Total Pageviews

Thursday, 30 July 2015


Welcome Back, Everyone.

Today, we review the final part of one of the more notorious of film trilogies of recent times. THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE series (2009-14, Tom Six) has finally come full-circle, and THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3: FINAL SEQUENCE ends the series off, with what can only be described, as being so bad, so utterly rotten, so completely redundant, you have to wonder whether Dieter Laser wasn't sucking-off the director, to get this film released, and earn his pay-packet.

For those who don't know, the film brings back actors Dieter Laser (the mad Dr. Heiter from Part 1) and Laurence Harvey (Martin from Part 2) as two different characters - namely as Prison Warden Bill Boss and his right-hand-man Dwight - as they run a State Prison facility somewhere deep in the American heartland. Dwight tries to persuade Bill that the cure to stopping their inmates from acting-up, is to create a new form of torture for them to endure. Dwight's plan is to create the first-ever 500-person prison centipede, using the inmates.

The first hour is mostly dialogue and a vague scene-setter. The next 27 minutes, are the preparation of the titular centipede creation, and only in the final 10, do we see the damn thing.

Right, I'm not going to pussyfoot about anything here, or be polite. This film sucks! There are not enough words in the English Language, to truly describe what a festering pile of excreta, this film is! Nothing can describe how low this film stoops. Nothing prepares you for how much of the bottom of the barrel has been scrapped, to produce this most soul-sucking of cinematic turds.

If you thought that Parts 1 and 2 were bad - which I honestly don't think they are, as both had moments of genius within them - then you ain't seen nothing yet. For me, this is not only one of the worst horror films ever made, it is in fact one of the worst films ever made. I have had bowel movements with more integrity to them, than anything that exists in the 101 very long, painfully excruciating minutes that this film unwinds over. And now, I plan to tell you why.

Let's not beat around the bush here. The first two weren't masterpieces by any means. However, the first was an interesting twist on the classic Mad Doctor film (see LES YEUX SANS VISAGE, FRANKENSTEIN, DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE, etc, etc), and the second gave us a very dark glimpse into the mind of a psychopath (see HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, et al). Both were distinct and intelligent enough, to be watchable, even entertaining - in a very sick kind of way - and demented enough, to be watchable to those of us with more jaded horror movie palates. I know they weren't to most people's tastes, and I can certainly see why that is, but at least they tried to be different. They weren't a remake, or a sequel, nor a spin-off, and in this day-and-age, that counts for a huge amount.

That said, HC3 will test any horror fan's patience, to the very limit. Not only because the film outstays its welcome within minutes of it starting, but also because it just pisses on the fans who made the first two such big cult successes in the first place. Essentially, it was if Tom Six was having the last laugh, but at our expense! This is a complete, two-fingered salute to the fans: a solid, "Fuck You all, very, very much" from Six to us! There is practically no redeeming factors for this film. The acting is woeful. Dieter Laser has proven that the original film was a rare monument in class, because here, he's not even acting bad. He's not even acting poorly. Nope, he's not even acting woefully. He's not acting, period! He shrieks and rants every single line, and draws them out, with elongated syllable's that are almost as lengthy as the 500-person cephalopod of the film's title. Half of what he says isn't possible to be understood by normal human beings.

Within the first few minutes of the film, his character proves to be someone you will hate, but not for the usual reasons. His character is utterly unlikeable. Viewers will be instantly turned off by this trussed-up, cranky, grumpy, miserable, misogynistic, narrow-minded bigoted little turd, for the sole reason that he offers nothing to interest the audience. I haven't seen a character so detestable (or detested), since British Chancellor Of The Exchequer, George Osborne was routinely booed by everyone attending the 2012 Paralympics!

Even Laurence Harvey can't act for toffee. His mesmerising presence in THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2: FULL SEQUENCE in 2011, was clearly a one-off. Everything that made him menacing, terrifying, nightmarish in that, is jettisoned spectacularly, and he serves up what is nothing more than a shabby, lame-brained dumb-ass who weakly and ineptly tries to kowtow to his degenerate boss, at every second, with one of the ropiest American accents ever committed to film.

But the wooden acting, isn't the worst aspect of this film. God, no! What about the plot, I hear you ask? You've not mentioned the plot...

