As the opening night film of Fantastic Fest 2011, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) disgusted and angered two theaters full of hardcore horror movie buffs, inspiring a fierce debate over the quality and content of the film that lasted throughout the rest of the fest. Sequel to the instantly infamous The Human Centipede (First Sequence), this follow-up follows a disturbed man who becomes obsessed with the first film and attempts to recreate its content in the "real" world. The result is one of the strangest horror films of recent years, a meta examination of the audience response to the first film. It's also filled with all of the extreme violence and flying human feces that the first film actually kept off frame.
We had the opportunity to sit down with writer/director Tom Six and actor Laurence Harvey, who plays the disturbed lead character, Martin. We chatted about audience reactions, creating prosthetic anuses and the future of the Human Centipede series .
Movies.com: You take the sequel in a very strange direction, where the first film actually exists within the world of the sequel. When did you make the choice to go meta? Did you ever consider a traditional approach?
Tom Six: It was like…lots of people at festivals always said "What if a maniac out there copies your idea?" and I was already playing a little with that idea when I was writing part one and then I knew for sure that this was a great idea, because it's much scarier if a man with no medical knowledge operates on you than Dr. Heiter, who does everything sterilized.
Laurence Harvey: More adept!
Six: Absolutely! I know what I'd choose!
Movies.com: It goes without saying that there are a lot of extreme things going on in this film. Laurence, on set, was there ever a moment where you felt uncomfortable with something Tom asked you to do?
Harvey: Nothing felt uncomfortable. Right from the first moment with the casting, Tom's enthusiasm just makes you go "Oh, yeah, okay!" Doesn't matter what it is. He's got a boyish cheeky grin and he knows what he wants, as well. After seeing the first one, I thought that however this film turns out, it's at least going to be interesting at the very least. And when I finally saw it, it was a fantastic piece of work.
Movies.com: How about you, Tom? Was there ever a point where a member of the cast or crew thought you were taking things too far?
Six: No, no. They all saw part one and I told all of the actors this time, it's going to be really tough. You have to be willing…you have to be willing to be a real actor. If I was a director who talked very slow and serious, "You…have…to…poop…in…her…mouth…now", no one would do it. But if you say "Come on! We've gotta' s--t!" Then it works much better.
Movies.com: How did you two first meet? Laurence, what was it like being cast as Martin?
Harvey: Well, how we first met…I guess you had been looking in the actors directory and I got a call from my agent, asking it I would be interested in being in a horror film and if I would have any objections since there would be nudity and blood and I said no, no, I'd be fine with that. And it's a lead role…Yep! Yep! I'll take it! Because I'm sort of a jobbing actor, mainly a character actor, so it was interesting to be offered such a vital role. A lot of what I've done before has been in children's or comedy…well, this is still comedy, but it also tends to go off in different dramatic ways.
Movies.com: When you were prepping for the part, did Tom have you do any research? Read any books, watch any movies?
Harvey: I did most of that myself. A lot of the preparation was Tom talking about the background of the character and me taking that figuring out how he would interact with people and what thought processes would be going on in his mind. I stayed with a friend of mine who has two one year old boys, because we talked about Martin not having genuine emotions. He kind of tries an emotion on because he thinks it's appropriate, but then he drops it. I'd watch these two one year olds and when one would spill his food, he'd start crying. Then the other one would stare at the crying one until the mother gave him some notice. Then he'd start crying as well, obviously faking it, trying to figure out what emotion he could use to get a reaction from his mother.
Movies.com: Was Martin always mute in the script?
Six: Originally, I had lines in the script where Martin copied lines from Dr. Heiter, like "Feed her!" But when Laurence came in for the casting-
Harvey: I forgot to say anything!
Six: He was so strong…such an amazing personality and charisma on screen when he says nothing. He just fills an hour and a half of film. He's just so interesting to watch. So I skipped all of those lines. They were too much.
Harvey: Also, the lack of lines gave me a way to approach the violence. When I got the script and saw that the first scene was a violence scene…I thought there would be scenes of Martin getting picked on first so the audience would have sympathy before he attacks somebody…but it hits the ground running. So I thought the way to play it would be like a silent film comedy actor, like a Harold Lloyd or a Charlie Chaplin. Keep him deadpan in that Buster Keaton kind of way.
