Scream queens, the sexy actresses who frequently star in horror flicks, are often applauded for how “brave” their performances are, the result of running around half-naked while psychopaths stalk them with machetes and other weapons of bodily destruction. But we’re ready to go out on a limb here (no pun intended) and nominate Ashlynn Yennie as one of the gutsiest genre starlets in the game—something tells us that most of the ladies included in our countdown of The 50 Hottest Scream Queens Of All Time wouldn’t be bold enough to spend nearly all of their screen time on all fours, with knee-caps carved out and their mouths sewn onto another person’s ass. And who could blame them?
Back in 2010, Yennie, a then-unknown actress hailing from Wyoming, played the back-end of Dutch writer-director Tom Six’s “100% medically accurate” The Human Centipede (First Sequence), the controversial and sickening horror phenomenon about a deranged German surgeon (Dieter Laser) who drugs three youngsters and sews them together, ass-to-mouth. And Yennie, along with her co-stars, really went for it, crawling around on cut-up knees naked for most of the film’s duration, an unenviable task that she commendably repeated in last year’s even-grosser sequel, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence).
In the meta follow-up, Yennie plays an exaggerated version of herself, thinking she’s special after headlining The Human Centipede and naively falling into clutches of the mentally disturbed Martin (Laurence R. Harvey), a portly loner who lives with his tyrannical mother and obsesses over Six’s first movie; so, naturally, he takes it upon himself to abduct 12 people, Yennie included (this time, however, she’s in front), and make his own human centipede without any medical experience. Yes, it’s as nasty and unsanitary as it sounds.
And it’s also the most unlikely Valentine’s Day release imaginable (definitely not date night material). Yet, nevertheless, The Human Centipede II hits DVD and Blu-ray today, just in time to scare away that significant other or budding girlfriend you’re otherwise too chicken-shit to break up with—Happy Valentine’s Day! Complex caught up with Yennie to discuss the difficulties and pleasures that come from shooting Human Centipede movies, why she returned for another round of grotesqueries, and what she’d do if a V-Day date tried capping the night off with an impromptu viewing of sequel’s DVD or Blu-ray.
Interview by Matt Barone (@MBarone)
What’s so special about The Human Centipede II movies, I think, is that they somehow manage to surpass any and all gross-out expectations—just when you think you’re mentally prepared for what it’s about to throw at you, it’s exceeds that, and the experience doesn’t get much easier upon the second or even third viewing.
Yeah, it doesn’t get any easier. [Laughs.] I think I’ve seen the first one four times now, and I’ve seen the second one twice. When I first saw the second one, it was totally different from how we shot the film; when we shot the film, there was more dialogue in the film, and we shot it in color, but then Tom [Six] decided that he wanted to make it black-and-white and took out all of the color and took out all of the dialogue. For me, watching the second one, I didn’t even know what the hell I was watching. Like, “Am I really in that movie?” [Laughs.]
So he actually decided to go with black-and-white after the fact? That’s interesting.
Yeah, I think when he was editing it. I guess what had happened was that he didn’t tell anybody, but he watched part of it in black-and-white and really liked what it looked like, so then he played around with it and started showing it to people in both color and black-and-white, to get their reactions. A lot of people said that the black-and-white made it more artistic in a way, and almost made it this dreamlike experience, that it’s not real. And taking out the dialogue adds to that more.
A lot of people don’t understand. They’ll say to me, “How come nobody talks in the film?” Because at the end, it’s this fantasy in [Martin’s] head, and even I didn’t get that at first. I didn’t know that was going to happen—Tom had kind of told me about that, but I still wasn’t sure how the ending was going to work. Then I saw it and thought, “Oh, I get it! I get why he took all of the dialogue out.” And honestly, I think if he would have left the color, the whole thing would look so gross. [Laughs.]
I can’t even imagine watching any one part of the final act, in the warehouse, in color. It’s hard enough to sit through in black-and-white, with all of the black-colored blood all over the place.
There was just so much blood! It was so gross on set. I really wish people could see how the set looked while we were shooting, just so they could see how absolutely disgusting it was, and what we were actually shooting on. They had to hose it down with water before every take, and it was all splintered. It was so disgusting! You don’t see all of those aspects of it when it’s black-and-white, but it works.
Is Tom Six the kind of director who makes you shoot scenes multiple times? Seems like that’d be extremely hellish for you and the other “centipede” actors.
There’s a couple things he’ll have you do over and over again, but normally you’ll get it in one or two takes. Usually, the first take is always the best; most actors will tell you that the first take is when they’re the most ready and most prepared.
But there’s some stuff where it takes you a little longer to get into it, like the scene where he cuts my knees open—we did that a couple of different ways. One, where I’m just unconscious, and another where I wake up and I’m in shock, and another where I’m full-on crying. And Tom ended up using the one where I’ve just woken up and I go into shock and pass out. He never makes you do it over and over again the same way; if he makes you do it again, it’s always in a new direction.
When you say that he took all of the dialogue out, do you mean during the final act’s warehouse scenes? Because the rest of the movie has dialogue.
Yeah, originally, when we’re all in the big centipede formation, I’m saying things to [Martin]. Like, asking him why he’s doing this, and why doesn’t he get that it’s a movie. “I can’t believe you’re doing this to people”—things like that. And then just the frustration. I cussed at him a lot. [Laughs.] There was a lot of cussing, because Tom let me go wild and kept telling me to cuss at him and tell him how much I hate him. It didn’t end up making the cut, which was fine. My mom was actually very happy about that. She was like, “I don’t want you cussing that much in the film.” I’m like, “But, mom—he kidnaps me! And makes me into a centipede!”
So with all of the disgusting and gruesome things that happen to you in these movies, your mom only has a problem with the foul language?
[Laughs.] Yeah, she’s cool with all of it. She just wants me to continue being ladylike in everything that I do, even in The Human Centipede. She’s cool with it; she actually came with me to the premiere of the second one. I warned her before, “Mom, this one is nothing like the first one—it’s going to be really dirty and gross.” And she just laughed the entire time, she thought it was so funny. And I was like, “Well, it’s not supposed to be that funny!” [Laughs.]