...To be fair, I have mentioned it, but you probably haven't realised it yet. That final line in my second paragraph, is the plot! I'm not kidding! The plot, or what amounts to a semblance of something vaguely appearing to be a plot, is one person tries to create a 500-person centipede. That's your lot! A hundred-and-one-minutes of celluloid is spewed-up, and pretty much Sweet F.A. happens in it!

Yet, there's worse to come. Can the film get any worse? Oh yes! If you think the bottom of that barrel hasn't already been scrapped squeaky-clean, Tom Six still manages to eke-out a few more filings of bodily waste, just to compound the viewers deserving hatred towards this monstrous flick.

Eric Roberts co-stars in this film, as what can only be assumed, is as a State Governor. Once the Centipede has been created - a tenuous stretch of film-logic by any means - and we see it revolt the Governor, a few moments later (well, more like 35 seconds later), he comes back and... Well, I could ruin the finale for you, but I don't know if you'd thank me for it...

...Actually, if I do reveal the ending, I'm probably being wholly merciful. The ending has the Governor actually exclaim that the 500-person centipede is "just the kind of thing America needs"! Holy fucking Christ! We're back to the days of Bill Pullman in ID4: INDEPENDENCE DAY (1995, Roland Emmerich) being a jingoistic prick, and preaching how amazing America is. It makes you want to vomit!

When I watched this film yesterday, with a great friend of mine, we both wondered whether THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3 cold actually get any worse, and Tom Six managed to pull another skinned rabbit out of his filthy, disgusting hat, to prove us all right. It could and did get worse!

I've almost forgotten another "highlight": Tom Six's car-crash acting appearance. Director's appearing in their own works, usually don't tend to gain much credibility. Such self-indulgent displays of sycophancy tend to alienate the audience, and they tend to laugh at the cameo, rather than laugh with it.

Tom Six appears as himself in this film, and yet again, we have another reason to hate this vile movie. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3 should not even be given the courtesy or respect of being labelled a "film", because it's so Goddamn bloody awful. It should have been banned, for being so inept!

If you liked the first two films, even a little bit, then don't go renting or buying this one. If you hated the first two, this final film will just prove your original opinion to be ever-more valid. But to everyone who has rated this film harshly, I apologise. I should have listened too you, and I'm so sorry that I didn't listen more closely. You were all correct!

There are a dozen more reasons I can list, to hate this film: it's too long; it's genuinely dull; the crap ending that reduces the trilogy to the level of painful comedy; the self-reflexive bullshit that Tom Six includes trying to prove to everyone how "irreverent" he's being; the waste-of-space that is Bree Olsen; the fact the film doesn't even follow its own internal logic; the fact that the centipede isn't actually a proper Human Centipede at all, but a cheap knock-off affair; the inclusion of a Human Caterpillar, that is neither explained or expanded upon; the inept script; the boring cinematography, etc, etc, etc.

Actually, that's ten reasons just there. Need two more? Okay then: the fact that the ending could - potentially at least - leave room for another HUMAN CENTIPEDE film, and finally, the fact that for a horror film, this film isn't very horrific. It's just inept, in almost every level.

People say "There'll never be a director as bad as Uwe Boll". Yes, there fucking well is, and his name is Tom Six! Never have I been so angry or disappointed with a film! Wretched is a word that doesn't come remotely close to describing how completely vacuous and shitty this movie is! When reviews started appearing online, earlier this year, and people were disparaging it, I thought they were being stupid. I actually thought that they were just picking on Six, because this is a trilogy of films that has generated so much negative press since its inception, that people were just being overly harsh and critical.

No, no, no, no!

This is the most horrific, insulting, degrading, stinking, piece of pestilent waste ever shat-out into the world, and offered-up to horror film fans as entertainment. When the highlight of a film, is a scene in which we see a man have his scrotum cut open, and both testicles removed, then you soon realise this film really is so utterly fucking bogus, there is nothing that can save it.

I will end this review, with one final remark: forget that THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3 ever existed! If you see it in a DVD rental store, or in a rack of horror film movies in your local HMV, walk right on by. No matter how cheap this movie gets sold for on Amazon, don't be tempted to pony-up any money to see it. Just read my review again, and save yourself from wasting 101 minutes that you will never, ever get back again.