Movies.com: And are you prepared to be the guy everyone is terrified of on the street?
Harvey: Years ago, I did a kids' TV show and I've always been recognized in the street from that, but it was usually by gay men and little children, so I think the same will happen with this!
Six: Absolutely. But not by children, I think.
Movies.com: How was the shoot itself? Were you able to move at a leisurely pace or did you have to move quickly?
Six: I shoot fast. I know exactly what I want, so I just place it. I don't need a lot of time to think things over.
Harvey: The very first time we met, he knew the exact shots, the framing. That kind of confidence allows you, as an actor, to just get on with your job.
Movies.com: The sequel is completely different than the first film, going black and white, gritty and handheld while the first one was locked down and sterile. How did that decision come about?
Six: The style of the first one really works for that story. The clinical-ness, the colors…it all helps the character of Dr. Heiter. And this one really helps the character of Martin. It's dirty and disgusting. I really wanted to make an opposite film. Laurence is the complete opposite of Dieter [Laser, who played Dr. Heiter]. They're almost two different films. I didn't want to copy the first one, like so many filmmakers do. They try to find another doctor-
Harvey: It's a thematic sequel. Not a regurgitation of the same story.
Movies.com: The film has proven divisive among audiences. What kind of reaction were you hoping for? Are you just happy that people are talking about it?
Six: When part one came out, so many people were shocked by it, but others said "Oh, it's for pussies!" since you don't see everything and in part two, I wanted to deliver that, so when horror audiences saw it, they'd be shocked by it. So I say "Here you have it! This is what you wanted, isn't it?"
Movies.com: How about you, Laurence? How have people directly reacted to you? Any extreme reactions?
Harvey: Most people come up to me and say…"You're a f----ing scary man." And these are usually people who are around six and half feet tall and have tattoos, so I'm surrounded by all of this huge people saying "F---ing excellent, man!"
Movies.com: There are a lot of…interesting prosthetics that were built for this film? What was it like hiring people to build them?
Six: We went to an English company run by John Schoonraad, an Oscar winner. When we approached him he said that he had seen the first one and loved it couldn't wait to work with us. He's a genius and made all of those terrific butts. I really wanted to see more butts this time. He delivered!
Harvey: And all of the physical effects guys were great. They're all real fans of not just horror films, but films in general. It's not just "Yeah, f---ing A, let's get some butts on there!" they're true professionals.
Movies.com: When I asked a group of people what they most wanted to know about the film, they didn't even give me a question, they gave me a statement: Stunt penis.
Harvey: As I explained to Tom when I first got cast, I did a play a few years ago called "The Man With the Absurdly Large Penis" and I got typecast after that, so I asked "Could you make me really small one?" Just for variety's sake!
Six: I have it at home! Framed on my wall. It's beautiful. Very small and beautiful.
When you were writing the film, was there ever a point where you thought you were going to far? Did you ever reach a limit?
Six: No. I never censor myself. I just go full force. That's fun for me as a filmmaker. Censoring…no, no.
Movies.com: And in part three we're going to see even more?
Six: Maybe. It's a very cool film, part three. Some people are more upset by the psychological stuff in part one and others by the gore in part two, so I have other stuff up my sleeve. Maybe they'll find that more offensive.
Movies.com: Do you always want to be the shock guy or do you want to try something new? Maybe a thriller? Maybe a romantic comedy?
Six: I really want to explore the horror genre more. I have some new ideas and it would be a shame to throw them away. I don't want to make more commercial films. There's something inside me…that's where all the fun comes from. I want people to have strong emotional reactions to my films. After Human Centipede III and I'm really fed up with centipedes. A psychological horror film with an idea that'll make people cringe again.
Movies.com: How about you, Laurence? What's in your future?
Harvey:In a dream world, I hope someone who is a fan of this film knows Guy Maddin and tells him "It's almost like a silent film! You'll like it! There's a guy in it who's just like Peter Lorre!" I just want to work with directors who have an idiosyncratic way of doing things. That's why I wanted to work with Tom after seeing the first film.
Movies.com: Can you give us any kind of hint of what we'll see in part three?
Six: In the end, all of the films will fit together, like I did now [Part Two opens with the final scenes of Part One], so it'll be one long four and a half hour film. It's going to have a strange happy ending, since it'll be my final centipede.
Harvey: I think this one has a happy ending!