"I Don't Like Human Beings": A Chat with The Human Centipede's Tom Six
When I posted the trailer for The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) earlier this month, I jokingly wrote in the headline that the trailer “proposes a solution to prison overcrowding.” It turns out that maybe that’s not a joke—Dutch writer/director/producer of the franchise’s three films Tom Six told me earlier this week by phone that he thinks that “crime rates will drop like pants in a whorehouse” if the film’s “human prison centipede” system, in which inmates are attached mouth-to-anus in a removable manner, is implemented.
I don’t know if he was kidding. I don’t know if it matters. With his trilogy, Six has trolled the world with one fucked-up idea and, apparently, laughed all the way to the bank of public attention. He openly loves getting a rise out of people (and the vomit in their throats), describes himself as a “megalomaniac” (he plays himself in the final, self-reflexive chapter of The Human Centipede saga), and can quote his bad reviews. It’s not at all a stretch to say that The Human Centipede is the horror trilogy our attention-oriented culture deserves.
During our conversation, I found Six to be disarmingly friendly, like he was smiling the entire time. The effect became more surreal and hilarious as our discussion progressed. When you read the edited and condensed transcript of our chat below, imagine Six’s parts being said in a perpetually chipper, vaguely European voice.
Gawker: What are your feelings about The Human Centipede coming to an end?
Tom Six: It started in the Netherlands as a crazy idea and it evolved into this aggressive virus spreading all over the world, from parodies to South Park and so many people talking about it. That’s an insane idea.
It seems like you’re proud of that. There are references to Human Centipede’s media references in this last movie.
I’m very proud of it. You always hope your work gets noticed and this wasn’t a studio thing. This was my and [co-producer/sister Ilona Six’s] baby. We’re very proud that it exploded like this.
Is that what this has been about for you? Commanding attention on a global scale?
I’m a little bit of a megalomaniac guy. I think if you make something, for any artist, it’s so cool if people react to your work. I have so much fun telling my stories and that it got so big, I’m very proud of that fact.
This movie is more grindhouse in look and feel. Was that your intention?
Absolutely, I wanted to go out the trilogy with a big bang. I wanted to go extra extra large, very American style. I shot it in America, it has a huge human centipede of 500 people. The acting is also very over the top. I liked the idea. Part 2 is very under your skin, very reserved, very intimate, very dark. This one is loud and heavy and politically incorrect.
It’s also the funniest.
I’m glad you say that. For me all the films are pitch black comedies, not horror films very much. This one is indeed the most comical of the three. It’s a satire on my own movies. In the end, the bad guy wins and in American films the bad guy never wins. For me, that’s very comical. The idea of having 500 people stitched up mouth-to-ass is very comical. Some people see the horror in that, but for me it’s so much fun to create things like that. [Star] Dieter [Laser] just goes crazy and I really like that contrast with the Dr. Heiter character he plays [in Part 1]. So it’s all very comical.
At times, Dieter’s acting reminded me of Tommy Wiseau in The Room.
I haven’t seen that.
You should. Could you put into words what exactly you think is funny about having 500 people stitched up mouth-to-ass?
It’s the grand scale, of course. It’s also an idea I like very much of having crime and punishment in prisons. I think crime rates will drop like pants in a whorehouse if you actually made a human prison centipede. If you connect a whole prison, it has to be at least 500 people and it looks so ridiculous and beautiful at the same time. When I made Part 2 and we attached 10...people were outraged. This time I felt like going over the top. It’s so huge, it’s hardly imaginable. We did it and that’s quite a lot of fun.
So you think having a human centipede would actually curb crime, much like your antagonist Bill Boss eventually comes around to believing in this movie? You actually endorse that idea?
Yeah, absolutely. I think it would be a great advertisement if they would start an experiment like this. It would really drop crime rates. I’m 100 percent sure. Because now if people go to jail, when they come out they do their crimes again and they just end up in jail again. It’s not really scary enough.
I thought your movie was a commentary on the oppressive prison system, which is torturous in itself. I thought you were teasing out the absurdity. I didn’t realize you were offering a blueprint.
Uh, yeah. It’s a mix of that. But at the same time, I’m a warrior for proper punishment. I really believe in the eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth system. Even though it’s very satire, of course, I think it could be one hell of a great idea.
