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What The Centipede Means to Me

March 7, 2016 - 10:38 am No Comments


I remember quite distinctly the first Human Centipede film hitting upon its release, although of course at the time I had no idea of quite how fond I would grow to be not only of that first film but the two ‘sequels’ that would follow. There was something tantalising about First Sequence, with all the whispers and rumours of what the movie was really like really piquing my interest. I’ve always been drawn to controversy and films that have suffered censorship – quelle surprise –but there was something in particular in this movie’s set up that I found hard to resist. But I do equally remember everyone’s revulsion when I said I’d like to watch the movie.
Well, I was a younger and even shyer Alex back then, so it was actually a long time until I got to see the movie in its entirety. I managed to catch it on SyFy a bit after its release, late on Tuesday night as I remember it. And I do remember it well – it’s not the kind of movie you forget seeing for the first time. The insane Dr Heiter, the cold and clinical surgeon, the three victims in the wrong place at the wrong time, Katsuro at the head of Lindsay and Jenny for the disturbing surgery, Heiter delighting in the eating and ‘feeding’ of one to the other and an ending that I actually thought was truly heart-wrenching, one that left a real impression with me. Wow, I thought. It wasn’t something new in terms of storyline – a classic mad scientist tale really – but boy was the delivery and style fresh. This Tom Six chap would be a director to watch out for.
Not a bad prediction, because even better was to come, and when Full Sequence emerged the furore was even more noticeable. After a total of 36 cuts by the BBFC, the movie finally got a release here in the UK and I was itching to check this one out. Surely it couldn’t be as bad as the opener? Surely there was nothing up the sleeve that could really top First Sequence? Sure, the centipede would be longer, but surely that would only make a minimal difference…
Oh, how wrong can you be? HCII was a flat out Lynchian nightmare cranked up to 11, headed by the sinister Martin Lomax, his brutally abusive mother, and a meta thread following Lomax as he tries to surpass the personal obsession that is the first movie. And does this one go further? Good lord it goes. Truly shocking and disturbing, but utterly compelling watching. And what impressed me most was the bravery to go out a sequel that was so utterly different. There was no repetition of ideas, none of the laziness that can so often mark the horror sequel. This was physically brutal on a level that First Sequence never achieved.
Blown away a second time, when I heard a third was in the works I was genuinely excited. What would Tom Six, this depraved mastermind, be presenting as the epic conclusion to this trilogy? Would it be a return to the more psychological angle of HCI, or the grotesque body horror of HCII?
Well, ultimately, neither. And therein lies its brilliance. With a totally different flavour of blackest black comedy, this one is also a Centipede fan’s wet dream, with all sorts of nods to the first two movies and the biggest Human Centipede you could probably have ever imagined (and a Human Caterpillar to boot). There are cameos from loads of actors in the previous movies, and wild bits of casting including Tom Six appearing as himself, and the actors behind Dr Heiter and Martin Lomax appearing in entirely new roles. And for those with a disturbed sense of humour, this final movie is a stitch, filled with gross-out moments and one of the most over the top characters of all time in the shape of Bill Boss.
Now, what was even more exciting about this one was that I was able to get to the UK premiere, presented by the good folks at Mayhem Film Festival in Nottingham. When I heard Tom Six and Dieter Laser – the man who brought both Dr Heiter and Bill Boss to life – would be there, I couldn’t resist asking if there was any chance of an interview. Now, Film Gutter, my little review series, was still relatively new at that point, so I wasn’t holding my breath. I was just looking forward to an awesome night with a fun interview/Q+A and maybe the chance to get something signed.
However the good folks at Broadway were able to accommodate my wish, and I got an email the morning of the event saying that I could have an interview slot with Tom and Dieter that afternoon. Now, I will admit here, which I have never admitted anywhere else, I was a bag of bloody nerves for this. Dieter I had chatted to on email previously, and he came across as an absolutely great guy. But a face-to-face interview was all-new territory – in fact this one remains my only in-person interview. And with two of my heroes in extreme cinema? Yeah, fair to say I was bloody nervous.
But thankfully I’ve never been much on to let nerves stop me – we all feel them, so why not just admit you feel them and aim to do stuff anyway? I quickly typed up a handful of questions, and on the bus it occurred to me to actually download a Dictaphone to record the interview (technology to the rescue!) So at Broadway as I was ushered into a little side suite with many of the good folks from Eureka! Video and then introduced to Tom and Dieter in another side room. Tom is just every bit as chilled and cool as he comes across, and somebody with an incredible passion for film and creating a distinctive creative vision. Dieter is almost the opposite, one of the most intense speakers I’ve ever met and a man who no doubt takes his work and his roles very seriously. It struck me throughout that interview that opposites had very much attracted here – there was a common passion and a huge mutual respect professionally and personally, but in terms of character Tom and Dieter were distinctly different.
And, despite all my nerves, it was fun as hell. I still consider that one of my favourite days of 2015, if not the favourite –seeing the film among so many fellow fans, bagging so many great freebies and getting my swag signed, just awesome all around. And it really cemented The Human Centipede as something special for me on a personal level – something I care about and believe in, something I have a great affection for and would love for more people to cast aside everything they’ve heard and just sit and watch.
So thanks to Tom, and Ilona, and Dieter and Laurence, and everyone else who worked to put this trilogy together. I’ve never seen a braver set of films, and I doubt I ever will again. Roll on The Onania Club.
Alex Davis is the creator of Film Gutter, Ginger Nuts of Horror’s series of reviews and interviews on extreme horror. Film Gutter Volume 1 is out now as an ebook and gathers together more than 50 reviews and interviews plus exclusive content – check it out at

