Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence)

Directed by: Tom Six

Produced by: Ilona Six
Tom Six

Screenplay by: Tom Six

Starring: Dieter Laser
Laurence R. Harvey
Robert LaSardo
Tommy 'Tiny' Lister
Jay Tavare
Eric Roberts
Bree Olson
Clayton Rohner

Music by: Mischa Segal

Cinematography by: David Meadows

Editing by: Nigel de Hond

Studio: Six Entertainment Company

Distributed by: IFC Midnight

Release date(s): May 22, 2015 (United States)
July 10, 2015 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 102 minutes

Country: Netherlands

Language: English

Production budget: N/A

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $14, 562 (domestic only)

Hey there children. 2016 may well be here (there's no may well about it, it's well and truly here), but there is still plenty of work to be done as regards the year of 2015 in film. Realistically, because I've been busy and there's a backlog of about a dozen films, plus maybe another fifteen-twenty that I'm planning on getting in there in contention for my awards, there's a chance I might not be able to get as many full reviews out as I wanted. I'm mulling over the idea of potentially continuing on with reviewing these films after my awards, doing away with taking time off and just gradually working through them. There's quite a few big movies that I'd like to cover, and I feel to do them justice, that might be the necessary measure. Anywho, as I'll be going with reviewing, starting to work up on my Hall of Fame and my annual Award for the Best and Worst in Film in 2015, for all the latest and greatest as regards the movies, keep your eyes posted!

Today's review is for The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence), purportedly the final film in Tom Six's  Human Centipede trilogy. Now for those of you don't know I'm actually one of the champions for the first two Human Centipede films. Admittedly, they aren't great movies by any stretch, but they are good, serviceable horror films that do what they say on the tin in delivering a thoroughfare of exploitation nastiness. They got a 6.5/10 and a 6.9/10, which retrospectively I feel to be appropriate. I haven't seen either since they were originally released. I caught a screener of the first and thought 'hey, there's an original concept,' I thought Dieter Laser was great and it was reminiscent of the early work of David Cronenberg (though none of the characters were as one-dimensional and it lacked the thematic undertones of the body-horror master). The second I though was better, with it's black-and-white photography, it's shockingly grotesque imagery (some of the things in that movie are beyond horrific) and I though Laurence R. Harvey conveyed well through physical demeanour and expression the extent of his troubled mental state. What's interesting though is that four years ago, I mentioned Mark Olsen, writing for the Los Angeles Times, arguing that "Six has more or less contorted himself into The Human Ouroboros," which was a sentiment that reflected my own, as I expressed that another film "could be flogging a dead horse." Also of note was that I did not catch this film in the cinema, on DVD or online, but rather on demand on Netflix, and given the four-year gap one would imagine that they not only had a hard time bringing it into production but also distribution after the controversy created by the second film (it was one of only a dozen films to have been banned in the UK over the past twenty years). So, this third Human Centipede, set in a prison, William 'Bill' Boss (Dieter Laser), the psychotic warden of the jail, facing great problems with controlling the population of prisoners. Receiving pressure from Governor Hughes (Eric Roberts) to clean up his act (he regularly sexually assaults his secretary Daisy, played by Bree Olsen, and is personally involved in numerous incidents with his prisoners) or he will be fired. Thus, his accountant Dwight pitches to him his "brilliant idea," taking inspiration from the first two Human Centipede films, to turn the five-hundred-strong prison population into a giant centipede. Got it? Good!

Okay then, starting off with the good about the film, I have to give a degree of praise to Laurence R. Harvey again. Most of the film is occupied by Dieter Laser's Bill Boss (more of which later), but in more of a supporting role Harvey is convincing as Dwight. It's not a great performance by any means, but the fact that I didn't clock it was Harvey and that this fat dude from Wigan is able to pass for an accountant from the American South speaks well of his talents. Finally (already), I'd be a liar if I didn't say that there were a couple of things in the film that didn't get from the gross-out standpoint. I personally hate anything involving faeces (including scat jokes), and so I can't help but have an involuntary dry-heave whenever one of the inmates, whose Crohn's disease is giving him constant diarrhoea, is attached to another man's face, or another mentally unstable prisoner who enjoys eating his own shit. Sorry, don't know if this is a plus or not, but I can't stand anything involving shit.

