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The Human Centipede Series

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (April 30/10)

Conventional yet disturbing, The Human Centipede (First Sequence) follows Americans Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) as they find themselves stranded in the German wilderness after their car gets a flat tire. Their troubles seem to be over as they spot a house in the middle of nowhere, although - as becomes increasingly clear - the sole resident (Dieter Laser's Dr. Heiter) of said house is a far more palpable threat than anything within the outside world. Filmmaker Tom Six has infused The Human Centipede (First Sequence) with a consistently striking visual sensibility that initially offsets the rather amateurish nature of the performances and the dialogue, with the undeniably familiar setup inevitably giving way to an atmosphere of pervasive dread and foreboding eeriness. The progressively disturbing vibe is, however, frequently lessened by Six's almost aggressive reliance on eye-rollingly hoary elements, as the writer/director generally seems to be working from a template for movies of this ilk - with the unreasonably moronic cops that arrive on the scene late in the picture exemplifying Six's penchant for less-than-innovative instances of plotting (and this is to say nothing of the frustratingly open-ended conclusion). There's little doubt that such problems are ultimately rendered moot by the impressively repulsive nature of the film's central conceit, with the startlingly plausible execution of Heiter's downright nauseating plan ensuring that The Human Centipede (First Sequence) sticks with the viewer long after the end credits have rolled.

out of

The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (November 2/11)

Given the unexpected effectiveness of its predecessor, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) can't help but come off as a major disappointment that admittedly ups the gore quotient but fails in virtually every other respect. The thin narrative follows an overweight loner named Martin (Laurence R. Harvey) as he decides to replicate the events of 2009's The Human Centipede (First Sequence), with the movie detailing Martin's efforts at collecting victims and, eventually, transforming them into a twelve-person human centipede. Filmmaker Tom Six's decision to eschew the sleek, pervasively cinematic atmosphere of the original ultimately proves disastrous, as the writer/director has instead infused The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) with a low-rent and downright amateurish feel that's especially problematic in the movie's first half. It's during this stretch that Six emphasizes Martin's less-than-savory home life, with the handheld camerawork and spare, high-contrast black-and-white cinematography ensuring that such moments feel ripped out of a garden-variety student film. The atmosphere of dread that was so prevalent in the first movie is, as a result, almost entirely absent here, and, although Harvey delivers a fearless, go-for-broke performance, Six is never quite able to transform Martin into an appropriately intimidating antagonist - with the character's blandness standing in sharp contrast to Dieter Laser's indelible work in the original film. By the time the pointlessly grotesque third act rolls around, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) has cemented its place as a disappointingly inferior sequel that doesn't bode well for the future of this franchise.

out of

The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence) (June 2/15)

The Human Centipede saga comes to a disastrous and interminable close with this shockingly inept entry, with the narrative following a tyrannical prison warden (Dieter Laser's Bill Boss) as he conspires to create a 500-person human centipede comprised of his reprehensible prisoners. Though the first sequel was certainly a disappointment, The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence) makes that subpar entry look like a masterpiece of subtlety and restraint by comparison - as filmmaker Tom Six delivers an overlong, rambling product that is, virtually from start to finish, the cinematic equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. Six's decision to entirely jettison the first film's creepy, sinister vibe proves utterly catastrophic, with the writer/director's ongoing efforts at cultivating an overtly comedic and satirical atmosphere falling flat on an ongoing basis. Far more problematic, however, is Laser's almost astonishingly grating work as the central character, as the actor delivers a turn that's pitched at a level of total hysteria from beginning to end - with Laser's efforts here destined to join the ranks of cinema's all-time worst performances. (It certainly doesn't help that much of the movie's running time is devoted to Laser's character's shouty ramblings.) That the title monstrosity doesn't make its appearance until around the 90 minute mark (!) only confirms the movie's place as a complete misfire (and trainwreck), and it's ultimately clear that Six is, at best, a one-hit wonder who seriously lucked out with the 2010 original. (He is, given that he plays himself in a brief role, a terrible actor, too.)

no stars out of

© David Nusair