Welcome to The Dark Side

February 20, 2016 - 8:38 pm No Comments

Welcome to the Dark Side
Goth: a Brief Introduction

Steve Cotterill



It’s a word that conjures up many images, from black clad waifs, to graveyards and Poe, to the barbarians who sacked Rome. The subculture was born in the 1970s, consisting of pale teenagers with a fascination with Gothic literature and old horror films. Unnamed for the first part of its existence, it was only after Punk died down that anybody noticed that it was there at all, at the infamous Batcave club in London. ‘Goth’ was as much a term of scorn from the music press as anything else. Nobody envisaged that the kids in tie dye and black would embrace the label and make it their own. Now, over thirty years after Bauhaus first made it into the charts with Bela Lugosi’s Dead, the subculture is one of the most successful, reinventing itself endlessly into dozens of different varieties, while staying true to the central core that embodies it’s truth. The success of the movement means that we can now talk about generations of Goth, with all the clash of differences that brings. Musically, and in terms of fashion there has been evolution and the novels written from within the Tribe have provided a unique perspective on many aspects of horror. Far from only being focused on music, there have been Goth comics, games, films and so on. A whole slice of dark culture has spun out of one source.

Goth is just one of many alternative cultures that have sprung up since the end of World War Two, and the creation of the Teenager not only as a phase in life but as a commercial market. This is at least what spawned Teddy Boys, Bohemians, Hippies, Glam Rockers and so on, shuttling back and forth between peace and love and, at the other extreme, the destructiveness of Punk. Most subcultures squat somewhere in the middle, drawing from each extreme.

Goth for example turns the Punk’s destructive impulses inwards, but also embraces notions of beauty. Yes, death is idolised to an extent, and beauty is found in the macabre, in graveyards and blood. But in a world where we push the notion of death so far away that we have to have Death Cafés to even bring ourselves to talk about the notion, a willingness to face up to our mortality is surely a good thing? The distinctive look of Goth draws from a similar place, the funeral parade became established by accident (UK Decay performed in black for purely practical reasons, hiding the travel stains on their clothes), but by the mid 1980s it had become a uniform with bands like The Sisters of Mercy and Fields of the Nephilim happily adopting the look. By the end of the decade, more historical styles were creeping in, being reinterpreted for the modern age, and these elements arguably form the core of the Goth look. Reaching back to plunder the past is a common theme; whether that’s Victorian era fashions and accessories, or the ubiquitous big tin ankh. Small wonder that when Goth became more commercialised in America, the answer was to dive back almost wholesale to the Victorian period and create Steampunk.


