While we wait with bated breath for the next outlandish Tom Six feature, The Onania Club (due to arrive in 2017), The Human Centipede director has unleashed one of his earlier features, What the F**k?!, on DVD, the first time for the international market.
This dark, hilarious and fantastically damaged kidnap comedy reveals a rarely seen side of Six’s style and is a must for fans of his oeuvre.
SCREAM recently caught up with the infant terriblé to discuss his earlier work, the darker side of fame, what we can expect from The Onania Club and which modern celebrity he would most like to see kidnapped.
SCREAM: How did the central idea for What the F**k?! come about?
Tom Six: I love the obsession with famous people. A lot of fans collect everything from their idol. I have a very dark sense of humor and thought: wouldn’t it be funny if a celebrity that is totally full of himself, gets kidnapped by an ugly fan couple for his semen? They don’t harm him; he is just forced to live with them till he gets the woman pregnant. A baby of their idol is the crown of their collection. I consider that hilarious and wrote the script faster than lightning.
SCREAM: It tackles a lot of themes to do with the public’s obsession with celebrity. Do you have any specific views on this that you were trying to convey in the film?
Tom Six: I have a thing for celebrities and totally understand the hype. The mediocre common man and woman with their pathetic little lives love to look up at successful celebrities who are larger than life. The stars themselves also like to believe they are God’s gift to the human race. In the movie I show the fans obsession, the celebrity living a nightmare with his fat fans and the deep wish from the loving couple to have a baby.
SCREAM: What the F**k?! is a fascinating film that shows a side to your film-making that many people haven’t seen before. It’s more in sync with the kind of early John Waters, Andy Warhol and Coen Brothers movies, than your later films. Were these film-makers an inspiration to you?
Tom Six: Not really, I always follow my own path, but I like these filmmakers and their work. What the F**k?! is a black comedy that really shows my evil, dark sense of humor. I have a very different way of looking at the world, which I love to translate into my movies. The movies I make are almost a genre of their own.
SCREAM: What modern film-makers inspire you?
Tom Six: Nobody quickly comes to mind but I love filmmakers of forgotten times like Pasolini, Marco Ferreri, Klaus Kinski etc
SCREAM: Do you think your film-making style has changed over the years? If so, is this consciously?
Tom Six: No not really. Each of my movies stand on their own. WTF is a black comedy and most see my human “pedes” as horror films, I consider them pitch black comedies. They all come from the same evil brain.
SCREAM: A lot of kidnap/ home invasion films tap into our primal fears to disturb us, where the kidnappers are portrayed as the worst kind of monsters. What’s fascinating about What the F**k?! is it doesn’t try to do this. The characters of Freek and Teuntje are quite likeable (they don’t want to harm Dries, they just want a baby). Why did you decide to portray them this way?
Tom Six: I want my movies to be different and not cliché shit. I thought it would be more interesting to portray Freek and Teuntje as likeable people who mean no harm. Dries and the audience get the Stockholm syndrome, where you start to get sympathy for the kidnappers. But at the same time it’s very fucked up.
SCREAM: Interestingly the “horrific” elements of the film appeared to derive from regular human activities: tight close ups of toe-nails being cut, crap scarred toilet bowels, egg slurping, bed-bound fart contests, vomiting on shit. Activities that we all do ourselves but watching others do makes us unwell. Did you intend to play on these elements with the intention of making the film seem horrific than it was?
Tom Six: Dries is trapped in a very tiny mobile home with these fat people with nasty habits and that to me would be a terrible nightmare. Just like in my centipede movies characters can’t escape the situation and have no choice but to deal with it. Dries is a very famous singer and used to glamour and adoration so the contrast is even worse. For the audience it’s schadenfreude at it’s best.
SCREAM: If you had to remake What the F**k?! starring a real singer/ celebrity playing themselves who would it be? Bieber?
Tom Six: It has to be Kanye, kidnapped by two fat black people. Imagine the singer with a Jesus complex, stuck in a situation like that. I think that’s a movie people want to see, don’t you think? I bet my life on it, that even Kanye will eventually give in and fuck the disgusting fat woman.
SCREAM: There is always a great balance of horror and comedy in your films where you take the viewer to the edge of confusing disgust with disbelief and ridiculousness in a matchless manner. How do you go about realising this on film?
Tom Six: It has everything to do with my twisted sense of humor and dark vision on life. I love to make people very uncomfortable. I love the thin line between wanting to laugh about something and feeling disturbed. It’s very sadistic that people laugh when somebody falls hard over a banana peel in my story that person would break his neck and then people stop laughing and the fun for me begins.
SCREAM: Did you get met with a lot of retaliation/ letters of disgust written to you about What the F**k?! as you did with The Human Centipede films?
