Three quarters of the way through HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3, the star of the film screams out “I don’t want anyone liking this!”, to which the movie’s own director responds “oh man – this is so wrong!”. That dialogue couplet sums up this out of control, off the rails offering about as well as anything could.
Welcome to QUAD, welcome to our regular monthly horror slot Fright Club. My name’s Darrell Buxton, I’m a local writer, editor, and critic specialising in exploitation, cult, and shock cinema, and it’s my task here every few weeks to say a few words leading in to our late-night fright flick. Usually it’s a relatively easy job – we’ll screen an old classic, or the latest media horror sensation, or a fringe favourite, or a budding new production on the way to future cult status, allowing me to discuss the themes, influences, iconic scenes and original moments that our evening’s entertainment provides.
But six years ago a film arrived on our screens and I had to throw away the rule book. The very title – THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE – suggested freakishness beyond even our standard realm, and once I took an advance look at the movie in preparation for our show, I wondered how on earth we were going to pitch this one to a paying public. No worry – if you build it, they will come, as a wise man once said, and HUMAN CENTIPEDE’s intrigue and promise dragged rubberneckers out of their dwelling places, drinking dens, or other regular haunts, bringing them instead down to our cinema to find out for themselves what all the fuss was about. And it proved one of those welcome occasions where no-one went away disappointed. Boy, did HUMAN CENTIPEDE live up to its billing, and then some! If you believe that old maxim about there only being seven stories in literature or drama, suddenly here was story number eight, one that didn’t fit in!
The 2012 sequel, HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2: FULL SEQUENCE offered further surprises. Filmed in black and white, in Britain, with gnomish horror film fanboy Laurence Harvey in the lead role, Ashlynn Yennie improbably but ingeniously returning from the original, and managing to almost get itself banned despite the UK’s supposedly more tolerant and relaxed approach to film censorship, this one couldn’t have been more different from the first segment. Another extraordinary jaw-dropper, which left us all wondering what director Six might possibly have in reserve for his planned third and final instalment.
So, it’s here. Crawling around on its 2000 limbs. HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3 proves as unpredictable as its predecessors, shifting the setting to a remote prison and stitching together not three, not twelve, but five hundred reluctant participants this time! Dieter Laser from part one and Laurence Harvey from the sequel are back, playing different characters, and you’ll have loads of fun trying to spot other past cast members too, as Tom has brought back a few old friends and one very familiar beard! New to the series are Bree Olson, former porn icon and once one of Charlie Sheen’s live-in ‘Goddesses’, and Eric Roberts, whose career has gone crazy in recent times with roles in more than 130 movies since the start of 2012! The phrase “will work for food” springs to mind.
HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3 has taken a bit of a kicking from the critics, and, more surprisingly perhaps, from horror fans. Don’t take any heed of such mealy-mouthed mauling, however. This is a riot, a super way to end the series. It’s beautifully photographed in a kind of heat haze, and Six makes orthodox use of the oppressive prison setting in the grand exploitation style. The regulation gore, crazy operations, and centipede action are all ticked off on the checklist as expected, but additional joys are to be found from Laser, yelling all of his dialogue at the top of his voice, and Harvey, disastrously-on-purpose attempting a Texan accent by way of Wigan, giving performances that conventional study may regard as ‘awful’ but which in fact capture the delirious tone to perfection. And there’s plenty of hilarious and neatly-integrated reference to the two prior films and to Tom Six himself, all very knowing and huge fun as a result.
This time Six makes some vicious – and surprisingly subtle – digs at American politics and traditionalist Republican attitudes. The main villainous character, played by Laser, the wittily-named Bill Boss, wears a cowboy hat, though it’s a white one, symbolically the colour worn by the western hero. Bill’s opinions and his methods of control are not all that far removed from those of the notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a real-life elected official in Arizona who forces prisoners to wear pink underwear, who has revived the concept of the chain-gang, who set up the inhumane and sweltering prison extension ‘Tent City’, and who enlisted Steven Seagal and Lou Ferrigno as armed posse members to aid in keeping illegal immigrants from crossing the Mexican border. HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3’s action is set in a very Guantanamo-reminiscent correction facility named after a former U.S. President, and Eric Roberts features as a state governor who acts in precisely the way a state governor would act in these odd circumstances, weighing up the immoral cons against the fiscal pros of the situation. His ultimate behaviour is so accurate it’s terrifying.
A few final words of advice from me before we dive in. Do not, I repeat, do not, dip your hand into the candy jar that Warden Bill Boss keeps on his desk. You’ve been warned…
George Orwell wrote, in ANIMAL FARM, “four legs good, two legs bad”. Fuck knows what he would have thought of all this! Enjoy your film, and try not to disturb the rest of Derby’s late night revellers as you all conga across the marketplace on all fours on your way out.