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“The Human Centipede II” crew spill their guts

“The Human Centipede II” crew spill their guts (photo)

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You see this movie, “The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence),” and it’s full of the most repulsive acts imaginable. Graphic images of surgery, prologued sequences of torture, and, of course, plenty of shots of the human centipede itself, a stomach-churning beast made of a dozen people sewn together, ass-to-mouth. Then you meet the people who made this movie, stars Laurence R. Harvey and Ashlynn Yennie and writer/director Tom Six, and they are the nicest, friendliest people in the world. They’re so un-unsettling, it’s kind of unsettling. How did people this chipper make a movie this disturbing?

I’m still not sure. Maybe when you’re making a movie about forced poop eating and unanesthetized surgery, you need to have a sense of humor about your work. Harvey, Yennie, and Six certainly do. They don’t take “The Human Centipede” too seriously, which is ironic since the film’s new sequel is about a man, played by Harvey, who takes the first “Centipede” waaaaay too seriously. His name is Martin, a deranged mute Englishman who spends every waking hour watching and thinking about “The Human Centipede.” Decades of physical and sexual abuse have driven him mad, and now Martin, brutal satire of movie fanboy that he is, wants to possess and even improve the pop culture object he loves. So he sets out kidnapping people from the parking garage where he works to make his own centipede. He even cons “Centipede” star Yennie (playing herself) to come to the UK to star in his “film.” Cue the degradation, filth, and, surprisingly, the comedy.

Maybe I need almost as much counseling as Martin, but I did laugh at “Human Centipede II,” and I laughed more during my conversation with Harvey, Yennie, and Six just hours after their world premiere at Fantastic Fest. What follows is definitely the most lively and spirited conversation about cinematic fecal consumption I’ve ever had. Along the way, I asked Six about the humor, intentional or otherwise, in his film, and I asked his stars about whether it can be fun performing such inhuman acts onscreen. And as promised in my report from the “Human Centipede II” premiere, I had my first question locked and loaded well in advance.

Matt Singer: I’ll start with the question I’m sure you hear the most Tom: what the hell is wrong with you?

Tom Six: Well, I’m the victim of a very happy childhood. I’m a sheep in wolf’s clothes. I couldn’t hurt a mouse in real life but I just have this really bizarre imagination.

How did you think the premiere went?

TS: Everyone was numb when they came out.

Is that what you want? How do you want people to react to the film?

TS: Exactly like that. Absolutely. If everybody comes out smiling and saying “It’s great!” then it didn’t work. I want this strange silence.

Ashlynn Yennie: It was quiet with just a few claps. That’s a very cool thing for us. We’re all like “You did it! You made them so uncomfortable!”

TS: Absolutely.

AY: Because so many people had said “The first one didn’t show enough; I wish we had seen more.” I told Tom, “I don’t think people realized what they were asking for.”

That is true; I definitely heard that about the first movie.

AY: Yeah and then Tom’s like “Do you really want to see what it looks like?”

TS: Here it is!

When you were touring with the first film, did you meet any fans that really disturbed you and provided the inspiration for Martin?

TS: No, all the fans I meet at festivals have big tattoos and look very aggressive but they’re the sweetest and most humble people on the planet. If a guy approaches you, you might think he’s going to hit you, but then he says “Oh my God, I’m such a fan of you.” Yesterday a guy said I was his Jesus.

That’s quite a compliment.

TS: Incredible.

But in terms of the character, what sort of comment were you trying to make about fandom? It’s hard not to read Martin as a critique of a certain kind of movie nerd.

TS: This was the thing that people at festivals all over the world wanted to know: what if a maniac out there copies the idea from “The Human Centipede?” And I thought that was the most terrifying idea for a sequel. If I would have used another surgeon like Dr. Heiter and just made a copy of the first film, that wouldn’t have worked. This is much scarier, I think.

Laurence R. Harvey: Martin’s a tabloid archetype, rather than a portrait of horror fandom itself.

