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Six sense: Director talks about pushing the envelope with 'Human Centipede Part 2'

Matthew Odam
modam@statesman.com
Director Tom Six, left, and actor Laurence R. Harvey visit Fantastic Fest to promote 'The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence).'

Tom Six loves puppy dogs. And kitty cats.

The Dutch director who horrified audiences two years ago with the deeply disturbing "The Human Centipede (First Sequence)" says he is such an animal lover that he can't even watch fictionalized animal cruelty on screen.

What a softie.

Torturing humans, of course, is an entirely different story.

The original "Human Centipede" featured a crazed doctor who kidnapped tourists with plans to surgically connect the trio into one disgusting "animal." Though the film hinted at extreme violence, most of the terror came from the threat of human mutilation and the peek into the noxious mind of a madman.

But Six's relative restraint would not last long. While writing the first movie, the filmmaker realized he wanted to make a trilogy that explored the darkest and goriest aspects of his cinematic medical procedure.

"I really had two sides. The psychological thing you've already seen," Six said while in Austin to attend the world premiere of "The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)" at Fantastic Fest. "So in the sequel I wanted to make a completely different film. To do it psychologically again, that's not what I wanted. I wanted to have a totally different movie experience this time. So some people will maybe prefer Part 1, and others prefer this one, maybe."

Prefer may not be the right word.

The sequel follows Martin, a disturbed and obsessive fan of the first movie who has decided to replicate the acts of his hero, Dr. Heiter. Working as an attendant in a parking garage, Martin observes unwitting victims on his surveillance cameras and then beats them before dragging them back to a warehouse where he intends to create his own "centipede."

Martin commits his atrocities with a shocking indifference that slowly erodes into a maniacal glee.

The almost dialogue-free role required an actor who could captivate with the twitch of an eye and give audiences nightmares with his unhinged giggle. It also called for someone who could possibly pry just a bit of sympathy from audiences. Sexually abused at a young age by his now imprisoned father and chided continually by an overbearing mother, there is something of the confused and stunted child in Martin's psychological makeup.

British actor Laurence Harvey takes an intellectualized approach to playing Martin and downplays any fear of being permanently associated with such a creepy character.

"I brought a friend to the cast and crew screening and she said she came out of it sort of wanting to mother Martin and give him a hug and all through the film wanted to say, 'No, Martin, don't do that.' So there is some sympathy for Martin," Harvey said.

It is doubtful many moviegoers will be lining up to embrace the gratuitously violent movie or Six, who describes himself as a sheep in wolf's clothing. But the director seems prepared for the backlash and may have even intentionally courted some of it.

Six says he received numerous death threats after the first "Centipede," cowardly and ignorant acts that he says helped inspire the second installment.

"It's because so many people at festivals told me after they saw Part 1, 'What if some maniac out there did this for real?' So that was a fear that was lingering somehow," Six said. "They thought I was worse than Hitler and should be killed and cut with glass and shot and everything, and I always said I could not hurt a mouse in real life. It's just a movie. So now, of course, I give them the finger a little bit to all those guys, and I say, 'I'm not afraid, let's rock and roll.'"

Viewer beware: Six's bite is worse than his bark.

modam@statesman.com; 912-5986

"The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)" is playing at the Alamo South.