Thursday 9 July 2015

Indigestible: "The Human Centipede (Final Sequence)"

A generous soul, perhaps one who hasn't been anywhere near the films, might give Dutch writer-director Tom Six credit for stringing it out so, but the Human Centipede franchise will go down as a compellingly sick idea handled with more or less complete ineptitude. With The Human Centipede (Final Sequence), we've ended up in America, where the series continues to ingest itself; watching it is, indeed, about as much fun as diverticulitis. Here, the deranged boss of the George H. W. Bush correctional facility (Dieter Laser, the mad doctor of the first film) and his snivelling right-hand man (Laurence R. Harvey, the psycho of film two) watch the first two movies - back-to-back, natch - and decide they offer "the final solution" (hur hur hur) to the problem of prison violence. Rather than three or four victims stitched into a digestive daisychain, then, we're building towards 500 prisoners being stitched ass-to-mouth - a spectacle Six extends before the viewer like a large, rotting carrot.

This mega-centipede could be taken as a metaphor for the way the whole series has, from modest beginnings, spiralled out of control. Somehow it feels significant that Six's sister Ilona is the only other credited producer, because clearly no-one's been leaning too hard on the director to deliver a sharper script, a more rigorous take, a tighter edit. The narrative of both sequels assume - with not the least amount of arrogance - that its predecessor(s) have had a far greater impact than they ever could in reality; that someone might take them seriously, rather than simply laugh them off the screen. The very least Ilona could have suggested would have been a casting upgrade. Her sibling clearly believes he's onto a winner with Laser, a berserk presence in the Klaus Kinski vein, incapable of giving a conventional line reading: you catch Six only encouraging his star in this, getting him to prolong an orgasm or the pronunciation of the word "clitorises" in the hope of initiating a YouTube supercut that might prompt another rash DVD rental somewhere along the line.

Still, the performance proves as exhausting as getting through any other large ham, and nobody appears to have learnt the lesson of Kinski's career: that, away from the Werner Herzog oeuvre, the majority of his vehicles were complete and utter excrement, which no amount of wild-eyed overacting could elevate. For former porn starlet Bree Olson, oft located on her knees here in the role of Laser's "office slut", The Final Sequence presumably counts as a step up from dating Charlie Sheen, and that sly silver fox Eric Roberts brings the odd note of cheque-eyeing professionalism to proceedings as the state governor; less convincing is the facility's doctor (Clayton Rohner) who, when handed a pair of Human Centipede movies, remarks "I've seen these - they're really good" - but then this is a line not even Olivier in his imperial phase could have thought to deliver with any degree of credibility.

Again, Six crams the frame with material that would, in even slightly more assured hands, prove at least troubling. The prison presents itself, as it always has to exploitation filmmakers, as a sadists' playground, which means we get racial and sexual abuse, castration and cannibalism, and a man being raped through his kidneys even before we get to the obligation shit-eating - but somehow it's the sniggering, slipshod execution that contrives to be the most offensive thing about the film. The Guantanamo-orange jumpsuits the prisoners sport are a smirky wardrobe choice, but Six appears far less interested in (and capable of) examining real-world abuses of power than he is in forwarding his own legend; his preening cameo (complete with Ed Wood 'tache) would suggest he's taken on the meritless exhibitionism of his sometime Big Brother subjects. He'd love this Final Sequence to create the same furore as his First and Second passes, and would doubtless soil himself if there were calls for the film to be banned. A more apt fate would be for it - and him - to simply be ignored.

The Human Centipede (Final Sequence) opens in selected cinemas from tomorrow, ahead of its DVD release on July 20.  

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