GUEST BLOG – ALEX DAVIS
WHAT THE CENTIPEDE MEANS TO ME
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 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Film-Gutter-1-Alex-Davis-ebook/dp/B01AZVDM8A