Fantastic Fest 2011
At Fantastic Fest 2009, audiences were treated to a wholly unique concept in horror. The Human Centipede showed festival attendees what would happen if an insane doctor decided to sew three human beings together, keeping them alive via a shared digestive tract. Despite an exceedingly gross concept (one that would carry it to cult status before most even had a chance to see it), the film was actually a "more-is-less" sort of exercise. Two years later, director Tom Six's sequel, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequences)—which was touted by the director as being the hardcore disgusting film everyone though the first was going to be—made it's world premier at Fantastic Fest 2011.
Alamo Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest co-founder Tim League took the stage last night with bad news for the audience. As a new father (his wife Karrie gave birth to twin girls earlier this month) he couldn't in good conscience show The Human Centipede II as planned and it and the remaining films in the festival would be switched over to family friendly programming. To get the audience in the mood for this, he brought Elijah Wood on stage and, with the help of a children's TV-show video on screen, he taught the audience the Puppet Dance. That's when a dozen or more people dressed in yellow shirts flooded the theater to join in an auditorium wide dance party.
Tim quickly switched gears into true Fantastic Fest mode with a staple event, an eating contest. Audience members were invited to the stage to speed eat long strings of truly awful looking sausage. Thoroughly primed for whatever nauseating images were about to be on the screen, the pre-show content rolled. Each movie at the festival is preceded by a 30-45 second bumper created by whomever wants to make one and send it in. These short videos usually push the boundaries of taste. The bumper prior to The Human Centipede II was a very appropriate and graphic overview of a vasectomy, complete with soothing narration. After that, the world premier of the film began.
The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is a truly meta film, taking place in a world where The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is available on DVD. The central character, Martin, is obsessed with the film, watching it over and over again on his laptop in the security booth at the parking garage where he works. He lives at home with his mentally abusive mother (he sexually abusive father is no longer in the picture) and he has recently rented a warehouse where he takes the men and women he kidnaps from the garage.
So obsessed with The Human Centipede is Martin that he wants to finish the evil doctor's plan by creating a chain of 12 men and women. The movie consists of his gathering the men and women and then, in an extended and excruciating series of scenes he proceeds to assemble the centipede with the camera rarely flinching such that every gruesome detail not present in the first film is made abundantly clear. If the film is an indictment of the horror fans that labeled the first, far more subtle film as just a "gross out" movie, then it has taken that buzz and thrown it back in the faces of Six's core audience. In a weird sort of way, it's a success as the reaction was overwhelmingly negative.
The promise of a third and final film in the Human Centipede saga came as no surprise during the post-film Q&A. Tom Six was joined on stage by Laurence R. Harvey (who played Martin) and some of the women who were part of the sewn-together chain of humans. Tom is a well-spoken man, always giving an insightful and interesting Q&A, and last night was no different. With anecdotes ranging from how the substance used to portray human excrement was actually a tasty treat in between takes to Tom's mother's enjoyment of the films, the entire group was lively and talkative, even Harvey whose character is completely silent through the film.
Over at the Highball, the opening night party was kept lively by abundant alcohol and a performance by Austin's own Charles Edward Cheese Band. Food was served, three pigs were sewn together and barbecued. Stories quickly began circulating regarding an audience member who hadn't made it through the experience. Even more were talking about how unpleasant the film really was. However, despite the negative reactions the film itself, the pure spectacle and fun of the evening means that Fantastic Fest 2011 is off to a great start.