More than ever, the American prison system is being examined as an unfair, racist institution, and Bill Boss is such a racist that I thought you were coming from that perspective, as well.
Exactly. It’s all about racism in prison. You have those wardens who are really big assholes, of course. I like the fact that the human centipede doesn’t make any difference between Jewish people or Muslim people. It’s all the same. They don’t eat halal or kosher. It’s all the same. I like that idea, to play with that. I would love to show this film for real at prisons in America. I wonder what their reaction would be.
They would probably be as infuriated and revolted as the prisoners in the movie who are shown Parts 1 and 2.
Don’t you think it would be very funny in Folsom and those big American jails? It would be very cool.
In this movie, you branch out beyond the human centipede in terms of torture. I had never heard of anything like the scene in which a hole is dug in Bill’s body so that an inmate can rape his kidney. I wonder if these movies are an expressive outlet for you?
Oh definitely. I have a very dark vision on humanity. People are so cruel. What people did in wars, in Vietnam or the second World War in Europe, they did the most insane, awful things to each other. I’m very happy that I’m not on the bad side, I always say. Imagine if I would have been a Nazi or an ISIS warrior. That would have been very fucked up.
Did you have an outlet for this dark vision before you started making these movies?
Always. When I was a little boy, I used to make my room into a horror room so friends could come over and be scared. I have a fascination with getting a reaction from people, like a pranker or something. I don’t know where it comes from, but I love to frighten people.
A lot of reviews say that you have contempt for your audience. What do you think of that?
What does “contempt” mean?
A dislike or, in this case, a desire to torture your audience, much as you do your characters.
Oh, yeah yeah yeah. Of course, I love my audience. They make me successful. I want to please them and to frighten them at the same time. Horror audiences, they want to be thrilled, they want to be entertained because they are safe, themselves. I want to give them the sickest ride possible.
Roger Ebert wrote that Part 2 was “reprehensible, dismaying, ugly, artless and an affront to any notion, however remote, of human decency.” What do you think about that?
Yeah. I think it’s great. I’m very proud of the fact that he gave me no stars, also. He doesn’t give a lot of films zero stars. He does it with 1 and 2. They’re in a place where the stars don’t shine. That is, of course, a great reaction. When the guy died, sadly enough, they referenced some of his most epic reviews and they mentioned The Human Centipede. So it’s a big honor.
I imagine putting something like this into the world makes people extremely comfortable to say fucked-up, insane things to you.
Oh yeah. I have people who have emailed me that they wanted to eat shit for real, to convince me to cast them. I have these people that absolutely want to do anything to please me in the gore department and I have people that want me dead. They want to have me killed. They want to shoot me, cut me open with glass, or...again, the two strong emotions.
Has anyone been particularly confrontational or hostile?
With Part 1 and 2, a lot of women were afraid of me. They thought, “You’re worse than Satan. I am afraid to even look at you. Because of what comes out of your mind, you must be insane.” A lot of women say to me, “You need professional help.” I find that very funny.
Are you a misogynist?
No, not at all. I absolutely love women. The character of Daisy in Part 3 [played by porn star Bree Olson]—Bill Boss is such an asshole [to her]. He’s very bad to women. But it’s great to write it! But in real life, I love women. I couldn’t hurt a mouse and I adore women.
What’s great about writing that?
I have so much fun when I write it. I’m really knuckling when I write my stuff. I find them so funny. I get such a big thrill of that. If something is politically correct and cannot be shown or said, somehow I get a big thrill about that. So many people have to laugh, but others don’t. They find it very offensive. And that makes me laugh again. In the end, I’m only laughing.
Do you like human beings?
I don’t like human beings, specifically. I think we were born evil, somehow. When wars happen, or whatever happens, we turn into monsters. Animals kill each other to have food. Human beings kill out of pleasure. People are very sadistic. We have very strong emotions like jealousy and schadenfreude. Mankind has a lot of really disturbing emotions because we are so intelligent. We can be so wrong. I like animals more, to be honest.
I think one could argue that you’re sadistic, Tom.
Yeah, I can be sadistic, but not in real life. It’s all in my mind. I could never hurt anyone or a fly or whatever. It’s only in my art I can do that. And that’s pretty safe, don’t you think?
The Human Centipede 3 is in theaters and on demand tomorrow.