Ready to regurgitate some breakers?
Tom Six’s internationally controversial follow-up to the original cultie, The Human Centipede – ups the ante with Human Centipede II: Full Sequence, unparalleled in bloody disgusting-ness for motion pictures today.
In theaters Oct. 7th, nationwide on demand Oct. 12th.
Martin is a mentally disturbed loner who lives with his nagging mother in a bleak London housing project, where loud neighbors and cramped living conditions threaten to plunge this victim of sexual and psychological abuse over the edge.
He works the night shift as a security guard in an underground parking garage, where customers and their vehicles come and go as he indulges his obsession with THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEQUENCE) watching the film over and over on the small TV set in his office and meticulously examining the scrapbook he has lovingly filled with memorabilia from the film, including the mouth-to-anus surgery instructions made famous by Dr. Heiter, the mad scientist from Martin’s favorite movie.
Pushed to the brink by his harridan mother, haunted by the teasing voices of his abusive and incarcerated father, Martin sets into motion his plan to emulate Heiter’s centipede by creating his own version, in a rented warehouse, which he begins to fill with victims, including a loud neighbor, two drunk nightclubbers, a prostitute and a lecherous john, and several more … including Martin’s pièce de résistance, one of the actresses from THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEQUENCE).
Except that Martin lacks the surgical skill, medical instruments and operating theater necessary to create a larger centipede in the image of Dr. Heiter’s masterpiece. So he makes use of materials at hand: duct tape, staple gun, household tools and a fanboy moxie.
What follows is one of the most harrowing and terrifying films ever conceived, featuring a central character that makes FIRST SEQUENCE’s Dr. Heiter seem downright cuddly in comparison. THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FINAL SEQUENCE) is a triumph in biological horror by one of the new masters of the horror film.
In the wake of 2010’s phenomenally successful THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEQUENCE, which terrified festival audiences the world over before building an even larger audience via its theatrical and video-on-demand runs, writer-director Tom Six set out to heighten and expand the horrors of the original film — if such a thing was possible.
“When I was writing the first part, I had so many ideas that I couldn’t put in the first sequence,” Six insists. “That one played out on the psychological level, you didn’t see much. A lot of what was happening was in the viewer’s mind. For Part Two, I wanted to show everything you couldn’t see in Part One.”
It’s the tradition in sequels for a filmmaker to copy his original story, but Six wanted to create something new and fresh, challenging himself to open up the storyline introduced in the predecessor. The crux of this was What if some crazy person out there tried to copy the idea of the original film — or tried his own hand at creating a human centipede? “At film festivals we were constantly asked this question,” Six says. “People seemed very disturbed by the idea of someone emulating Dr. Heiter’s work, so I used that concept as a kernel for the second film.
“As a filmmaker and writer, that second one is the more difficult — it’s a horror scenario unto itself,” Six continues. “If you have a success like the first one, how do you top it or equal it? This is why I chose a different approach within the same concept.”
In order to achieve this, Six expanded the notions of suffocation and prolonged suffering that derived from being trapped in the clutches of Dr. Heiter with no apparent means of escape. “It’s like in Part One, where the action happens and can’t be stopped,” Six explains. “It’s the idea that nothing can stop Dr Heiter from achieving his goal. In the second film, people are abducted, placed in a warehouse, operated on — again, it’s this unstoppable tension. In most horror films, characters are killed off so quickly. But in this new film you see them going through prolonged hell. That is real horror.”
Six’s greatest challenge for the second film was concocting a screen villain that was as effectively menacing and terrifying as the gastrointestinal genius Dr. Heiter from THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEQUENCE), so memorably brought to life by the gifted actor Dieter Laser.
“I could never top Dieter’s performance,” Six admits. “So I chose the total opposite of Laser and Heiter. “Martin needed to be a little man, with a totally different kind of charisma. I had a strong image in my head of what this guy would look like, and we set about searching for the right actors in London.”
But none of them matched the description of the madman that was stuck inside Six’s head. “I had this character in mind who was very specific,” Six explains. “He’s mentally challenged and lives in his own world. He can perform a job, but it’s simple, it’s in a parking garage at night. I knew the guy had to live with his mother — I wanted him to be the victim of sexual molestation as a child. Mentally challenged people molested by their parents have trouble understanding that when they engage in sexual activities later in life, they combine the experiences with pain. Martin feels no empathy because of this mental challenge.”