Speaking of shit, that about describes this film in one word: shit. I'll say it again. Shit. With that got out of the way, this being a review I have to critically analyse this, though whether or not such a vile and reprehensible work deserves such attention. I don't hate it because of the violence or the general content onscreen. I hate it because it is an obnoxious and thoroughly repugnant film in just general demeanour and the way in which it is presented. Many of my favourite films ever made are ultraviolent, to say the least, but here the violence, sexual violence and content serves absolutely no higher purpose other than to simply attempt to gross-out the audience. Take the sexual violence of something like Blue Velvet, which works on so many levels beyond the acts themselves; there's voyeurism, power-play and it subtly questions the main character and the viewer about their complicity with it. Bill Boss being rude to the secretary who just gave him a blowjob means absolutely nothing aesthetically if there's no real context to it. Instead of saying something about women being degraded, it just ends up being degrading to women. Sadly, my thoughts from four years ago regarding the potential problems of a third film with this concept were confirmed. The first two were never anything special, but they were good exploitation flicks. This just shows that Tom Six ran out of decent ideas and just decided to make a mish-mash of nonsensical waffle. Thus, we get Six attempting to be 'smart' and 'sophisticated' with his botched attempt at political satire. Egads, they're implementing The Human Centipede, a horror movie concept, to the uncontrollable US prison system, transgressing all concepts of human rights. And you know what the brilliant thing is? It works! Hah hah hah! Har-de-bloody-har! I'm sorry, we didn't realise that you were such a fucking genius, Mr. Six! Speaking of Mr. Six, the film, like it's immediate predecessor, is a meta-film, given that the world in which the film is set acknowledges The Human Centipede films. So Six decides to one-up himself and write in himself as a primary supporting character playing himself. Yes, Tom Six has wrote himself into his own movie as a 'creative consultant' to the prison warden and his accountant. And wouldn't you know it's the cool, hip, King of Swing himself, entering to a jazzy theme driving his convertible up to the prison gates, walking into the room in a flood on sunlight in an all-white suit, resplendent with matching white hat and a pair of shades. The only things he's missing are a cigarette holder, cane and a monocle. And he's bad. Real bad. Also, as far as characterisation and dialogue goes, this has to register among the proverbial all-time lows. The film's main character, Bill Boss, has to rank among the worst protagonists in film history. Essentially, what it boils down to is that he's a deranged racist cum misogynist, and Six's direction of Dieter Laser seems to consist of telling him to yell and scream as loud as possible while mangling the film's already hideous dialogue. Which he does. A lot. Laser may have been having fun playing this part, but having to watch and HEAR to Laser froth and rave his way through the film is about much as listening to loose change rattling around in a washing machine. Laser was a lot more menacing when he showed a degree of restraint in the first film when he played Dr. Josef Heither; this is just annoying. Another thing that I didn't like about the film was the low production standards involved. Yes, it's low-budget film, but there's no reason why good cinematography and subtle editing can't work around the obvious limitations. Except that every scene in the film puts on display the fact that the sets consist of walk-in-cupboards, a minuscule corridor with about a dozen cells, a hospital room, a canteen that doubles as a screening room and a yard. That's it. And they're all overly lit with a phoney sheen, a consistent gloss that doesn't register well with the eye. It disgusts me to think that there are beautiful-looking horror films with such imaginative use of cinematography, things like Suspiria, Audition, Eyes Without A Face, that have to exist in the same world as this. There are also too many long takes, with the cuts in the editing suite being sloppily executing and poorly timed. Some of them don't even fit in with the natural progression of the way things should storytelling wise, and only served to confuse ad nausea. And you wouldn't think that Mischa Segal had such a prominent educational background in studying music, for his score sounds like just about any other typical 'horror film score,' with honking brass sections and screeching strings. Again, another thing all three of those previous films pull off well in their own respective ways. You'll have to excuse my grammatical inflections, starting sentences with 'and' in my own education being a big no-no for English. I do apologise, but the fact is is that this film is so bad that it defies any set standard of rules when it comes to expressing your opinions. The prevailing feeling I got at the end of the film's one-hundred-and-two minutes (not an especially long running time, but long enough in this case) was this sense of unadulterated, narcissistic ugliness. It took about two years max for a sequel to come out to the first film, and there has been four between this and the second. Part of me thinks that the reason it took so long to come out was because no one wanted to take it, and no one wanted to take it because Tom Six made something so bad nobody would touch it. He should consider himself lucky they had a distributor like IFC Films there to at least try and get the film out there, but nobody wanted to. They said no; the critics will hate it, audiences will hate it, it won't even make enough money to break even. No no, no no no!

Normally, the worst films to review are those that end up getting a rating of between four and six, that middle ground which is neither good enough or bad enough to register to any degree of significance. The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) obviously falls into the latter category, but even though I enjoy ripping apart a bad movie that especially deserves it, I'd be lying if I said that it wasn't a chore this time round. It's no secret that I'm a borderline masochist who has seen some absolutely hideous films over the years, but this is easily among the worst. I just looked back through my past list worst films of the year (which omits some other real stinkers), and the worst thing is that all of them are genre films. I love genre cinema, and The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) is not only a disgrace to that rich history of genre and horror cinema, but any semblance of a credible film, failing in nearly everything it sets out to do. What it boils down is Tom Six degrading himself by more or less masturbating in public for all to see, and yes, it looks as bad as that sounds in your head.  

