With the release of The Human Centipede II just around the corner via IFC Midnight, we sat down recently with star Ashlynn Yennie, who riffed engagingly on the Tom Six-directed flick and its BBFC ban, her experiences attending horror cons, her take on the correlation between cinematic and social violence, and her recent water-fight with I Spit on Your Grave’s Sarah Butler.
Yennie, who appeared as the ‘tail-end’ of the titular creation in Six’s 2010 much-talked-about film The Human Centipede (First Sequence) and who reprises her role of ‘Jenny’ in the anticipated sequel (which director Six has promised ‘will be the sickest movie of all time’), said of the sophomore effort’s controversial subject matter, “I didn’t have any issues with it, although I’m really excited for people to see it because when the first one came out, people kept saying, ‘It’s not gory enough, and it doesn’t show enough,’ and some people even said that it was ‘boring,’ so with this story it feels more like ‘real-life’ than anything. In the first film it felt like we were making a movie about something that had happened, and with this it felt like we were making a movie about something that was actually happening. The first film is very medical and clean, and the sequel is dirty, bloody, totally medically inaccurate and crazy!”
For those new to the party, The Human Centipede follows the plights of three unfortunates abducted by a sadistic German scientist, who in a bid to make a ‘human centipede’ surgically grafts the trio, tying them together via a shared gastrointestinal tract. A shocking concept, yes, and one which assisted the film in receiving Best Picture 2009 at LA’s venerated Screamfest, as well as its nomination for Best Villain and Most Memorable Mutilation at the 2010 Scream Awards. It also helped in launching the film into the popular American conscience, as witnessed by its parody via the “South Park” episode ‘Human CentiPad’.
“My boyfriend found out before I did,” said Yennie of the airing of the ‘Human CentiPad’, “and he was screaming, ‘You are so awesome! Your movie is amazing!’ All of us that were in the film thought that the ‘South Park’ episode was the best thing because being made fun of on that show is such a huge compliment. Tom and Ilona (Six, the executive producer of The Human Centipede films) thought that it was awesome, too, that it’s being referenced in popular culture. Alec Baldwin even mentioned it on ’30 Rock’, and it’s just all over the place.”
So all over the place apparently that, according to Yennie (who shot to immediate cult stardom with the release of the first film), she can’t seem to escape it.
“Last night at Sarah’s house in the Hills (note: Yennie here is referring to Sarah Butler of I Spit On Your Grave), we had a full-on water fight with her twelve-year-old neighbors,” said the twenty-six-year-old Wyoming transplant by way of NYC, “and there was this one little boy who was asking all of us, ‘What movie you been in? What movie you been in?’ and we were telling him, and I said The Human Centipede, and I kid you not, this boy had seen it, and I was like, ‘How were you allowed to watch that movie?’ He knew everything about it and was quoting lines from it and asked me to say them because at first he didn’t believe that I was in the film. It was amazing!”
As for the sequel, director Six has purportedly followed the ‘more is better’ methodology and dialed up the shock considerably and with The Human Centipede II will deliver not only a 12-member creation but also all of the blood, gore and excrement that were merely suggested in its darkly comedic predecessor. Horror fans have for the most part celebrated this reported horrific acceleration, although others have not: the British Board of Film Classification (hereafter ‘the BBFC’) refused to grant the sequel a classification, which for all purposes means that the film has been banned in the UK based on its subject matter (theater owners won’t screen it without a rating).
Defending their decision via their website, the BBFC stated of The Human Centipede II, “The film’s plot tells the story of a man who becomes sexually obsessed with a DVD recording of the first film and who imagines putting the ‘centipede’ idea into practice. Unlike the first film, the sequel presents graphic images of sexual violence, forced defecation, and mutilation, and the viewer is invited to witness events from the perspective of the protagonist. Whereas in the first film the ‘centipede’ idea is presented as a revolting medical experiment, with the focus on whether the victims will be able to escape, this sequel presents the ‘centipede’ idea as the object of the protagonist’s depraved sexual fantasy.”
There’s more, and while Six and IFC have purposefully kept the narrative tightly wrapped, the BBFC’s defensive posture continued to dish plot points, much to the filmmakers’ public chagrin.
“The principal focus of The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is the sexual arousal of the central character at both the idea and the spectacle of the total degradation, humiliation, mutilation, torture, and murder of his naked victims,” reads the BBFC press release. “Examples of this include a scene early in the film in which he masturbates whilst he watches a DVD of the original Human Centipede film, with sandpaper wrapped around his penis, and a sequence later in the film in which he becomes aroused at the sight of the members of the ‘centipede’ being forced to defecate into one another’s mouths, culminating in sight of the man wrapping barbed wire around his penis and raping the woman at the rear of the ‘centipede’. There is little attempt to portray any of the victims in the film as anything other than objects to be brutalized, degraded and mutilated for the amusement and arousal of the central character, as well as for the pleasure of the audience. There is a strong focus throughout on the link between sexual arousal and sexual violence and a clear association between pain, perversity and sexual pleasure. It is the Board’s conclusion that the explicit presentation of the central character’s obsessive sexually violent fantasies is in breach of its Classification Guidelines and poses a real, as opposed to a fanciful, risk that harm is likely to be caused to potential viewers.”
