Human Centipede III - the most abhorrent film ever?
Four years ago, a horror film was banned in the UK and branded satanic in Australia - while in the US death threats were made against director Tom Six. It was the second in the Human Centipede trilogy. Now, as the third and final film is about to be premiered, Mobeen Azhar gets an exclusive preview, and asks Six why he tried to make "the most abhorrent and shocking film possible".
When I arrive at Tom Six's Amsterdam apartment for the world's first showing of The Human Centipede III, I am instructed to watch it at the very desk where he wrote the trilogy.
I've been summoned to the director's home because no preview DVDs exist. The studio wants to safeguard against leaks, so prior to the film's official premiere, viewings must take place in the director's presence, in his home. I'm the first person in the world outside the production team to see the new film. Even the lead actors have yet to see the finished cut.
Six offers me tea and a chocolate croissant when I arrive. As I compliment him on his hospitality and sharp suit he responds: "The outside has to look good because there is so much dark on the inside."
Tom Six began his career directing Big Brother, the reality TV show, in the Netherlands but he always wanted to break into feature films. The idea that helped him do it, he says, came as he watched a news report about a paedophile.
"His crimes were so awful I asked myself, 'What is the most extreme punishment that could be handed out to him?'. That's how the Human Centipede concept was born."
The first instalment tells the story of a crazed German doctor who specialises in separating conjoined twins. Now in semi-retirement, he turns his attention to a private project - surgically attaching three people together, from mouth to anus to create a living human centipede.
"When I was casting the first film in New York, I explained the concept at the auditions and almost everyone walked away," Six says. They thought the idea was just too disgusting. They'd say, 'I didn't go to acting school to be degraded in this way. You are a pervert!' Eventually we found actors with faith in the concept and the result has made movie history."
Detractors have suggested the franchise is the natural conclusion of the "torture porn" horror that gained popularity in the past decade - the films Saw and Hostel being the most popular examples. But Six says his vision is not "gore for the sake of gore".
"These films have a lot of layers. They are dark comedies. They are horrible films, not horror films," he says.
At the same time, he concedes: "I have an urge to shock. It gives me pleasure."
Film critic Derek Malcolm says Human Centipede II was almost "perverse for the sake of being perverse" but argues that both of the films released so far have "artistic merit, some horrible artistic merit".
"He rubs our noses in the subject matter like nobody's business," Malcolm says, "but he is doing it for some kind of purpose - probably suggesting that human beings are vile… his philosophy is very anarchical."
The second Human Centipede film is not a sequel in the traditional sense. Instead, the main character, Martin - a mute, overweight social outcast who lives with his suicidal mother - is so obsessed with the fiction of the first Human Centipede film that he wants to turn his obsession into reality.
Shot entirely in black and white in a constantly raining East London, this is a bleaker film than its predecessor. It was banned by the British Board of Film Censors, who demanded 32 cuts before allowing it to be released under an 18 certificate.
Six employed a bodyguard for the Texas premiere of this film because of threats to his life. In Australia the premiere was picketed by religious groups who suggested 'The Human Centipede is inspired by Satan'.
The final centipede instalment is an altogether more glossy incarnation. Shot in sun-bathed Los Angeles in a huge disused prison and starring Eric Roberts, this is the Human Centipede given the full stars-and-stripes treatment.
The prison's warden Bill Boss, played by Dieter Laser, is the film's main protagonist. He's obsessed with torturing prisoners, indulges in cannibalism and is a good contender for the most vile character in modern cinema.
Contrary to some reports, this is not the most gory film of the trilogy, but it is likely to attract controversy for its religious and racial references. It is also overtly political. The prison where the entire story is told is called George H W Bush Prison - inmates are dressed in orange boiler suits and there are obvious references to Guantanamo Bay.
Six describes the Human Centipede as "the Texas Chainsaw Massacre of its generation".
"These are the films that teenagers dare each other to watch. I think people will be talking about the concept in 100 years," he says. "Once you've watched the films the myth nests in your mind. You can't get rid of it. People will tell their children about the idea."
He's delighted that they have given rise to spoofs and innumerable party costumes.
"People dress up as the centipede on Halloween. They get tattoos depicting the centipede. South Park dedicated an episode to the film and there is even an American porn version - I think all good films need a porn parody," he says.
But do they leave people with twisted, violent minds?
"I don't think films create reality. There's enough violence in the news already," he says. "Film is an art form. If you don't like it, don't watch it."
- Tom Six makes an appearance as himself - the prison authorities contact him to ask his permission to use his Human Centipede concept as a tool to cut costs and punish prisoners.
- The film features the debut of the Human Caterpillar - it's like the Human Centipede but different...