If this film doesn't kill Tom Six's career for good, then there will have been no justice in this world!

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Everyone's A Critic! What Is The Value Of Real Film Criticism? (Part 2)


And welcome back, once more. It's been a while since I last posted something, so I hope you enjoy Part 2 of this article I first published back in November 2014, as shown  here  , and have now finally completed for your enjoyment! Apologies for the delay. (Life gets in the way, once more!)

Professional film criticism, by which I mean people who are usually salaried or paid by another media outlet, to comment on films, are becoming a rare breed. Since 2008, the Arts/Entertainment sections of many newspapers and magazines, have been decimated, due to financial costs. They were also decimated because of the Financial Crisis, that saw many media conglomerates see hundreds of thousands of dollars wiped-off their shares.

It started in the USA with many film critics being dropped or replaced, or simply being told their position is no longer needed. Thirty-one people found themselves out of work. Some of them, were household names around the globe, e.g. Roger Ebert. Why? Mostly because "people can get everything online for free". Sadly, this excuse - and it is an excuse - whilst holding some truth within it, was merely a clause to dump hard-working professionals that publications once respected. Now, with everyone-and-their-dog being an online critic - myself included - publications like Time Out magazine, The New York Times, and most UK and US newspapers have determined that film criticism is something not worth the money to be paying someone to do.

Film criticism started a long, long time ago. Farther back than many people realise, in the late 17th and early- 18th Centuries. It stemmed from the creation and discussion of literary circles by aristocrats and the bourgeois. The rich hoi-poloi talking about things they'd seen and heard - glorified gossip groups. Modern film criticism as we all know it, generally goes back to the 1950's and the French magazine Cahiers Du Cinema, with the notorious Andre Bazin. And Cahiers stemmed from an earlier magazine known as Revue Du Cinéma, that included Robert Bresson, and Jean Cocteau, as well as Ciné-Club Du Quartier Latin with Eric Rohmer, Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Jacques Rivette and Claude Chabrol amongst its staff. These were the directors who have created some of the most remarkable works of European cinema, in Cinema's entire existence. So the discussion was often technically complex, and detailed, often focusing on film theory and cultural theory, rather than merely a review of the films themselves.

But film criticism soon established itself, and become seen as an important part of modern culture, just as critics reviewed art, opera, literature, music and/or theatre shows. The public had a desire to know what it was they were going to be entertained by, before they had seen it themselves. Even then, reviews were often reduced to star-ratings and grades out of five or ten - much like they are today, and those ratings helped and hindered what people paid to see.

So what is "proper" film criticism, and what is the value of it?

In Mark Kermode's excellent book HATCHET JOB (Picador Books, 2013), he talks about film criticism in great detail; about the pro's and con's of being a critic, and whether any review of a film is actually a help or hindrance to us. Now Dr Kermode, is very much like Marmite: you either get him, or you hate him. I get him, and like his work a lot. I don't always agree with his reviews, and in some cases, have vehemently disagreed with him on certain horror films, like the woefully inept YOU'RE NEXT - as reviewed by me  here  - a film Dr Kermode loved, and which I saw based on the strength of his recommendation. However, he is someone I respect more than most other film reviewers. He looks at films from both the view of a film fan, and that of a critic. Most film critics only look at the work, from the view of a critic. So they will say whether they loved or hated the work, or why it does or doesn't stand-up to scrutiny, but the reviews are often cold, clinical and detached. (Film critic Leslie Halliwell was notorious for this. He pretty much loved any film made before 1970, and any hated anything made after that. Whilst he was lauded by the film critics themselves, he alienated many filmgoers, because he refused to see a film for what it was!) An excellent example of this, is the British Film Institute magazine SIGHT & SOUND, which is published each month, here in the UK Unlike every other film magazine I know, they review the films from a detached aspect. That is, they will tell you what parts work and which ones don't, but they rarely ever say whether you should see a film or not. The choice is left entirely up to the reader.

Now, the great thing about this, is that the reader is left to determine for themselves whether they should go see a film. The bad news is, that the reader is left to determine for themselves whether they should go see a film. And therein lies the main problem. Most people like (and want) to be told if something - a film, a book, a stage play - is worth their time and money, or not. People like to be guided; to have their hands held, and to be told "Go see this film" or "Don't go see this film"!