Tom Six: Even better! After this movie was released, critics in the Netherlands were so disgusted they called me the low point of the Dutch cinema. One person even stole the tape, just before the premiere, because he/she didn’t want people to see it. The political correct Dutch were not quite ready; they still aren’t by the way.
SCREAM: Do you think there is a fear of breaking boundaries in commercial film-making?
Tom Six: Absolutely! That is exactly why I make the films that I make. I hate all those politically correct, play-it-safe-movies. Hollywood is only concerned about making as much money as possible. If star A stars in film genre B with a happy ending a computer will calculate the box-office. I think that is not what film-making is all about.
SCREAM: Have you ever felt emotionally hurt by someone’s reaction to your work?
Tom Six: Never! With the kind of films I make, I know people either love it or hate it and there is nothing in between. For all the hate I have the armor of an armadillo with a Teflon layer. Everything just slides off. I would be very upset if everyone would love my work or they just wouldn’t care about it.
SCREAM: What’s the worst thing someone has said to you before in relation to your work (in writing or person)?
Tom Six: There are a lot of people who want me dead. They say I am worse than Hitler and should be hospitalized. I think there is something seriously wrong with people who cannot see the difference between fiction and reality. There is an off-switch on your TV you know…
SCREAM: Your ideas are quite outlandish and on the cusp of spilling into different genres. Would you ever consider making a children’s film?
Tom Six: I have actually! My second Dutch film was a teenage movie about two girls trapped in a department store (which was my child’s fantasy). Of course I couldn’t contain myself so I put in some Tom Six humor and turned the two girls into lesbians.
SCREAM: The characters and performances in What the F**k?! are superb. How did you go about casting Freek and Teuntje?
Tom Six: Freek and Teuntje were contestants of a show, which is similar to “The Biggest Loser”. When I saw them on TV I liked them so much that I had to use them in my film. Of course, they had lost a lot of weight in the show but for my film they had to be huge again. They wanted a part in my film so bad that they just went ahead and put all the weight back on. They are not actors at all, but they did an amazing job! Really sweet people.
SCREAM: Dries is a real singer and plays himself, how did you go about casting him?
Tom Six: What I like about Dries is that he doesn’t take himself seriously at all. When I asked him for the part, he thought it was a joke and that he was starring in a hidden camera show. All other Dutch folk singers are so full of themselves and uptight they would never make fun of themselves in a movie. Dries understood my humor perfectly.
SCREAM: Was it a good/ easy/ enjoyable production?
Tom Six: We had so much fun on set. It was very easy going. I love to work with people who’s ego’s do not get in the way but just enjoy the process of making a movie and do not care about the size of their trailer.
SCREAM: What the F**k?! marks the end of your early “trilogy” of films before you delved fully into horror with The Human Centipedes. Do you look back on this early, pre-centipede period with fondness?
Tom Six: The movies are fun but I didn’t really like working in Holland and making movies in the Dutch language. In fact it was quite a waste of time as the movies were too controversial for the political correct Dutch. In Holland I’m considered the low point of Dutch cinema. Well fuck them they drove me to international success. A big middle finger to the little crap country.
SCREAM: Can we expect to see future re-releases of your other earlier films Honeyz and Gay?
Tom Six: Small chance. Gay and Honeyz are pretty Dutch while What the F**k has much more international potential. I even can imagine a Hollywood remake with Kanye or Bieber. It’s perversely dark just the way I like it and I think Human centipede fans and fans of unconventional movies will love it.
SCREAM: What can you tell us about your next film The Onania Club? When can we expect to see it?
Tom Six: We are now in pre-production and ready to shoot by the end of summer. I am now getting an amazing cast together. The Onania Club is psychologically very, very disturbing and I’ve never seen something similar. This movie may definitely cause harm .A very famous person who will act in it and says it is going to be an historic movie. It’s so wrong but I have so much fun working on it. This movie is closest to my dark soul. It will be released somewhere in 2017.
SCREAM: You also have another film lined up called Enjoy. What stage is this at in terms of production?
Tom Six: I’m writing the script. Can’t spoil yet what it’s about but it’s going to be something very special. Something that will gain a huge cult following.
SCREAM: Looking back on The Human Centipede films: do you now associate them as products from your past or are there any ideas for possible follow-ups bubbling in your mind somewhere?
Tom Six: I consider them proudly as a kind of a magnum opus. They will never get out of fashion because the basic idea is so strong and each time new kids discover them. But I have so many more original ideas. I’m definitely finished with the “pedes” but I have a great idea for a Human Caterpillar, which was introduced in part 3. But first the Onania club and Enjoy!.
Signed copies of What the F**k?! can be purchased on DVD from Tom Six’s website along with various props from The Human Centipede films.
Words: Daniel Goodwin (@privateutopias)