After countless disappointing auditions, Laurence Harvey, a seasoned stage actor and performance artist — and veteran of Saturday morning children’s television shows and sketch comedy — arrived in character as Martin and proceeded to deliver a chilling rendition of a rape scene in the film that had Six convinced on the spot that he’d found his central character.
Harvey saw Martin as a character to be pitied. “He’s this put upon little man, in the classic silent-movie sense,” explains Harvey. “A character to whom lots of bad things have happened. He tries to see his way through this by emulating Dr. Heiter’s work in order to gain some power. Except that he makes poor choices and bad mistakes — every choice he makes just makes things worse and worse! And things get messier. I saw him as a sympathetic character, believe it or not. Someone the audience would hopefully take in and accept.”
In preparing for the role, Harvey did everything in his own power to ensure he was not filling the shoes of the Dr. Heiter character from the original sequence. “Tom wanted the character to be the complete opposite of that character and that made it easy for me,” Harvey explains. “I could find a way into that more easily. The doctor in the first film is this tall, spindly and powerful figure who is always in control; he’s dominant and verbally theatrical. My character is silent; the odd mumble escapes from his mouth during the course of the film. He’s short, fat, out of shape, at the bottom rung of society, really, getting abuse at every turn. He’s powerless and in a position to let resentment build up. I was glad that Tom took a different approach to Martin.”
Harvey was drawn to the material after seeing the original HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEQUENCE) and deeming it a mixture of high art and lowbrow exploitation, recalling such potent works as the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini and Volker Schlondorff, the artworks of Jake and Dinos Chapman, certain category 3 Hong Kong exploitation films, and above all Brian Yuzna’s notorious American horror opus SOCIETY, released in 1992.
In other words, Harvey was well versed in the material at hand, as both an actor and performance artist but also as a fan of extreme culture. “I like pushing things to extremes whether it’s through cerebral or intelligent means, or through visceral or emotional extremes,” Harvey insists. “Tom Six struck me immediately as someone who did that in his work. When I initially met him, he was so enthusiastic, with his boyish charm and exuberant bounce about him — you just want to respond to him straightaway. You get egged on by his energy. And it’s great — because it gives you energy. On set he’s kind of like Johnny Depp when he played Ed Wood, apart from the pink angora sweater.
As a clever storytelling twist, Six opted to bring back original HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEQUENCE) star Ashlynn Yennie, who perished memorably in the first film as the putrefying, infected rear portion of Dr. Heiter’s gastro-surgical monstrosity.
“Ashlynn plays herself in the new film,” Six reveals. “Or rather she plays a naïve version of herself, like she did in the first film. Only I needed to take it to the next level. So Six simply brought her back to life as a desperate but entitled actress who travels to London to audition for a very specific filmmaker — only to experience something else entirely.
Yennie filmed for two weeks in an environment that was vastly different from her experience on the first film, requiring her to endure even more suffocation and constriction than before, this time with a larger cast. “The set was awful, it was so disgusting,” Yennie recalls. “In between every shot, they would water down the splintered hardwood floor. We had to lay on it completely naked and there were moments I asked myself ‘What the hell am I doing?’ But I trust Tom’s vision — and I knew from the first time around that he trusts me enough to let me do my thing. I just try to take what Tom’s telling me and make it feel real.”
She also knew more about this project than the first film, but in typical Tom Six fashion, Yennie was still kept in the dark with regards to how the story would play out — and what might be expected of her on set. “During the first shoot, the three of us didn’t know what was going on,” Yennie reveals. “There wasn’t a conventional script. We weren’t allowed to see any footage. Tom would just tell us to act like the girls on MTV’s The Hills. It was this month-long shoot and we actors became very close during the process — you have to get close somehow, because we were literally sewn together! When we left the set after we wrapped, none of us except for Tom had any idea what was going to happen with the film.”
