A Franchise With Legs

Monday, October 31 2011
A Franchise With Legs

After having seen both his Human Centipede outings, The First Sequence and the most recent entrant into what is fast becoming one of the most notorious horror franchises of recent years, The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence), you’d be forgiven for feeling a bit nervous when meeting their director and creator Tom Six.

And it becomes even stranger when you see his companion for our interview, actor Laurence Harvey, the star of the controversial sequel which was, at first, rejected by the BBFC for its shocking content, a decision that was eventually changed after Bounty and its distributor Eureka, along with Six, submitted a trimmed version, shorn of 2 ½ minutes’ worth of the film’s greater excesses. Harvey is certainly not your average looking actor, as anyone who’s seen the film will testify. It’s hard to shake the image of him dressed in little else but a lab coat, covered in all kinds of unmentionable body fluids, conducting his grisly take on creating, quite literally, the human centipede of the title.

What you get is instead however, is, in Six, a witty, warm and generous man; someone whose speaks faultless English with passion, a man who genuinely believes in what he’s doing, and has a nice line in headgear too. And in Harvey, you get a quiet, thoughtful, softly-spoken man who acts as a perfect foil to his director and whose intelligence is far superior to that of the seemingly educationally subnormal Martin who he plays in the film.

The pair are supporting the release of The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence), which is due to air at Film4 FrightFest’s the day after our interview ahead of its November 21 DVD and Blu-ray bow, and they are in the throes of an extensive publicity blitz. It seems as if the BBFC has helped their case, as Six readily admits.

“The BBFC made me very happy,” he smiles. “It was huge marketing, everybody will speak about it. But they [also] decided what grown ups could see.”

Six is equally candid about his motivation for the film. While he may not necessarily have made it deliberately to get the BBFC to reject it, he was certainly intending to cause a strong reaction.

“Part one [The Human Centipede [First Sequence)] provoked strong reactions, but this is way more extreme,” he says. “The BBFC reaction was a little bit too extreme though.”

As Harvey adds: “Rejecting it and rejecting it with that press release went beyond [its] remit.”

So what does Six now think of the new, trimmed version?

“I’m very happy it’s coming out, but unhappy it’s been cut. As a film-maker, I prefer the uncut version, we took a bit away from the sexual violence. But [at least] we did it in a good way, it doesn’t affect the story all.”

The irony of the whole furore is, of course, the fact that the plot revolves around the very thing that unnerves the powers that be so much – the threat of copycat violence. Rather than go down the traditional sequel route and picking up where the first one left off, Six has completely changed tack. Harvey’s character Martin is a lonely car park attendant who has become obsessed with Six’s film, watching it on a near-permanent loop and putting together is own scrapbook. He eventually goes the whole hog (or insect), kidnapping a bunch of disparate people and assembling his own Heath Robinson-style, DIY centipede. His coup de grace is abducting Ashlynn Yennie, one of the stars of the original film, and using her at the head of his gruesome experiment.

“I was playing with the idea of someone with no medical background doing this,” explains Six. “People all over the world asked me what if someone copies your film…”

“The tabloid idea of someone copying the film is somewhat ridiculous,” adds Harvey, “especially after such OTT violence as the Human Centipede. It’s a dark comedy about that whole tabloid fantasy.”

It may have the blackest humour, but it’s the gore that will mark it out for some people. “It’s a film you love or you hate,” says Six. “We already had that with part one, but it’s way more extreme.  People can’t handle the gore, you can really see the intelligence in it, but it’s extreme.”

According to Six, the first one is much more psychological, with its grounding in some twisted kind of medical science, and the viewer doesn’t see as much. “I wanted to let them get used to the idea [of The Human Centipede]. A lot of people wanted it, but part one didn’t have the shit and gore. Now, I shove it in,” he laughs.

“Be careful what you wish for,” adds Harvey.  

Thankfully, The Human Centipede 2 is in black and white… Was it a conscious decision to make some of the more extreme bodily fluids more palatable? 

Six replies: “It’s so shocking in colour, you only see blood, piss and shit. It distracts [the viewer] from the story element. The first one is clinical, close and it really helped the story. [This time] it’s all shot handheld, with a dirty look, we took away all the colours. It’s a totally different world to the first one, it looks so beautiful in black and white. It has a more disturbing feel a more uncomfortable feel.”

“And you still get the blood, snot, sick and shit,” adds Harvey.

Six can’t help resist throwing in a Schindler’s List sight gag either, although his flash of colour is more scatological than Spielberg’s. “Spielberg used the red dress and I used the brown diarrhoea. It’s an ode to Schindler’s List,” he says.

“It has that black comedy feel to it,” explains Harvey. “Tom’s black humour is particularly eastern European, it’s got that darkness about it.

“Everything is about death and shit.”

Harvey goes on to draw comparisons with other midnight movie favourites such as Thundercrack and Eraserhead, praising Six’s blend of high art and low exploitation influences. (Surprisingly, given its very tough content, Harvey says that Six’s boyish enthusiasm meant the set was great fun and not the ordeal you might have expected.) Of course, to any seasoned observer, such as Harvey (like us at The Raygun, someone who grew up during the video nasties era) or a FrightFest audience, will be used to that blend. Six’s reputation has been aided by his relationship with FrightFest, he thanks the organisers in the credits for the sequel, which premiered at the event, like the first outing. “They’ve been behind me all the way,” he says.

It wasn’t, however, the fact that the UK and its horror fans were so quick to pick up on the film that led to it being shot in the UK. As Six explains: “A lot of people said [the first Human Centipede was like] the Second World War, we had Germans, Japanese and Americans. They said ‘Where are the British?’ So I thought, I’d love to come to London. We’re going to do the British now.”

And next? “For the final sequence, we’re going to head to America.”

And the BBFC had better be ready for more headaches.

“Part three will be completely different again. It will upset a lot of people, it will be extreme, but it’s a whole different story.

“We’ll doThe Final Sequence and then no more centipedes after that,” Six concludes. “All three films can literally be connected by a centipede.”

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