In response to this, Yennie countered of the intent The Human Centipede II, “There is a lot more character development in the sequel as far as the main character. I think people are really going to feel more as to what he’s going through and as to why he’s doing these things and why he becomes so obsessed and the relationships that he has with the people in the film. It’s really interesting. The thing with the barbed wire, the BBFC gave away too much, but having seen the film, it was interesting because I have such a different eye because I was on-set watching it being made. I mean, even during filming there were a couple of things required of my character where I was like, ‘Tom, do we really need to put this in here?’ even though I had already said ‘yes.’ Tom said that it would be amazing, so I trusted him completely with what he was doing, even though I was nervous about it. I think people will need to see the film to understand why these scenes fit into the context.”
Yennie continued, “One of the things that the BBFC said was that they were worried people were actually going to do this and that it was not good for society to see the film because it would give them ideas, and it was funny because when I first read the script, I told Tom that it became my worst fear, that someone would actually do this to people and become such an obsessed fan that they would actually try it.”
Dread questioned the actress as to her thoughts on the influence of film, in particular horror film, on society and its correlation (if any) to crime and whether she felt that it poses any risk to its audience, as is the BBFC’s concern. The film-inspired 2002 stabbing death (as was alleged by the defense) in Saint-Sébastien-sur-Loire, France was brought up in particular, given that the accused in that instance carried out the act following a screening of Wes Craven’s film Scream, in addition to emulating that film’s killer by his possession and use of a Ghostface mask and hunting knife.
“I don’t watch a lot of horror films to begin with,” reflected Yennie, “but people can say that about any film: that they’ve been influenced by them. I can say that about an Adam Sandler film, but to say that a movie has caused you to go out and cause someone else physical pain? I think that there is obviously something wrong with that person and that they’ve already had those types of ideas in their own head and are just looking for a reason to execute them and are just blaming them on something else. People need to remember we are just making films and trying to entertain people. Horror films are supposed to make people uncomfortable and to bring out the fearful side of the audience that they generally don’t experience. Some people like to be scared and have those emotions, and that’s why we make them.”
“Honestly, horror fans are just really awesome people,” Yennie offered, “and I’ll say this over and over again, that horror fans are the most dedicated and they are so wonderful. They are the ones who made the first film such a success, and just going to these conventions and coming face-to-face with them is amazing. Everyone has a story about the first time they watched The Human Centipede and what they thought about it, and that’my favorite part is to hear what they have to say!”
As for how she’s reacted to the BBFC’s ruling and its impact on the The Human Centipede II, “I feel bad because we shot the film in London, and the majority of the cast is British, and I wanted them to be able to see it when it was released in their own country. I guess they’ll have to come to America to watch it because we are okay with it here. In all actuality, the ban simply makes people want to see it more. We couldn’t ask for better press or marketing, though, than what the ban has given us.”
Given Yennie’s naturally comedic personality and whip-like wit (as evidenced by anyone who has spent more than five minutes with her), the conversation turned to the impact of her inclusion in the Centipede films on her career and whether or not it’s influenced casting directors’ decisions.
“Oh yeah, I’ve already gotten it here in L.A.,” said the actress. “I just left my agent and am looking for a new one, and I’ve had some definite moments of, ‘Oh my god, we can’t rep that girl,’ because of the film. It hasn’t really overshadowed any auditions, though.”
“I auditioned for a Syfy film about a month ago,” she continued, “and I was not right for the role because it was for a blonde girl, but they saw me anyway based on the fact that the casting director knew that due to The Human Centipede I could handle the demands of the role, and I thought that was a really great compliment from her, even though I was completely not right at all for it physically. They brought me in, however, to see what I would do with it because they knew I wouldn’t be afraid to go to certain places emotionally because I’d done them before. It was a really cool thing.”
“I’ve never had anyone say, ‘We can’t cast her because she was sewn to a butt that one time,’ though,” laughed Yennie, who recently wrapped her starring role of ‘Starlene Arbuckle’ in C.M. Downs’ horror feature Fetch. “I think that all actresses, though, have a fear of being typecast. Mainly everything I get these days is a horror script, and while I read everything, I have to be cautious about what I do next. I was up for a comedy a few weeks ago, and I wanted to book it so bad! It was one of those things where I felt that it’s what I need to be doing now. I do love comedy so much, and you know me, I mean, I’m a goof-ball, so I definitely do want to get into that genre as much as possible so hopefully that will be the next project.”
“Overall I am happy with the career choices that I’ve made,” she mused. “I’m happy that I made the first (The Human Centipede) and now the second one, and I’m really excited for everyone to see it, and it’s kinda gonna make everything complete. We are all still waiting for IFC to announce the release date, and I’m very excited about it coming out.”
As for whether or not her Centipede director plans still on a third in The Human Centipede series, Yennie allowed, “I think Tom is still planning on making the third one, but he’s not going to make it for a few years. That’s what he has told me. He’s essentially looking at other projects right now and taking a break from the Centipede (films), but I think in a few years he’s going to make the third one.”
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