Going into the second film, Yennie had a better idea of what was expected from her. But filming Part Two was a vastly different experience, right down to the dirty and gritty set, not to mention a broader supporting cast, composed mostly of British character actors from the stage world. “When I walked onto the set, the other cast members treated me like royalty, we formed a very close bond off set,” Yennie explains. “We had to go into the dressing room and have our prosthetic butts put on as a group — you felt this kinship and closeness with the other actors, you had this working team around you, functioning as a unit. And it was a safe environment — that’s how Tom runs his sets, almost like a family. Because there were so many of us in part two, I couldn’t help but fall in love with everyone on set. I was only there for two and a half weeks — to shoot the latter half of the film — but Tom has this really great way of creating this family-like environment on his set. Coming from an American perspective, going to a different country and working with actors who mainly came from a background in the British stage, I gained a lot of insight into their own working process, which was amazing to me.”
In keeping with Six’s meticulous effort to make the second film feel as radically different from its predecessor as possible, the supporting cast members comprising the new centipede were designed to be unsympathetic people. “In the first one, you got to know the girls and feel for them,” Six explains. “But the trick I’m employing with this one is that you almost come to have sympathy for Martin. He’s abused and he looks kind of sweet. But the people inside the centipede, like the violent upstairs neighbor who won’t stop blaring his techno music — these are rather horrible people.”
Next up, Six set about creating a look and feel for the film that was once again the absolute opposite of its predecessor. “It was important for the style of filming to be totally different for the second film,” explains Six. “The aesthetic of the first film was totally clinical, and controlled in terms of the camera work.” For the follow-up Six employed handheld cameras to create an even more harrowing feel, to heighten the claustrophobic atmosphere of the cramped apartment, dingy underground car park and fetid desolate warehouse where the sequel unfurls.
He employed a dirty, gritty texture, de-saturating his images of any color. Six and his crew shot the entire sequel in and around London. “We set out to find the seediest, darkest places we could locate,” Six explains. “The idea was to create this very uncomfortable atmosphere — when Martin’s victims are operated on, you actually see the dirt encrusted in their fingernails. It’s anything but sterile, which is what I was looking for — because Dr. Heiter’s house and laboratory were the very model of sterility.”
In order to lessen the impact of the film’s considerable violence and brutality, Six and his actors leavened the material with shades of black humor. Explains Harvey: “What worried me in terms of the script is that because we see Martin attack someone early in the film, I wanted the audience to have sympathy for that (owing to his past history of sexual abuse) so I played it as deadpan comedy — a version of Tom and Jerry, if you will. It gets quite dark, but there’s always a strand of black humor running through the film.”
“We laughed so hard about it, working on that set, where there was so much mayhem — guns, knives, blood, torture, you name it,” Yennie remembers of the long hours spent conjoined with her fellow cast members in a much bigger human centipede — in a much grittier atmosphere.
“We were sitting there, chained together for hours in these fake prosthetic butts — it wasn’t shorts you could slip on and off like in the first film,” she recalls. “You’re stuck in this prosthetic contraption for hours, halfway sitting in chairs, totally covered in filth — and someone would say, I think it’s time for a cookie! We needed something like that, something normal and comfortable that made us all feel like a kid again — something that would remind all of us that the world was going to be okay. You have to have a sense of humor in situations like this. And we laughed a lot on this set.”
Six elaborates: “Humor is so very important to me. Black humor is a crucial component in both CENTIPEDE films — I can’t help but write humor, it comes naturally. If you can imagine people on their hands and knees attached mouth to anus, you initially laugh about it. I love the scatological comedies of Farrelly brothers, that kind of black humor where people laugh about diarrhea. Some people saw the first HUMAN CENTIPEDE and laughed their asses off; other people experience it as real horror. It all depends on how your mind works.”
Six likens the kind of horror on display in his CENTIPEDE works as the equivalent of a rollercoaster ride for the audience. “It’s through horror films that people satisfy their fascination with death and horrible stuff,” Six insists. “It’s comforting to sit in a theater and watch something awful on the screen, knowing that you’re safe in your chair. That’s what people look for — it’s a thrill not unlike bungee jumping or thrill rides. And it’s growing more and more extreme. Westerners have enough to eat and experience — they look for more extreme things to satisfy their whims. This is crucial to understanding my films.
“I think horror movies will become even bigger and more extreme in time. I love that,” Six confesses. “I really enjoy making this kind of rollercoaster ride for viewers. They can go to the theater and experience something weird, nasty and sick — the faster the rollercoaster ride the better. For some people, it may go too fast or too far, but they know their own ceiling. Others can go through their own ceiling — and even choose to. That’s the filmmaker job, to give them something new — to break their ceiling rather than give them something that’s the same thing over and over again.”