Laurence, were you a fan of the first film?

LH: Yeah, when I saw it. I agreed to come to the audition before I’d seen it. I’d wanted to see it after I heard about it at [London horror film festival] FrightFest. I thought “Well I’ll go to the casting because it’ll give me an excuse to see the first film,” and I was just blown away by the first one. Then I realized I had big shoes to fill.

In your bio in the press notes, it says you’ve worked as a “children’s television personality.” Are you prepared never to work as a children’s television personality ever again?

AY: [laughs]

LH: No, no, I’m going to return to children’s television as Martin. [laughs]

AY: Oh no!

LH: I mean, you saw how Martin was with the child in the film.

That’s true.

TS: He’s very sweet, really.

LH: It’s just adults he has a problem with.

That’s a good point. Ashlynn what were your emotions returning to the series for a second film? Were you nervous because Tom was upping the ante with this one or were you more comfortable because you’d been through it all before?

AY: It was exciting just to get to play this character. All of us have met actresses like this girl who think that just because they’ve done one film they’re big and famous. In reality, I’m still working as hard as I’ve ever worked getting auditions and meeting directors. It was fun to shed light on the reality of girls who are just like [my character]. Also, I’d had a couple encounters with fans who were a little creepy, a little too involved with me.

Oh, so you’ve met some of those real world Martins.

AY: Oh yeah, definitely. So there was that very real aspect to it. I told Tom, “This is my worst fear coming true. You realize you’re making this really real!” And he’s like “I know!” For me, this film hits really close to home.

Was making this one more grueling than the first one? How did the two experiences compare?

AY: The second one felt more like my real life. I had to decompress every night because it was so intense. The more grueling part was the set, going from the beautiful, medical villa that we destroyed in the first one to this very gritty warehouse with ten bodies laying there.

Tom made it so each of us was fighting our own battle in the sequel. In the first one, we become one centipede. In this one, we become a centipede but, y’know, one guy rips his face off —

TS: [laughs]

AY: — and we’re still all fighting for ourselves.

I love that you laugh when she says a guy rips his face off.

TS: Well, I have to laugh about it. And the way she says it.

AY: “And then the guy rips his face off!”

This is just my personal reaction, but there were scenes that convinced me you were marking a very dark comedy instead of a horror movie. Some moments reminded me more of Mel Brooks than, say, Dario Argento.

TS: I’m so happy that you say that. We spoke to another reporter who didn’t see the humor.

AY: At all.

TS: It’s so strange.

Can you talk about why you put humor into this insanely disgusting, disturbing story?

TS: It’s just the way I write and think. I never intentionally put humor in it. The humor in “Human Centipede” is exactly the same as in “Part II.” Some people see it and some people think it’s dead serious. It’s from my brain, of course, but it’s your own perspective on humor.

When you say it’s just the way you think, are these things that come to you in dreams or nightmares? Where did the centipede idea come from in the first place?

TS: I just have a very bizarre imagination. I can combine things and make something horrific out of it. I’m fascinated by the dark side of things.

You didn’t wake up one morning after a vivid nightmare and start sketching a picture of people sewn together ass-to-mouth.

TS: No, it’s just my biggest fear. Being attached to an ass, that would be horrible. And then having someone behind you, and having to shit in someone’s mouth, that’s also a big barrier. It’s all nightmares.

Laurence, the big challenge for you is Martin doesn’t get any dialogue.

LH: Originally Tom told me he doesn’t say much, but he imitates Dr. Heiter a bit. When we were acting out certain scenes at the audition, I think I forgot to speak. The next time I saw Tom, he’d erased all the lines.

So Martin did have lines initially?

TS: Yeah. All quotes from Dr. Heiter. But it’s much better this way.

AY: When you watch the character evolve on set you realize this is a very quiet man. He doesn’t talk a lot in his daily life; he doesn’t talk to anybody at his job and no one talks to him.

LH: People talk at him.

AY: At him, but not to him. So it fit him better to portray everything through his actions and his face.