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 0.7/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - (I'm) So Glad (You're Gone)

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Lobster

Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos

Produced by: Ceci Dempsey
Ed Guiney
Yorgos Lanthimos
Lee Magiday

Screenplay by: Efthimis Filippou
Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring: Colin Farrell
Rachel Weisz
Jessica Barden
Olivia Colman
Ashley Jensen
Ariane Labed
Angeliki Papoulia
John C. Reilly
Lea Seydoux
Michael Smiley
Ben Whishaw

Cinematography by: Thimios Bakatakis

Editing by: Yorgos Mavropsaridis

Studio(s): Element Pictures
Scarlet Films
Faliro House Productions
Haut et Court
Lemming Film

Distributed by: Feelgood Entertainment (Greece)
Haut et Court (France)
Element Pictures (Ireland)
De Filmfreak (Netherlands)
Picturehouse Entertainment (United Kingdom)

Release date(s): May 15, 2015 (Cannes Film Festival)
September 27, 2015 (New York Film Festival)
October 13, 2015 (BFI London Film Festival)
October 16, 2015 (United Kingdom and Ireland)
October 22, 2015 (Greece)
October 28, 2015 (France)
March 11, 2016 (United States)

Running time: 118 minutes

Country(s): Ireland
United Kingdom

Language(s): English

Production budget: €4 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $5, 738, 483

This'll probably be my last post for the year of 2015, given the time at hand. That said, I am going to keep reviewing films right up until Oscar night, which will include not only the films released in 2015, but of course my annual Hall Of Fame inductees, finishing off with my 9th Best and Worst of the Year awards. I'll probably end up having to compress down my reviews as far as the words are concerned, given I haven't done as much as normal this year, and that I still have a whole stack worth of stuff to get through. After this review, I'll be looking at The Human Centipede 3 (Full Sequence), Criminal Activities and Black Mass for this particular bracket of films, and then I'll shoot into December, beginning with the sure-to-be awards contender, Todd Hayne's Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. So, for all the latest and greatest as regards the movies, keep your eyes posted!

Today's movie up for review is The Lobster, the latest film from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. This is the English-language debut feature for the film and theatre director, whose work includes 2010's Dogtooth, which I remember as being uniquely disturbing atmospherically and quite an interesting film I wouldn't mind seeing again at some point. Since then he has directed one other film, 2011's Alps and co-produced and starred 2010's Attenberg. There's a long road behind the production history of this film. Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou's screenplay was awarded the ARTE International Award as Best CineMart Project for 2013 at the 42nd Rotterdam International Film Festival, and no less than five different countries have invested their capital in this international co-production. It was shot between March 24th and May 9th of last Spring, primarily in Dublin, Ireland, but in various different in and around County Kerry, including Sneem, Dromore Woods and Kenmare. The film has picked up various awards in the international film festival circuit, such as three at the Cannes Film Festival (Jury Prize, Queer Palm - Special Mention and the Palm Dog Award), collecting two gongs at the European Film Awards (Best European Screenwriter and Best Costume Designer), and a bevy of nominations at this year's BIFAs (with Olivia Colman winning one for Best Supporting Actress, bless her!). So, story goes (and believe me when I say you'll understand it better if you see the film) that according to the rules of the City which the film's characters inhabit, if you are single you are taken to a hotel along with other singletons to find a partner within forty-five days and if you fail to do so you are turned into an animal of your choice and are released to fend for yourself into the forest. Whenever his wife leaves him for another man, David (Colin Farrell) with his brother Bob in tow, who was turned into a dog after failing to find a partner, arrives at the hotel to seek out a partner. Got it? Whether you do or don't, good!

