“I have no morals.” So said director Tom Six, to much audience laughter, during the UK premiere of The Human Centipede (courtesy of Nottingham’s superlative Mayhem Film Festival and Broadway cinema). Those familiar with his already iconic series will likely not refute this claim. The 2009 original caused a stir for its premise alone – and if you’re reading this you already know the central conceit – while the censor-baiting 2011 Full Sequence follow up pushed the BBFC to initially ban it. Though Final Sequence is far less extreme than its predecessor, there’s thankfully still plenty to upset the Daily Mail.
Final Sequence is established from the get go as even more knowing than Full Sequence, with the opening scene finding previous protagonists Dieter Laser and Laurence R. Harvey watching the second film in the prison which Laser runs. And runs badly. So badly in fact, that Harvey has latched onto a disciplining approach that’ll keep costs low and prevent reoffenders (no prizes for guessing what).
Laser’s character, the astutely monikered Billy Boss, is initially repulsed by the idea, choosing to go about trying to garner order and respect through a mix of repulsive megaphone diatribes and torture. However, with medical costs skyrocketing and Governor Hughes (Eric Roberts) giving Boss a couple of weeks to turn things around, it’s only a matter of time before the titular creation rears its head – along with the no doubt eagerly awaited debut of the ‘Human Caterpillar’.
And that’s it. Plot-wise, as with all the series, there is little to the film. However, where the second film revelled in the violence to a basically humourless degree, Final Sequence is comedy in the broadest sense. From the extraordinary insults (more on which later) to the wry commentary on the other films – during a prison screening of the first two films, one prisoner shouts “These films could cause harm, they should be banned!”, twisting the BBFC’s creed and showing it for the farcical stance it is – the humour is diverse and dilutes the explicit content into something more palatable. As Six himself said, where’s the interest in pushing the boat out in terms of explicit material after the barb wire rape of Full Sequence?
With complete sincerity I contend William Boss is destined to be one of the all-time great comedy characters
Instead where the boat is pushed out, so far out it has almost lost sight of the shore, is in the characters, namely the superlative Boss. With complete sincerity I contend William Boss is destined to be one of the all-time great comedy characters; when not hurling insults and expletives like a Tarantino character without the hipster pretence, he’s dancing and marching and fighting with all the exaggerated physicality of any of the silent comedy greats (as for his tongue, well that’s something to behold and is probably deserving of its own credit). That this physicality sometimes includes forcing other characters into significant danger, such as when throwing secretary Daisy (Bree Olsen) out of his office into the fists of rioting prisoners, only further underscores the macabre sense of humour the film possesses.
Ostensibly, an incident like the one I just mentioned would normally be received as beyond the pale. The acts of violence against Olsen alone are heinous (by far having the unluckiest fate of the cast) and, considering she plays the only female character, terribly problematic from the perspective of sexual politics. However, the film escapes this weighty accusation, and sidesteps potential misogyny accusations entirely, by being the most indiscriminately offensive film to receive mainstream distribution in a very long time.
The busting of virtually every verbal taboo, coupled with the go-for-broke handling of the film’s subject matter results in the film simply transcending its base elements. How can one be legitimately offended by, or find a problem with, a film which hysterically shrieks such indefensible things into the canonical cinematic void? While so much widely-seen cinema remains restrained and hoary, Final Sequence revels gloriously and breathtakingly in the filth it has offered up. While by no means to everyone’s taste, there’s no reason to be legitimately disparaging towards Final Sequence than any other film one personally does not find appealing.
Yet that hasn’t stopped the majority of the ‘respectable’ critical presses lambasting it. They’re missing the point. It has the vision and heart of a filmmaker, formerly the “Uwe Boll of the Netherlands” and now destined to be one of the most discussed and remembered directors of this generation. The exhibited drive towards achieving Six’s vision says a lot more in the film’s favour than the middling, ‘acceptable’ dross arriving in theatres every month. Furthermore, Final Sequence at least has the chutzpah to sprint to territory Seth MacFarlane and his ilk’s pathetically neutered attempts at being ‘infantile’ or ‘gross-out’ daren’t tread. Tom Six may have no morals, but he has commitment to his singular world view. In film, that’s much more valuable.