About a month before Fantastic Fest 2011 had its way with us (I’m still walking funny), the film festival’s programmers announced that Tom Six’s heavily-anticipated The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence would be the festival’s opening night film. This slot is generally reserved for the biggest, most buzzed-about film slated to screen during Fantastic Fest, and on the day it premiered, everyone was talking about what sort of pitch-black craziness Six might have come up with for the sequel to his surprise 2010 hit The Human Centipede: Would Six eschew the darkly comic moments that made the original so great? Would Dieter Laser return as the villainous Dr. Heiter? How does one make a twelve-person Human Centipede, anyway? The day after seeing the film (you can read my review here), I sat down with Six and Human Centipede 2 star Laurence Harvey to find out what they had to say for themselves. Read on for that chat, after the jump.
My Human Centipede 2 review—which was written immediately after seeing the film and (let’s face it) was a little longer than it had any right to be—should have made it clear that I wasn’t happy with the direction director Tom Six had taken his surprisingly popular Human Centipede franchise: where the first film was darkly comic, the sequel is unrelentingly grim; where the first film was restrained and often beautifully shot, the sequel is grimy and difficult to watch; where the original was clever…well, you get the idea. I didn’t out-and-out hate The Human Centipede 2, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it, especially to those with an aversion to gore, staple guns, or the idea of pregnant women in peril.
And so, when the opportunity to interview Six at Fantastic Fest landed in my inbox, I was actually quite excited: some online writers are loathe to interview anyone who’s produced something that they didn’t enjoy (the common sentiment being, “I hated the movie—what am I supposed to say to the (guy/girl/talking dog)?”), but I am the exact opposite. Seeing a project I don’t particularly like and then having the chance to interview the person responsible for that project affords one the opportunity to find out what the hell that person was thinking. If you’re willing to voice your issues with the film, you might just walk away from such an interview (more of a “grilling”, really) with a different viewpoint on the project.
Such was the case with my interview with Six and Human Centipede 2 star Laurence Harvey. There was no question in my mind what Six had been aiming for with this sequel (it’s kind of hard to miss the point, as he beats you over the head with it for over 90 minutes), but after sitting down to talk with this pair, I walked away convinced that Six really wasn’t concerned with “entertaining” his audience so much as upsetting them. If that truly was his goal with Centipede 2 — and I believe it was– I’ll begrudgingly admit that he was successful across the board. Before we get into the interview/grilling, though, here’s some highlights from our chat:
- Tom Six says that he’ll be filming Centipede 3 shortly, in the States, and it will be unlike either of the previous two Centipede films.
- Tom Six tells me he absolutely intended the film as a response to those who criticized the “restraint” of the first Human Centipede.
- Laurence Harvey jokes that Centipede 2 would make a great video for his online dating bio.
- Tom Six says that the film was presented in black and white mainly because it’s “scarier”.
- There seems to be some disagreement on the film’s ending, and you shouldn’t read on if you’re worried about encountering Centipede 2 spoilers: you’ve been warned, Slappy.
Collider: As expected, there has been a good amount of controversy since The Human Centipede debuted last night. What is your opinion thus far on the response?
TOM SIX: Similar to part one, people either absolutely loved it or they hated it. Part one was more psychological and people would tell me , “We want more shit and gore.” So I really shoved it to them and went all the way!
Its sounds like– from the beginning– you’ve had a plan for what you’ve wanted to do with this concept as a series, right?
SIX: Oh, yes.
So, it was always your intention to make a sequel for those who criticized your not being grotesque enough in the first one? How did you know to plan that in advance?
SIX: When I was writing part one, I had so many ideas that I couldn’t fit them all in. At first, I wanted the audience to get used to this sick idea. So, I wanted it to be very psychological and I left all the real shit and stuff out. I wanted everything in the movie to all be constructed purely in the audience’s head. I knew already at that point that people wanted to see the shit and all that stuff. I knew in the second one people are going to ask for that. If you’re a horror fan, that’s what’ll make you scream. When the last film exploded, the demand for something [more gruesome] was there.
So, how do you think those that loved the first film for its restraint will receive the sequel?
SIX: There are two types of people: you have people that like psychological horror and you have those that like everything in their face. Some will like part one much better, others may like part two. I really want to make an opposite/different film. I made this one with different characters, not in color, and a different story. And the third one will also be very different film again.
