Human Centipede maestro Tom Six is rebelling against today’s ‘increasing banality and political correctness’ with The Onania Club. As the tagline reads, ‘Come and see, see and come.’
The Dutch filmmaker forged himself a place in the horror lexicon with the infamous trilogy that is The Human Centipede. With each entry ramping up the depravity, his mission statement of ‘bringing back danger to film’ was written with blood, sweat, and many, many other bodily fluids.
The Onania Club, his first film in five years, follows a group of women aroused by the bloody throes of society, whether it be 9/11 or necrophilia. Yes, it’s morbid – but Six’s nihilism is more refined than ever. In UNILAD’s review, we called it ‘a smart, punchy vision of humanity’s burrowed darkness’.
In a world exclusive first interview about the film, we discussed with Six the challenges of bringing his grimly horny vision to the screen, making a test crowd nearly ‘orgasm with excitement’, as well as The Human Caterpillar – yeah, it’s coming.
The Onania Club has been in the works for quite some time. Has it been a difficult road to completion?
Tom Six: Being a humble film dictator means that I am in full control of every aspect of making the film and I never rush things. I keep working on the film till I feel it is exactly how I wanted it to be. I never compromise.
Making my kind of films is a trillion times more difficult than creating a safe, mediocre, mass-pleasing story. It’s like climbing the Mount Everest without legs while carrying an obese whale.
It felt exactly like making the first Human Centipede film. Right after that film was finished we showed it to distributors worldwide and not a soul was interested. One distributor even told me in my face that he was sure the film would never see the light of day and nobody in the world would be interested.
Tom Six: I proved them all wrong. 11 years later, The Human Centipede movies are part of worldwide pop culture and, for example, one of US distributor IFC’s biggest VOD successes of all-time.
I just fully finished The Onania Club and test screened it in a small Amsterdam theater to a select group of Dutch celebrities; a famous politician, a gynecologist, Holland’s most popular comedian, the most famous classical pianist, a couple of fans of my work and family members.
The crowd almost orgasmed from excitement. I finally included some present-day news clips and now it’s ready for the world to see. ‘Come and see, see and come’ as the film’s tagline says.
Initial trailers and images showed the film to be in colour, but the end product is black and white. Why is that?
Tom Six: The Onania Club is heavily influenced by the film noir era and has a lot of elements from those movies from the 1940s and 50s. I shot it in colour, I edited it in colour but after the Amsterdam test screening I went back to my original idea and also made a black and white version – and that did it for me.
The colour version is like Sex and the City or Desperate Housewives on a bad drugs trip, while the black and white version fully conveys the very dark side of humanity as it was meant to be.
Are you happy with how The Onania Club has turned out?
Tom Six: 100%. It is exactly like I envisioned it. It’s exactly how I want my movies to be and explore the deep dark unexplored waters and not stay safely on land. I want to bring danger back in film, show the horror of humanity in these days of increasing banality and political correctness in mainstream filmmaking.
It’s a social commentary on western elites, the media and us humans under a layer of pitch black comedy.
Was there any particular reason you decided to focus on female masturbation as opposed to male?
Tom Six: When I was writing the script, I envisioned a combination of men and women as members of the club. When I contacted the actresses, I quickly found out that they were far more fearless and had bigger balls then the male actors who were all very hesitant and even afraid.
In the end, I thought, fuck it, I will turn it into an all female club. I am very happy about that now, since it is visually much more elegant to see a woman masturbate than a man, and it became a work of true feminism where the women have all the power and control and the men are all weak. You hardly see that in cinema.
Why should the everyday person venture into the darkness of The Onania Club?
Tom Six: The media force feeds us daily with negative news and the public feasts on it like being at an all-you-can-eat restaurant. Good news is boring, leaves no room for gossip and is easily forgotten. The rising death toll of the coronavirus, celebrity divorces. We just can’t seem to get enough of it.
The Onania Club deals with that and its main theme is Schadenfreude, the German word for enjoying the misery of others. The worst human emotion according to philosopher Schopenhauer. The film may sound extreme but is not that far from the truth as we’d like to think. This film is a fascinating alternative for those bored of safe and predictable cinema.
You’ve mentioned that the movie is somewhat a response to the flux of bad news in the media. Do you think we’ll end up like the women in The Onania Club?
Tom Six: In fact we all are members of The Onania Club in a way, minus the masturbation. People secretly wallow in other people’s misery. It is comforting to hear that other people are worse off than you. In general, people wouldn’t go as far as to intentionally inflict misery on others to get pleasure out of it. There is probably enough misery to dive into anyway.
What’s next after The Onania Club gets its release? Also, any details on where people will be able to see it?
Tom Six: I always work on several scripts at a time. I have this crazy brain that just keeps coming up with ideas. It never stops. I would probably need three lives to complete all films. I have a fantastic idea for a Human Centipede spin off film called The Human Caterpillar, of which the basic concept is shown in The Human Centipede 3. That idea is so wild no investor dares to touch it. So for that one I will try crowd funding and have fans participate.
It’s been 11 years since The Human Centipede. Did you ever expect it to be the huge phenomenon it was and still is?
Tom Six: When I was filming the first sequence and felt the electricity on the set and saw the powerful unforgettable images, I knew I had something spectacular in my hands. The ass-to-mouth concept is so strong it will shock and awe many generations to come.
Do you have any regrets with that series? The sequels were received a little harsher by some critics and viewers; would you go back and change anything?
Tom Six: Not at all. It is 100% my vision and absolutely love all the strong reactions good or bad. The films became pop culture and that’s the highest praise a filmmaker can get. The second film was even listed by Variety as one of the best horror films of the last two decades and I’m glad to see that part three’s satire and social commentary is recognised.
Are you done with that trilogy? When will we see The Human Caterpillar?
Tom Six: Definitely. There will never be another Human Centipede, since the three films together make the iconic threesome, but hopefully one day there will be The Human Caterpillar.
Why should people watch extreme horror?
Tom Six: Life can be boring, safe and predictable, and people crave more extreme things. One might go bungee jumping to get a thrill, others watch extreme horror. You can experience something extreme from the safety of your own home.
What’s your favourite horror movie?
Tom Six: To be honest, I don’t like horror films very much. I like black comedies way more. The most horrifying film to me is Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom by Pier Paolo Pasolini.
The Onania Club currently has no release date.
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