Some filmmakers create their movies with noble intentions, whether it’s the desire to uplift viewers through inspirational underdog stories, tickle romantic fancies, or make you laugh uncontrollably. Even a good amount of horror masters, known more for unsettling audiences than comforting them, have deeper motivations, layering their scares with thought-provoking subtext. And then there’s Tom Six, the Dutch director behind last year’s zeitgeist-infiltrating horror flick The Human Centipede (First Sequence). Yes, the one about a lunatic surgeon who kidnaps three innocent people and connects them from ass to mouth. When the film was released, Six instantly earned a notorious reputation; without any richer meaning, The Human Centipede’s only intention was to cause revulsion, something that Six himself gleefully owned up to in the media.
For the sequel, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (hitting IFC theaters and IFC Midnight’s Video On Demand today), Six set out to prove that he actually took it easy on audiences last time; now, he’s ready to punish (and perhaps titillate, based on the movie's sickly sexy new poster featuring a nude model). Making its predecessor look like a subtle drama by comparison, The Human Centipede II pummels good taste with end-to-end repulsion.
In a meta twist, the film centers on a creepy loner, Martin (Laurence Harvey), whose obsession over The Human Centipede causes him to bludgeon strangers over their heads with a crowbar, trap them in an abandoned warehouse, and form his own centipede four times the size of Six’s movie version. Only, Martin’s lack of medical training leads to the usage of a stapler for the ass-to-mouth bits, and the whole procedure, in general, is a sloppy, and bloody, mess. And Six, no longer interested in implication over display, shows every nasty image, including teeth getting bashed in with a hammer, kneecaps cut open, and fecal matter being discharged into mouths.
Is there any question as to why The Human Centipede II inspired our list of movies you can’t un-see? Unable to delete the sequel’s nasty imagery from our minds, we recently spoke to the new master of vomit-inducing cinema to better understand his murky intentions. And, wouldn’t you know it, he’s a really friendly guy! Well, a friendly guy who enjoys visually abusing his audiences.
Interview by Matt Barone (@MBarone)
Complex: Regardless of how sick The Human Centipede II might be, it takes a special kind of skill to somehow repulse and shock people who go into the movie expecting to be repulsed and shocked, so, first off, we have to commend on you on that.
Tom Six: Absolutely, and it’s tough to do that. The first one is psychological, so in the second one I had to show it all, because that’s exactly what the audience asked for. When I was writing the first script, I had so many ideas but I couldn’t put them all in one film—that’s why I wanted to make films of the same kind. For the first one, I wanted the audience to get used to this sick idea first, so that’s why it’s all happening in the head, and you hardly see anything gross. But I already knew the audience for this second part wants to see the shit flying around and the gore, so I thought, “I’m really going to give it to the audience in the second one.” It’s really over-the-top and exaggerated.
Prior to making the first one, was the initial idea for the sequel to have it be so meta, about an obsessed fan, or did that happen after The Human Centipede took off?
It’s both, actually. I was playing with that idea already, because my idea was, What is scarier than a surgeon doing an operation and creating a centipede? And I thought, “Scarier would be if somebody did it who has no medical background whatsoever.” That’s even worse. So I was thinking about a fan or something, and then when I traveled the whole world for festivals and stuff, a lot of people from the audience asked me, “What if a maniac out there copies your idea?” And then I knew for sure that was definitely going to be the idea for the sequel.
When you started writing the sequel, were there any specific fans in mind that inspired the Martin character?
[Laughs.] Promoting a movie like this, you meet such different people; it’s incredible. Really strange people. At the Fantastic Fest premiere, a guy came up to me and said that I’m Jesus for him, and other people I’ve met have said that they’re afraid to look at me, that I’m worse than Hitler. So, it’s such a broad spectrum of people that I meet.
But I chose the Martin character because I really wanted the total opposite of Dr. Heiter [the surgeon in The Human Centipede, played by Dieter Laser], who’s like tall and thin; this time, I wanted a very short and fat guy. That was my idea, and then, yeah, if a fan copies this idea, then he’s mentally unstable. In the script, I wanted a mentally challenged man who was short and fat. [Laughs.] That was my idea.
How’d you come across Laurence Harvey to play Martin? It’s a great casting choice—he’s unfamiliar to audiences, but he doesn’t even need to say a word to creep the viewer out.
He’s incredible, yeah. I did the casting in London, and I saw about eight guys, and I was very disappointed. But then Laurence came in, and I thought, “My god! This man looks amazing!” We put a camera on his face, and his eyes are so…. Yeah. He has such an incredible charisma on screen. I let him do some acting stuff and he did it so brilliantly; there was no doubt that I was going to pick him. He’s really up there with Dieter, I think.
What exactly goes into the audition to play a character as sick as Martin?
First, I put the camera on his face and I let him do some stuff with the mother character, to see how he would react to that. Then, I asked him to hit somebody’s head in with a crowbar, and he did that so incredibly convincing—his face turned red, and he can really play with his body. And then, of course, for the raping scene, I asked him to play that, and he grabbed a chair and he raped the chair so wildly that I thought, “This is our guy.” [Laughs.]
I can imagine that he’ll never have to do that again in any future audition.
[Laughs.] I’d hope not.
Martin doesn’t say a single word throughout the film. Why was it important for the character to be so silent?
My first idea was that the character would say lines from the first film, from Dr. Heiter. My idea was to have him mumble those lines sometimes, but then when I saw Laurence on the footage, he didn’t speak at all and I thought he was way scarier if he doesn’t speak. It’s much more threatening, I think, that he doesn’t speak.
Another really interesting choice for the film is to present it in black-and-white. What was the thought process behind that?
I totally wanted to 100% contrast this film away from part one. Part one has clinical colors, and the camerawork is really steady, and it’s really the story of Dr. Heiter; for the sequel, I wanted a dark look, a film that’s dirty and it’s all handheld. The black-and-white really helps the story of Martin, it gives you a very uncomfortable feeling. If we did the film in color, it would distract too much from the story, I think.
The black-and-white look gives the film a real Eraserhead feel, particularly in the scene where Martin is in his living room with his mother and his doctor. It’s this bizarre domestic set-up that’s right out of David Lynch’s movie.
Yeah, definitely. I love that film—I’m definitely influenced by that film, as well.