Of course to attach the word truth to the Gothic is a strange thing to do. By its very nature the genre has more than a touch of artifice to it. The original stories envisaged imaginary histories, and in the case of Castle of Otranto at least, dissembled as genuine pieces of Medieval literature, or creating monsters to terrify their readers, who were largely young middle class women seeking an escape from the drudgery of their lives. In a similar fashion the architects of Gothic and Gothick buildings reached back towards an imagined form of castle, creating follies and grottos, secret passages and other fancies in the immense buildings they constructed. In the modern age we have a small chain of bars, Spooky Pubs which fully embrace the phoniness of the whole thing, right down to the morbid laughter track in the toilets, while the Romanian tourist board invites you to look around Castle Bram, claiming it to be the real Castle Dracula (despite it being nowhere near the site Stoker identifies in the novel).

What motivates most Goths however, is emotion, whether that’s the feeling of being alienated, or that life isn’t worth it. There’s also a fascination with the dark and the things in it, and well those outfits; is anything sexier? While that’s not the main motivation for most of us, there are Goths who are only interested in the fashion side of if, but I’d argue that for them at least it really is just a phase and they’ll be off when another ‘cool’ thing comes along. A recent study suggested that it was the subculture most likely to be connected to depression, though that seems to be more linked to the fact that Goths are bright and have a tendency to over think things. Personally, I found it made sense to become a Goth, like I finally fitted somewhere and I wonder how many others feel that way? I also found that the tribe was accepting, that LGBT, kinky, and feminist members met no problems. That’s partly because of a willingness to experiment, but also because once the people attracted to the subculture tend to be open minded; willing to conjure with fresh ideas; and make no mistake up until recently for all but a vanishing minority these were fresh concepts. It’s only in the last decade or two that they have begun to integrate into society and still have an aura of otherness for a lot of people.

The thing to take away is that the subculture is real, the people are real, even if the whole thing is based on an imagined world filled with monsters and fairytale endings.

Steve Cotterill is an author and Goth, dwelling in Birmingham (UK), currently working on his first collection of short stories. He loves vampires, werewolves and all the things that go bump in the night and lives with two very ungothic cats. He blogs at

Five Gothic Works


Frankenstein: The text that arguably spawned the science fiction genre and cemented a large part of what horror is about, acting as a bridge between The Gothic of the late 18th Century and the more familiar works of the Victorian Age, Frankenstein is a fascinating story of hubris, mad science and rejection.

Dracula: Arguably the most famous vampire novel of them all, though far from the first, Dracula is also Bram Stoker’s finest story being more streamlined and evocative than any of his other work. Based on a ‘found footage’ technique common in Victorian Gothic, the novel consists of diary entries and correspondence that spins out a rich tapestry telling a tale so familiar that its become the lingua franca of vampire tales. Despite this it remains the seminal work in the traditional vampire genre, full of sensuality and horror.


The Woman in Black: Susan Hill’s classic tale of angry ghosts, the Woman in Black is a throw back to the age of M.R. James, told in a fashion that starkly captures women’s madness and anger. It’s a moving, involved tale that delves deep into the cruelties of child death and is highly affecting.


Lost Souls: A modern vampire story, one deeply rooted in the Goth scene, Lost Souls concerns a young man’s quest for identity, and family. There’s a strong sense of ‘American wilderness’ to the novel, and the horror arises as much from the alienation of the Goths and their desire for self destruction (even if they don’t actively realise that’s what they desire) as the acts of the vampires.

Coraline: Neil Gaiman’s story about a girl who discovers another ‘family’ on the other side of a doorway. This is a children’s story, but none the less terrifying for that, especially if you’re a parent. You’ll never look at black buttons in the same way again.