Lister, a familiar character actor in films by Quentin Tarantino, Luc Besson, and John Frankenheimer, is here as the largest of the prisoners, but isn't given much to do. I remember when he got his start in the old WWF and wrestled Hulk Hogan. Now he's at the front of the centipede line. How far he's come!
If there's anything worthwhile in this movie, it's the absolutely unhinged performance by Laser as Boss. Whether he's performing a castration, or gobbling imported African clitorises as if they're pep pills, the snake-like Laser seems to be acting in another stratosphere. Granted, most of his lines are screamed in a hard to understand German accent, but I was never less than mesmerized by him. It was also great to see Laurence R. Harvey as Boss' lackey. Harvey was brilliant in the second HC movie, and shows here that he's capable of playing different sorts of characters. At times, Laser and Harvey are so good together that they could easily be the Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet of modern Grand Guignol.