I meet with Tom Six the day after the modest L.A. premiere of his latest shock sequel, The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence), where one hardcore fan of Six’s ass-to-mouth horror cringefests proudly showed off the tattoo of three prostrate figures—on all fours, connected by one digestive system—adorning his left bicep.
Six’s superfan rolled solo that night, leaving his wife and two young children at home. How do you explain that ink to the kids? I asked.
“I tell them they’re just playing,” he replied, grinning.
In his own way, so is Six. And with his trilogy of Human Centipedes now complete, he’s slicing up a new game, daring audiences to keep looking.
The Human Centipede 3, like the first 2009 film The Human Centipede (First Sequence) and 2011’s stomach-turning sequel The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence), is not for most moviegoers. Nor is it for most critics, judging by the Tomatometer on the third and final link in the cinematic chain which Six famously promised “would make the last one look like a Disney film.”
Six, a boyish 41-year-old sporting his trademark dapper duds and an impish twinkle in his eye, doesn’t quite make good on that promise in The Human Centipede 3, an America-set meta threequel that swells in scope (500 poor souls stitched end-to-end, instead of 3 and 12) but diverges from the path of grimy flesh-rending gore that made the second installment so viscerally revolting.
Gore and ugliness still abound, but this series-ender is far more political satire than body horror, set in the fictional George H.W. Bush Prison where a maniacal, cannibalistic, misogynist, and racist warden (The Human Centipede’s Dieter Laser) opts to create the world’s largest human centipede to curb overcrowding, overspending, and violence in his miserable prison fiefdom.
“I would love it if President Obama sees it,” declared Six as we sat down for a post-premiere chat, having slept only a few hours “from all the adrenaline.” Hailing from the liberal Netherlands, Six says he’s “not very into politics” but couldn’t resist the chance to skewer right-wing America.
“We in Europe follow the news, so of course as a joke I needed to name the prison George H.W. Bush Prison, and the guys in the prison are wearing orange jumpsuits like it’s Guantanamo Bay,” said Six. Waterboarding makes its way into the film, with an extra torture-porn twist: An inmate is strapped down and suffocated with boiling water, leaving his face a bloody tangle of flesh.
“You see it in the news,” he said. “Everybody in Europe is like, ‘My god, what are those Americans doing?’ At the same time we are very proud of America, because you guys saved us in the Second World War. Otherwise I would be a German, maybe. They are our heroes.”
For his grand cinematic finale, Six brought back the stars of the first two films, Germany’s Dieter Laser and Brit Laurence R. Harvey, to play all new characters. Laser, who played the first film’s methodical Nazi Frankenstein, is unleashed upon the screen as the sadistic, scenery-devouring warden, Bill Boss.
Laurence sports a Chaplin mustache—or perhaps it’s a Hitler mustache—to play Boss’s submissive right hand accountant. Neither can manage an American accent, but that was never important to Six, who also populates The Human Centipede 3 with Eric Roberts, ex-porn star Bree Olson, Friday’s Tommy “Tiny” Lister, and tattooed character actor Robert LaSardo.
“Everything in the film is larger than life,” he said, waving a walking stick in the air with flourish. “We didn’t want to repeat the same character again. Dr. Heiter is very focused and intense, but [in Human Centipede 3] we wanted a guy who was the ultimate asshole.”
Speaking of “larger than life”: Six cheekily puts himself in the movie right alongside his stars. He plays himself, called in to consult the warden on just how medically accurate his first two films are, and manages to drop in some self-promoting factoids about the first film’s popularity, like that one episode of South Park and the time someone made a porn parody of The Human Centipede—the ultimate indicator of eternal pop culture cache. Blame the Human Centipede superfans for encouraging him.
“People at film festivals [for the first Human Centipede] said, ‘What if some maniac copies your idea?’ I thought, that would be great for Part 2. But what they also asked when I went to festivals with Part 2 was, ‘Why are you not in the film?’ I thought, I’m not an actor, but it is quite funny to give myself a role and make an ass out of myself.”
And yet, Six insists he’s not an arrogant man. “I know what I want. I’m not very cocky but I know exactly what I want to tell,” he said. “You have to be more charming, I think, to get things done. You have so many directors that are assholes, that shout at actors and stuff. But if you make a movie like this you can never do that, because the actors will say, ‘Goodbye. I’m not doing this anymore.’ You have to make sure they’re so safe and comfortable, because can you imagine? On your hands and knees…
Once upon a time, it was difficult for Six and his sister/producer, Ilona Six, to find cast members willing to submit their minds and bodies to the Human Centipede cause. Now, “we got so many requests, actors came in and got on their hands and knees immediately.”
“It’s hard, but they are all actors with balls,” Six added. “There are so many actors who only care about their contracts and looking beautiful. I want actors that are passionate and want to tell a story and don’t care.”
Casting a Human Centipede movie isn’t the only litmus test Six has for feeling out strangers with his warped black comedies. “I always say as a joke, ‘Which person would you least want to be in a room with, Dr. Heiter or Bill Boss?’” Six asks.
I consider it for a moment, and answer: “Boss,” the racist, women-hating, gun-toting Colonel Kurtz on bath salts who munches on freshly sliced inmate testicles and fried clitorises imported from Africa. (What? Surgeons freak me out.)
“Really? Bill Boss, if he goes crazy…”
It’s true that Boss is one of the most hateful and deliberately controversial movie villains of all time. But Laser’s unhinged, off the leash performance is what gives it its touch of true insanity. Just three years ago Laser and the Sixes fell into a public squabble over the fate of Human Centipede 3, which almost stalled at the gate when Laser, the Klaus Kinski to Six's Werner Herzog, got cold feet.
“We decided to make Part 3 together, I told him the whole story like I did with Part 1, and he loved it. He absolutely loved it. Then he got the script,” Six explained of Laser.
“He read it and got nervous—about the scenes, the castration, the rape scene, the extreme stuff,” he continued. “He was so nervous, he kind of backed out. But we already had a contract and a deal, and we were almost ready to shoot.”
The filmmakers and Laser eventually made up, but not before Six threatened to sue and Ilona Six released a statement saying his “ego has grown to laughably big proportions.”
“We are Herzog and Kinski! I say that all the time,” Six laughed. “We are a match made in hell. But we have love. It’s extreme, but we have love.”
As for their demon love child finale, Six has lofty goals even if he’s run out of ways for Human Centipedes to keep mutating. Like the White House, 2016.
“I don’t know if maybe this time a Republican will be the head again, but they will maybe embrace the idea of stronger punishment,” said Six, thinking ahead to next year’s election. “Who knows? They might say, ‘Crime rates will drop when we use this method.’ I’m being satirical, but I think the Bush administration might be interested.”