Starting off with the good about The Lobster, I have to praise the cast. Don't get me wrong, I know it's an international co-production with an international cast from various national backgrounds, but the casting itself sees every minor character in the film cast perfectly. Most characters in the film are known and defined by characteristics such as Nosebleed Woman, Limping Man and so on and so forth, but even though they could come across as two-dimensional, the actors portraying them are capable and intelligent enough to overcome any potential problems. There are so many standouts it's hard to pick and choose, but I would like to flag up a few; Lea Seydoux, who though being bestowed with a beautifully elliptical facial structure has the hardest expression of calm, ruthless menace about her; Rachel Weisz's Short Sighted Woman, a performance that relies on doing so much with so little in terms of subtlety; Olivia Colman's Hotel Manager, whose voice of reason convinces us of the absolute plausibility of these strange circumstances; Ashley Jensen's eccentric, socially awkward (and funny) Biscuit Woman; Angeliki Papoulia's terrifying Heartless Woman; John C. Reilly's slow but friendly Lisping Man. All of these create a strong framework for the excellent lead performance of Colin Farrell, whose David is the heart of this bizarre world. Far from the confident and intense fast-talker we've come to know, Farrell's David is a soft-spoken thinking man, full of melancholy and existential questions about the world, with so much inside of him that he occasionally stumbles and trips over his own thoughts. Farrell is known for eloquence and rapid-fire delivery, so it's a delight to notice the subtleties he shows here and the restraint he puts on. He has grown a moustache over his handsome features, looks like he's put on the guts of twenty-to-thirty pounds (one of the first things I noticed was how portly he looked, with his paunch rising up and down underneath his shirts). Just the whole way he carries himself, moving as though in a mood of permanent caution and gingerly trepidation, is in keeping with the character. Even when there's borderline meta-moments, such as him half-talking/half-singing Where The Wild Roses Grow, which with anyone else would be embarrassing, it's a touching turn. You never buy him as anything but the character. While I haven't seen much this year, I've seen a decent amount, and Farrell may subtly have the best male lead performance of 2015. Now, enough about the cast, because in order to attract such a cast to a film to work at such a low salary generally you have to have a great script, and the case is no exception here. Similar in nature to the development of the world in Dogtooth, the diegesis constructed around these characters is a work of brilliance. Instead of going for the basil expository nonsense of trying to over-explain things to the audience, it is taken as a given that this is the way things are. Not only does that appeal to different scenarios surrounding the film's surrealist, almost Bunuelian sense of humour, it enables the film use metaphor, under the guise of comedy, to speak about matters of the heart, relationships and how we as human being interact with another. In that vein, the dialogue of the film is lyrical, perky and hilarious. I mean, in what other world would you be able to pull off an exchange about most people choosing dogs as the animal they wish to be turned into ("it is why the world is full of dogs.") and have it be both completely ridiculous and make perfect sense. Speaking of Bunuel, I loved the way the cinematography and editing, the visual aspect of the film, interacting with the aural elements of sound design and music. Although it is at time a very wordy kind of film, there are also extended sequences involving no dialogue with extracts of different musical pieces over the top. This is best exemplified during the film's slow-motion sequences, such as the different 'hunts' that the hotel residents go on for 'loners,' and various exchanges, in which the minutest of facial expressions or lack thereof are captured. They provide for sight gags when juxtaposed with the music and deeper exploration into the characters' nature. Finally, not to put it all on one man's vision, because this is most definitely a collaborative effort, but director Yorgos Lanthimos has delivered a confident work of real artistic integrity. Successfully bringing the theatre of the absurd over to cinema, there no botch-work here, and this is one of those cases where bouldering on ahead works wonders, without all the potential fourth-wall breaking gimmickry that could have been in there to make it 'more watchable'. Balancing between restraint and intent, this is how you make something distinctive, unique and interesting. And a damn fine comedy to boot!

I loved The Lobster. I've seen it twice now and both times it offered up a lot for me to digest and take away from it. That being said, I do also have to say that I don't think the film is a masterpiece. Once again, it has come down to one of those cases of finding some aesthetics troublesome. I agree wholly with what my friend over at Danland Movies said when we saw it about how the first half of the movie is excellent, the second half is slightly inferior, and however slight that may be, it means that the film itself feels unbalanced. Furthermore, at one-hundred and eighteen minutes, it starts to feel like the concept is getting stretched. Any more than two hours would have really been taking the mick and making it incredibly self-indulgent. I think it's a better film than Dogtooth and despite appearances actually has a heart, but Dogtooth was about twenty minutes shorter, and I think a happy medium which would see the film being trimmed by about ten to fifteen minutes would take some of the excess flab out of the film.

The Lobster is denied from being a masterpiece by slight issues of an imbalanced narrative and a running time that could be trimmed a bit. Nevertheless, I found it to be highly enjoyable film. It's a terrifically well-cast film, with every part, right down to the smallest played intelligently, fronted by an excellent standout performance from Colin Farrell as David, in what might well be the best work of his career so far. To attract such a cast, you'd need to have a strong script, which is certainly the case here. I love the way the basil exposition is not over-explained and it is just taken that this is just the way things are in this strange world. It also enables the smart use of metaphor and the genre of comedy to address matters of the heart, relationships and the way people interact with one another. The dialogue too is multi-faceted. Only would a film like this, oh so bizarrely Bunuelian in nature, be able to have some of the scenarios seem both completely outrageous and make common sense within the diegesis. It also features some expressive cinematography and editing, which interacts wonderfully with the sound design and music. Yorgo Lanthimos has made a distinctive, unique and interesting picture, and a damn fine comedy to boot!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.8/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Bangin'