Unfortunately, this means that a lot of excretia makes money (Michael Bay's TRANSFORMERS franchise, being a great example), and more deserving works (like the superb KONTROLL - see  here   for more info) don't. In my view, and I know this is going to annoy many people because it will sound snobbish and elitist, any idiot can write "This film is the best film ever - 5 Stars!" (to use Amazon, as an example) or "This film's garbage. 1-Star!". That takes no modicum of talent whatsoever. Hell, even a 5-year-old could write that! So, Amazon reviewers who write this stuff, even if I may agree with them, tend to be people I mark down as "Unhelpful" because such reviews don't help anyone. The reviewer may simply as well have said "I love this film. Go and see it", because it tells you absolute bugger-all!

Another thing I hate, is people who waste 90% of their review, telling me the entire plot line, and then at the end, they crudely round it all off, with "Overall, this is a great film, that's worth seeking out" without giving me any justification to do so, or worse-still, vice-versa. Again, anyone with an IQ slightly higher than their shoe size can say that, but it's meaningless drivel. What I want, is for people to tell me why the film is good (or bad) in their opinion. I want to hear/read what works or what doesn't. I need to know why you love or hate the film so much, and whether it is better or worse than similar works in the genre or subject theme. This is one of the reasons I started this blog: to put online long, detailed reviews. In a world in which everyone seems to want to reduce every comment and viewpoint to 140 characters, I actually find it refreshing to see or read someone who gives me an entire paragraph or two about something. It matters little to me that you did (or didn't) like something. I really only want to know the why you liked it (or not)! SIGHT & SOUND tends to have densely-worded reviews. Their work is aimed at academics, theorists and people working within or on behalf of the film industry. As such, it is often verbose, and heavy-going. It is deliberately obtuse, because the reviewer - and by extension the magazine - wants you to really get to grips with what is being written, why it is being written, and not just the end-result - namely whether the reviewer likes or dislikes the film under discussion.

The great thing about "proper" film criticism, as undertaken by the likes of Mark Kermode, or Roger Ebert, Alexander Walker, Pauline Kael, Anne Billson, and/or bell hooks (the lower case is her own stylistic choice, though her real name is Gloria Jean Watkin), is that their work is detailed, and extensive and thought-provoking. They critique a film, and all aspects of it - good, bad and otherwise. There's meat on the bones of their reviews: stuff to get your teeth into, tear-off and chew over.

The vast majority of film magazines, don't do this. Most newspapers certainly don't, though there are of course occasional exceptions. Their reviews are often simplistic, tabloidy, and pare everything down to the most basic and simple of explanations. A follows B follows C follows D. The very kind of review that requires little talent. This is why I stopped buying  EMPIRE  film magazine, because it just focused on a basic, cursory outline of a film, and also tended to focus predominantly on major Hollywood output. Much of Hollywood's output, isn't actually that great anyway, and there are still some magazines who continue to publish reviews, and allow their quotes to be adorned on film posters, by blowing smoke up the films studio's backside. In other words, they publish a positive review, either to gain kudos from the studio/director, or on the proviso that if they get access to certain stars or crew members, or get unhindered behind-the-scenes access, then they will scratch the metaphorical back of the studio. This self-congratulatory, industry-backslapping does no one any favours. Least of all, the public!

Although no one admits too it - for obvious reasons, it's a career-killer - it does still go on! Which is why I tend to stick to SIGHT & SOUND. Although owned by the British Film Institute, they are completely editorially independent. The journalists and critics are free to write whatever they want - good, bad or otherwise. And with some of the greatest critics under their banner, you can be assured you'll get an honest review, if nothing more.

So where is the line between reviewing a work, and critiquing it? Is there a line at all? Are they not one-and-the-same? Whilst many would argue that they are the same, they definitely are not!

