“I never censor myself,” Tom Six, the writer-director of The Human Centipede, said as he flashed what could be called a shit-eating grin. “It comes naturally. All the sick stuff, I just write it down — and I don’t do it on purpose. I don’t do it to shock or something. It’s just, I want to tell a story and these things are in my head.”
Six knows his notorious horror series has at least as many repulsed detractors as fans, but no amount of critical ire seems to have gotten under his skin. With the third installment — The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) — now in theaters and on VOD, Six is as adamant as ever that he’s making these films to entertain.
“I think the human race is quite sadistic. We want to see things, horror films and stuff, to get entertained in a sick way,” the Dutch filmmaker told BuzzFeed News during an interview at an office building in Glendale, California. “But we are safe in our chairs. Nothing happens to us, so we get a thrill out of that.”
That’s the idea at least. But for some audience members, watching a Human Centipede film is less of a thrill than it is an endurance test. Roger Ebert famously refused to rate the first movie, writing, “No horror film I’ve seen inflicts more terrible things on its victims.”
“Somehow it evokes a lot of anger, and I don’t know why exactly,” Six said. “What I see is that Americans, when they saw the premiere, a lot of them are very upset. I see that in the reviews as well. People get very angry somehow.”
The hostile response to The Human Centipede 3 isn’t surprising given the concept that links Six’s trilogy: Individuals are forced onto their hands and knees and sewn together, ass to mouth, to create the eponymous surgical creation. It’s an appalling notion, graphically realized in each film. The third iteration links a staggering 500 prisoners, forming the largest human centipede ever constructed.
But The Human Centipede 3, which is set at the unsubtly named George H. W. Bush Prison, is just as likely to draw controversy for its less nauseating but still questionable elements: countless racial slurs from prison warden Bill Boss (Dieter Laser), relentless violence against the sole female character (Bree Olson), and imagery that evokes Guantanamo Bay, particularly the torture of prisoners.
Six insists that his film is not an indictment of the American prison-industrial complex, but rather a “magnifying glass” on certain U.S. policies and history. “I don’t really care about politics,” Six said. “It’s a very politically incorrect film. It’s for the viewer to decide what is politically incorrect for them.”
When pressed on the statement he is making — regardless of his work’s subjective offensiveness — Six wouldn’t cop to anything past the gentlest of satire. “I don’t have morals,” he continued. “I just want to tell a very entertaining story.”
Perhaps it’s best to take Six at his word: Sometimes a human centipede is just a human centipede. But that’s not to say that he doesn’t have strong opinions outside of his work, including about how his ghastly creation might actually be implemented. In fact, his initial inspiration for The Human Centipede came from what he considered to be a great injustice.
“I saw a child molester on television, he got a very low punishment, and I thought it would be a great idea to stitch his mouth to the ass of a fat truck driver as a punishment,” Six recalled. “And I thought, That would make a terrific idea for a horror film. But then, of course, you start writing and you tell people and they’re all thinking you’re insane. But I don’t give up, and I go full force, and then we made it and it exploded, really.”
The concept of a human centipede as punishment, however, isn’t fully explored until the third film, in which Bill Boss and his assistant Dwight Butler (Laurence R. Harvey) conspire to transform the inmates of their prison into the titular monstrosity. It’s about cutting costs — the inmates won’t need food, because they’ll be consuming the excrement of the person in front of them — but it’s also a deterrent for would-be criminals. After all, who would commit a crime knowing they could end up in the most heinous position imaginable?
“I’m very pro-punishment. I think when people go to jail, lots of times when they go out they do the crimes again and they go back in jail again,” Six said. “So, I think, an idea like this — it’s very satirical of course — but I think crime rates would drop, like pants in a whorehouse. Can you imagine the situation when you would do something for real? And that’s a little teasing.”
He consulted with a surgeon before writing the first film and relishes explaining that his work is entirely medically accurate, but the depravity Six gleefully includes in his films is purely fiction. Making a real human centipede would be exceedingly difficult, and, more to the point, Six has no stomach for real-life violence. The disparity between what the filmmaker can imagine versus what he could actually endure plays out in The Human Centipede 3 with his cameo: Visiting the prison during mass operations to construct the enormous prisoner centipede, Six, playing himself, becomes squeamish and vomits.
“I couldn’t hurt a mouse in real life. I’m a very friendly guy. It’s all in the mind. It’s all fantasy,” he said. But as the mastermind behind something so disturbing, he’s well aware of the misconceptions many have about him. “I have people that are afraid to talk to me or look at me, even. They think I am a maniac, worse than Hitler. We get a lot of death threats.”
Still, that sort of thing doesn’t bother Six, who thrives on the reactions his work induces — positive or negative. It’s more about the volume than what’s being said. When he suggests the human centipede would, in fact, be an effective tool for crime prevention, there’s a sense that he’s merely trying to elicit a response.
And because Six isn’t remotely concerned with public perception or the persona he’s cultivated, he doesn’t have to worry about his words being misconstrued or offending. He speaks the way he writes: freely, and with little regard for consequence.
Luckily for Six, there are eager fans who will lap it all up. And they’re always clamoring for more: “more gore, more shit,” as he put it. With an appetite for the worst that Six can offer, they’re sure to enjoy the final sequence in what may be the most revolting film series ever made.
“For me, making those kinds of films is to give the audience a thrill they’ve never had before,” he said. “It’s like I give them drugs. They experience it, and they keep asking me for more. When I made part one, they wanted more gore, more, give me more — like addicts almost. And I just give it to them.”
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