TS: Laurence has such screen presence. You can just put a camera on him and he doesn’t have to say anything. So that’s why I could pull off the entire film without dialogue. Not many actors could do that; you’d get bored.

I thought there was plenty of comedy in the movie but there are also some moments that are really transgressive as well. Tom, is there anything you write down and discard because it’s too intense?

TS: I never censor myself. Everything has to fit in the story, of course, and it must be logical. But to me, nothing goes too far. Because it’s all make believe.

Ashlynn, at this point, is there anything Tom could write that would surprise you?

AY: Probably not.

TS: [laughs]

AY: Remember in the first one, I didn’t eat poo. And I was really happy about that. Weeks before we started filming, I emailed him and said, “Tom do I really have to do the part where I shit in the other person’s mouth?” He said “Don’t worry Ashlynn it’s going to look great!”

Tom is enthusiastic more than anything. When he tells you an idea, he does it in this way that makes you think, “That sounds so cool!” And then all of sudden you’re going “I want to be a part of this!”

LH: It’s this kind of infectious little boy charm he has.

TS: If you’re a very serious director, and you speak very softly and say “You have to shit in their mouth–“

AY: — then it would be creepy.

TS: And the actors wouldn’t do it!

AY: If he said it like that, I wouldn’t have done it.

While I was waiting to talk to you guys, I struck up a conversation next door with Ashlynn’s boyfriend. That gave me the mental image of you two sitting together at the premiere, watching all this horrible stuff happen to you in the film. Is it weird watching these movies sitting next to him?

AY: When the first one came out, we had just started dating. I remember telling him, “Yeah I’m in this movie, it’s kind of crazy…” but I didn’t want to talk too much about it because it was our first couple of dates and I didn’t want to scare him too much. We actually saw it together in Los Angeles, and I remember him saying afterwards “You are way crazier than I thought you were!”

[laughs]

AY: For “Part II,” I didn’t tell him what the story was going to be. I didn’t want him to know a lot. He was so excited to see it. Last night, he was laughing so loud, partly because I think he was so uncomfortable at times. He didn’t know what else to do. For him, he’s just proud.

And why shouldn’t he be? I was at the screening, and at the Q & A after the film, Tom you talked about “The Human Centipede Part III” and you said that in some way it will create a centipede of movies — it will connect directly to “Part II” which connects directly to “Part I.”

TS: Yes, in the third one, you will get a lot of answers. It’s going to be a totally different film again. Maybe more gruesome than the second one.

More gruesome than the second one?

TS: It could be, yeah.

And you’ve already finished the script, you said.

TS: Yep, and we’re going to shoot it in America. I’m very happy about that.

Why is that?

TS: I have never shot a film in America, and of course this is the country where all the films that have inspired me came from. This is heaven for a filmmaker.

Is “Part II” still banned in the UK?

TS: The distributor is still fighting the banning, trying to find a way to overturn it. On the one hand, I’m really irritated that they banned it. On the other hand, I’m very happy to be part of a list of eleven films like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” that were banned in the UK. We’re proud to be amongst those ranks.

Would you be willing to cut parts of the film in order to get it released in England?

TS: Sure. I’d hate to cut it though. It’s my film and I want to present it in the way I made it. But if it’s necessary, yeah. I want to show it to people.

LH: It’s a pity. In America, if a film’s cut for theatrical release, there’s always an uncut DVD. There should be something like that in the UK. We’re kind of behind with our constitutional rights. But, then, we don’t have a Constitution.

Laurence, you have to portray out some truly despicable activities in this film. What was the most fun one to play?

LH: Most of them, actually. Everything apart from the rape scene.

Knocking people’s teeth out is fun?

LH: That’s all fun, yeah.

TS: Even the shitting scene was so much fun.

AY: The shitting scene was so funny.

“The Human Centipede II” opens this Friday in theaters and will be available through video on demand on October 12. If you see it, we want to know what you think. Tell us in the comments below, or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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