LAURENCE HARVEY: The first one doesn’t show anything but it feels like a really sleazy film. Whereas this one shows everything, but it doesn’t feel sleazy.
SIX: Yes, I did that on purpose.
To be frank, I don’t know if I liked the second one as much, mainly because it didn’t have the elements of the first one that I loved so much—the restraint, the humor, and so on. It’s certainly different and definitely challenging, and I appreciate that about it, but I can’t say that I would watch The Centipede 2 again in the same way that I do with Centipede 1.
SIX: That’s intentional.
HARVEY: As many people will get put off by it, I think it will gain new fans because both films feel like a midnight movie (which we don’t have any more in the UK). The first one feels like a Euro-horror (film) but was beautifully shot. Whereas, the second one feels much more like a Thunder Crack or Eraserhead. It has that kind of mixture of sleaze and intelligence.
Your reference to Eraserhead is interesting because I thought Centipede 2 had a strong Lynchian vibe to it. Particularly the scenes with you and your mother, which seemed straight out of a Lynch movie. The soundtrack even had the same kind of drone. Was that intentional?
SIX: I love David Lynch’s work. When I write my scripts I never directly think of certain films. I know I am influenced by all the films I see. What I really wanted to create was a very nightmarish uncomfortable feeling…
Mission accomplished. [all laugh]
SIX: Yeah exactly, that comes very natural, though. And of course, I have seen Eraserhead several times; I love that film….
HARVEY: But, equally, it is as much Eraserhead as it isn’t Eraserhead. It’s also as much one of those kind of Japanese splatter films that went around on DVD so many times that they became black and white. It equally had that kind of feel to it as well.
(To Harvey) Did you have any reservations around filming this? Y’know, since it was so different from the first one? You may have had a reasonable expectation that it was going to be more of the same…
HARVEY: The thing is, when I was approached by Tom and he asked if I was interested in being the big lead in this film, I kinda wanted to know that it wasn’t going to be a straight sequel. I liked the fact that the first one is kind of about the troupes of the horror film and this one is about the tropes of perception. Martin is definitely that tabloid archetype that is mentally damaged or socially inept who then takes on what the audience sees in the film. I don’t think he exists at all. If one were to create a violent act, they might commit in a way they’ve seen in a horror film. Like actual gangsters who imitate gangster movies. You’re not going to just watch a horror film and go out and copy it, but the tabloids seem obsessed with this character– which is what Martin is. I like the fact that Tom just said, “Well, if you think this is going to happen, I’m going to show you how its going to happen. He’s not going to have any medical skills, its going to get very messy, and it’s going to be absurd!” It goes to those sort of absurd levels, but I think that’s what really attracted me to it.
How did you feel about shooting some of the rougher scenes, like the rape sequence or any of those that required full frontal nudity? Were there any parts of it where you were like, “Geez, I gotta do this at work today?” or were you happy to do it?
HARVEY: I was happy to do it. I felt that I had to just commit myself to the role and dive right into it. The rape scene, I made sure to talk with the actress to talk things through and maybe work out a way to maybe block out the action and to make sure that she was comfortable with everything. The thing is, it’s not Martin raping a woman– its Martin raping the whole centipede to exert his power over it. Also in a strange way he wants to be part of the centipede. I think Martin’s character is so sympathetic, but he makes so many bad choices that when did the custom crew screening, I had a friend see the movie with me and she said she just wanted to give Martin a hug and tell him to stop it. “Don’t rape her!” “Don’t hit her””Don’t hit the pregnant lady with the crowbar.” [laughs]
Since I’ve seen the film, I’ve met a few people that seem to disagree on the ending. I’m curious if both of you are in agreement as to how it ends: did it all really happen, or was it in Martin’s mind?
HARVEY: We agree, but only that it’s ambiguous…
SIX: And that’s a good thing I think.
HARVEY: I’ve heard six different interpretations of how the movie ends. None of them are happy. [Laughs]
SIX: Of course, I intended to write it like this. Maybe I’ll give answers [about the ending] in part three. But I like those kinds of endings. Like in part one, you never know what happens to the little girl. You think of all the scenarios over and over again. If you finish a story, it’s over and done and out of your system. Instead this helps the movie stay in you mind for a much longer time.
