Rarely has the word “final” been so welcome in a title as it is in “The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence).” Tom Six’s latest, largest-scaled and most lamentable entry yet in the gross-out horror series manages to be completely obnoxious even before the gross stuff kicks in. Of course, that will only heighten its curiosity value among the usual seekers of lowest-level genre excess. Pic opens May 22 in New York and Los Angeles, though as with its predecessors, primary fan access will be through simultaneous release to VOD.
The prior chapters’ leads return in new roles here as warden and accountant of the George H.W. Bush State Prison, a (presumably Texan) hellhole experiencing constant staff turnover and inmate violence. Only exacerbating those woes is cartoonishly maniacal Bill Boss (the original “Centipede’s” mad doctor, Dieter Laser), a chrome-domed German of a type that would seem over-the-top even in 1970s Italian Nazisploitation cinema. He loathes his prisoners, and they return the sentiment. When not terrorizing his buxom blonde secretary/sex slave, Daisy (Bree Olson), Boss tortures cons who offend him.
As the facility is a well-known trouble spot with serious cost overruns, his nerdy financial officer Dwight (“Centipede II’s” Laurence R. Harvey) suggests they skip “mass castration” — Boss’ preferred disciplinary method — and whip the populace into docile shape by imitating the first two films’ grisly medical experiment. While the warden at first resists (“These movies are pure s–t” he bellows in one of the pic’s mildly amusing moments of self-awareness), pressure from the Governor (Eric Roberts, attempting to float through without getting soiled) in an election year changes his mind.
A smug, dandified Six turns up as himself to accept fawning praise for his cinematic oeuvre, and to provide medical evidence that the centipede surgical model is actually workable. Suddenly converted to this “ultimate correction,” particularly after a riot he provokes, Boss has the prison doctor (Clayton Rohner) stitch the populace together mouth-to-anus, forming a giant … well, you know. This doesn’t happen until the last reel, with all too much prior time spent in Boss’ office as he unleashes a dreary Tourette’s-like string of sexist, racist and juvenile obscenities.
Though there’s plenty to trigger the sought-after “Ewww” reaction, what’s really hardest to take here is Laser’s performance. He chews the scenery to a pulp, but it’s not a fun kind of hamming — it’s the insufferable, bellowing, borderline-amateurish kind. As for the other thesps (including such familiar faces as Robert LaSardo and Tiny Lister as principal inmates), this is the kind of project that makes you just feel sad that most actors have to take whatever work they can get. Needless to say, ex-hardcore performer (and Charlie Sheen “goddess”) Olson suffers particularly degrading treatment as the sole female here.
It would be stretching things to the breaking point to suggest “Final Sequence” actually has something to say about the U.S. prison industry. The concept alone suggests as much, yet only near the end does the script transcend a simpleminded need to offend long enough to make even a crudely satirical statement about profit-driven institutional policies or inmate abuse. The ad line brags “100% Politically Incorrect,” but the writer-helmer’s achievement on that level is perhaps most comparable to junior high bathroom-wall graffiti: Six just wants to shock, though his imagination is so primitive that the effort is strained and a bit pathetic. Initially abrasive, the whole enterprise grows simply tedious well before the now-epically-scaled titular phenom is unveiled in the prison yard.
As with earlier chapters, the packaging is as competent (if not particularly inspired) as the content is remedial. Indeed, perhaps the series’ only really good joke has been the inherent absurdism of seeing an ever-rising level of expense, polish and now “name” actors applied to something so fundamentally dumb.