A review, is just that: a paragraph or block of text that says "This is a good film" or "This is a bad film". A critique of a film, will not necessarily say "This is a good film", but it will say "This is why this film is a good film"! Most people can review films. It's not rocket science. We all have tastes. We all know what we like and what we dislike. A decent critic, will try and put aside their own personal view of a film, and rate the film based solely on what it is, and explain themselves. I hate most Westerns. I've never been a fan of the genre. As such, I tend to stay away from most of them, because I have a loathing for them. Thus, I would be the wrong person to critique such a work. However, part of my role is to put aside my own like/hate towards a film, or a director, or cast, and see whether the film stands on its own two feet. Whether that film is a good film, irrespective of whether I like the field in which it stemmed from.

It's about putting-aside personal views. I like to think I do that, in most of my reviews. I try and cast my own cinematic net, as far and wide as I can. Whilst I have a penchant for horror films and extreme cinema - the very topic that this blog mostly talks about - I know my tastes may differ wildly from others. I have to critique a film based on nothing more than itself. If I approach the film with a closed mind, then my work holds no purpose or point, nor merit for that matter.

Reducing a review down to a few, basic words, and a star-rating does no one any favours! Take a look through any film magazine or newspaper, and scan their film reviews. More often than not, you'll find the vast majority are nothing more than star-ratings and a few lines of commentary from the writer/journalist. There's no substance there. Without substance, a review holds little weight: it is genial filler!

I know that magazines and newspapers tend to like short, sharp, pithy reviews, because of the limited space they have to house such material. But in 2015, in a day-and-age when we seem ever keener to celebrate vacuity, mediocrity, stupidity, and illustriousness, over intelligence, personality, dynamism, value and worth, it's hardly surprising that the films that get released and reviewed, tend to be of the same kind. For every KONTROLL, or A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTANCE (2015, Roy Andersson) that struggles to gain recognition, there's a MAGIC MIKE (2013, Steven Soderbergh), a SPY (2015, Paul Feig) or another TRANSFORMERS (2007 onwards, Michael Bay) filling-up every single screen at your local multiplex. If culture is dumbed down, then the criticism of it will be equally stupid.

With this all said, we have to ask one final question: are "reviews" actually helpful, or do they simply make it easy for us to have a decision made for us, whilst we simultaneously kid ourselves that we made the decision ourselves on our own terms?

As humans, we like the easy option. We prefer the easy method. We've been trying for centuries to make our life on this planet quicker, easier, simpler, faster, better. Why bother to read a review of something, if you can just skip to the bottom where it says "5-Stars - Go see this film now"? We love to have everything condensed and summarised for us. We love to be told "Do this, go there, eat that, watch this"! That's why Twitter is so popular! One-hundred-and-forty-characters max! Let someone else do all the hard-work, the thinking, the cognitive processing for us, so we can save our time and energy to focus on that next phone vote on CELEBRITY BIG BROTHER! Let's continue to be told who to like, what to support, and where to go to have fun, rather than finding that out for ourselves. Social Media platforms like Foursquare have been created, so that you don't need to think where you can go to do something. You'll be told where to go: where to be to have fun, like all the other people who are supposedly having fun! It's patronising, and insulting! It's a platform, that is anti-social, because it implies that if you aren't one of the crowd, then you aren't worthy of being part of the crowd in the first place.

Despite our best efforts, we're still a long, long way from having a truly easy life, like that which was pitched to us in the 1950's and 60's, with robots in every household, tending to our every need. A time in which we wouldn't need to work at all, but where we could play all day long, doing whatever we wanted, because robots would be doing all the hard-work for us. Something's clearly gone majorly wrong, because we're working more hours than ever before; being paid less than ever, and having even less free time than we had ten years previously! Hardly what we'd call progress! So, of course, we need to maximise what little leisure time we have, and thus, that is why so many people like to be told where to go, who to see, and what to do.

That, of course, has its place, but if we don't discover things on our own, we lose the ability to dispassionately weigh-up one cultural item over another, and say which is the better. Sometimes, the best way to review a film, is simply to sit down in a cinema or at home, and watch it for ourselves. If we all experience the same things, then more of the same simply gets made (or rather, remade)! If my reviews help you try out new works, and entice you to explore your local DVD/Blu-Ray store in a little more detail or more often, or even convinces you to try a film you've never heard of before, then my work as a critic has been done!

Criticism has its place, but that place is under a very real threat of extinction. Let's not let that happen.