HARVEY: When the film ends, the audience just sits in stunned silence for a minute. That’s not just because of the sensory overload of the film, it’s also because the ending doesn’t allow you to pack it away neatly. It sticks with you and I feel that is the strongest thing about the ending.
How are you going to deal with the MPAA? They are going to lose their shit when they see this movie– no pun intended. It hasn’t received classification in the states yet, right?
SIX: No, I actually handle that and do a lot of things unrated. I don’t know exactly how this system works here…
Well, getting an NC-17 here in the States is a really good way to keep a movie out of most theaters. Unrated is a little easier to pull off, but I can’t imagine that they would release it the way it is with an R rating. There would have to be cuts made, or it would have to be released unrated.
So, is it your intention to release the film unrated, then?
SIX: I don’t know how they’re going to release it, but I do know that it is actually going in theaters. It opening October 7th in lots of big cities in America and I don’t really know how they would go about cutting things out. Of course, I will always want my version to be shown to the audience, but I can’t control every country’s position on that, but I’m fine with it.
So, you’re cool with them making edits to the film?
SIX: If it’s necessary…
HARVEY: I think in America, whatever gets released in the cinema you can always get it uncut on DVD.
SIX: So in any case, people in the states will be able to see my version.
That’s a good way of looking at it. You talk to some filmmakers, and they don’t want a single frame touched, whether the unrated version will be released or not. But it sounds like you are willing to play along either way…
SIX: Yeah, absolutely.
So with Centipede 3, are you able to share any details of it with us now? Or are going to keep that under your hat for the time being?
SIX: Maybe a little bit. Again, it will start with the ending of part two. So in the end, you will have one continuous film of about four and a half hours long– like a centipede that can be connected. You will get some answers to lasting questions. I’m shooting in America and it will end with a strange happy ending. I want to end my series, cause I don’t want to don’t another Centipede ever again. Normally, I don’t like happy endings except for in massage parlors. [laughs] It will be a completely different film again. There will be connection again but other than that I can’t say anything more.
The decision to shoot black and white: how much of that was a stylistic choice and how much of that was to maybe soften the blow? Because if that were in color I think it would’ve been even rougher to get through.
SIX: Definitely, part one is in color and its clinical and the camera moves slow but it fit the story of Dr. Heiter. This time, I wanted to make a dark and dirty film that really connected with the Martin character. I shot it in color, I was always thinking about black and white and found in editing the movie that in black and white it was much scarier. It gives you an uncomfortable feeling and I loved that because it really fits the story. It’s still very gross and in your face.
(To Harvey) How do you feel about how people may react to you after people see this movie? You don’t even speak in it. You communicate with your eyes and a few guttural sounds, so people don’t really get to know you at all except for this beast.
HARVEY: I don’t know. I think after the screening the other night, people were like, “Oh, he talks.”[laughs]. But so far the response has been people telling me “Hey, good job.” [laughs] Hopefully people will see it as acting rather than I’m like that in real life.
After I was out having a cigerrette with you guys outside, one of my friends– a young lady you’ll be speaking to a little later today– said she had passed you on the way in. I told her ,”The guy from Human Centipede 2 is outside.” She said, “I saw him, but I was too afraid to approach him” [all laugh].
HARVEY: All right! [laughs] The other night, girls came up to me and wanted their photo taken …
So, you think Centipede 2 will improve your love life? Or are you married?
HARVEY: Oh, I am. I jokingly said, “I think this would make a great dating site video.” [laughs]
And that, my friends, was all the time I had with Six and Harvey. Both guys were beyond gracious, two of the nicest people I’ve ever had the chance to sit down with for an interview. Before the guys even knew that I was there to interview them—when we bumped into one another in front of the Highball (where the interview took place)– they were happy to chat, totally approachable, and beyond excited to be in Austin for Centipede 2’s world premiere. I might not have enjoyed Six’s latest opus, but I walked away from this interview with a newfound sense of respect for the guy: say what you will about his vision, but at least he’s got one (unlike some people currently lensing films in H-town). Special thanks to Six, Harvey, Collider.com, and PR superstar Emily Lu for setting this one up—I had a blast, and look forward to doing it all over again when The Human Centipede 3 makes its inevitable appearance at some future Fantastic Fest.