Updated: Sep 12, 2020
Horror Girly talks to actor Laurence R Harvey about his role in The Human Centipede 2, the Horror Genre, and his advice to Women in Horror.
It is not everyday you get the opportunity to interview a horror icon and yet - on a typically rainy Monday evening in Manchester - I found myself chatting to actor Laurence R Harvey about his role in The Human Centipede 2, the Horror Genre, and his advice to me as a woman seeking to break into genre film-making.
Laurence is appearing as a special guest at Starburst International Film Festival where he will be providing a live commentary and Q & A on the film. Despite being released nearly a decade ago, few films have surpassed The Human Centipede 2 in terms of themes and controversy. Therefore I was particularly grateful for the opportunity to discuss the film - and the industry in general - with its iconic lead actor.
The Human Centipede was being shown on the festival circuit at the time Laurence auditioned for The Human Centipede 2. Laurence described being intrigued by the divide it created in the audience. However, it appears that the role that lead to Laurence becoming a horror icon was nearly thwarted.
"My agent initially turned down Human Centipede 2 thinking it was some form of sex film"
Enjoying The Human Centipede's satire and subtle references to European cinema, Laurence was keen to take "any part" in the new film and agreed to audition for Tom Six.
From the audience perspective, there is a significant difference in the approach between the different films. The Human Centipede was cruelly clinical with disgust roused from implication rather than graphic imagery. However, The Human Centipede 2 is a different beast. Our boundaries are pushed to new limits with graphic and bloody violence as stomach churning scenes involving explosive diarrhoea. "Our abject sense of horror comes from making the internal body fluids manifest in the external" Laurence observes.
In a satirical way, The Human Centipede 2 plays on the fears of censors that an obsessed fan may be inspired to carry out the degrading acts that bless our screens. Yet Laurence vehemently rejects the notion that the film is 'Torture Porn'; "Martin is not torturing them for pleasure, he is creating a work of Art"
On Becoming Martin Lomax
I was informed that Writer & Director Tom Six had taken care to consult with psychologists regarding the effect on abuse victims and this reflected in the script. There was no need for Laurence to research serial killers for the role. Knowing that actors have empathise with their characters in order to play them well, I asked Laurence how he had approached Martin Lomax. Taking inspiration from the disfigured monsters in silent movies, Laurence describes how he took Lomax from underdog to psychopathic killer.
"Well I did not want to go down the route of portraying him as having some form of mental disability. He is very much an every man. However, he has been abused by every authority figure he trusted from his GP to his father and had his emotional needs neglected. From that I extrapolated that his social and emotional development would have been retarded. Whilst he clearly experienced emotions such as grief and anger, he lacks empathy and an understanding of how to process those emotions."
We discussed Lomax's obsession with The Human Centipede and how it inspired him to commit his own acts of violence.
"Martin views Josef Heiter as a father figure. His creation of his own Human Centipede is a way of seeking approval from Heiter. It is intended to be a work of Art - a way of honouring him. Hence the grief when the Businessman dies, and his rage when his Mother destroys his book."
On the Controversial Rape Scene
Understanding that Martin Lomax is seeking to create a masterpiece for the object of his affection, rather than any depraved sexual preferences, is key to appreciating one of the most controversial scenes in the film. The scene where Lomax rapes the end segment, Kim (Emma Lock), with barbed wire wrapped around his genitals.
"This scene is less about sexual gratification - although that is part of it - and more about Lomax becoming part of his creation and raping the centipede as a whole, rather than just Kim I believe this is portrayed well in the edited version."
I had originally seen the directors cut version of The Human Centipede 2 which contained the scene which initially led to the film being banned. The rape scene in particular haunted me for years afterwards, not only for its sheer brutality but also it's realism. This is actually a good thing. Censorship has meant that many rape scenes in films are toned down to the extent of almost romanticising what is a truly horrifying act that many people have endured in real life. I asked Laurence for his comments on filming that particular scene and its later censorship.
"Well firstly Emma Lock deserves a lot of credit for this. She was one of the best actors to work with. Emma brings a quality that inspired me to raise my own standards and I am a better actor for working with her. We discussed the rape scene and made a conscious decision that we would portray the act with a sense of brutality"
On the Horror Genre
Given our discussions about censorship - and the fear that certain scenes may inspire more violence - I asked Laurence about his perception of the horror community. Certainly, there is widespread misconception about horror fans.
"On the whole I have found horror fans to be intelligent and interesting people who know what they like"
Laurence himself enjoys a broad range of films and leans towards world cinema rather than any particular genre. However, he noted that an enjoyable aspect of independent horror is the relationship between the film and the audience.
"A film should not treat the audience as passive. There should be an effect on the audience, whether this be to make you think, inspire fear or even a jump scare, it should create a resonance."
Noting that Laurence has appeared in a number of Horror and Black Comedy films since The Human Centipede 2, I asked whether he had found himself typecast or whether he sought out Horror as a genre.
"I think there is an element of type casting, but that is not necessarily a bad thing" he laughs. " I turned down a lot of zombie film scripts that ended up on my desk after The Human Centipede 2."
On How to Break into Genre Film-Making
I told Laurence about my personal journey as a newcomer in this industry and my ambitions to direct my own film and welcomed any words of wisdom he had for me - particularly as a woman in film. As it transpires, Laurence offered extensive advice that benefit anyone seeking to make their first film.
"When I was a performance artist with limited funds, they used to advise to use a suitcase, so you can travel and perform anywhere. In some ways this advice translates to film." Laurence mused "For your first film, use a single place that you have complete control over. As for crew, Get yourself a good DOP (Director of Photography). Lots of British films look like sh*t due to poor camera work. Great editors are necessary too."
We discussed the importance considering post production, after learning that Director Liam Regen had spent the best part of five years having My Bloody Banjo re-editing to improve the film's quality.
"Don't forget the importance of Post-Production. You can have a great concept but it is ruined if the sound quality is rubbish, or the lighting or colouring is wrong, so make sure you factor this in."
Laurence urged me to take inspiration from Jill "Sixx" Gevargizian who he worked with in Dark Web Jill is also a career changer - breaking into the industry after spending ten years as a hairdresser. Her short "Call Girl" was a single set production. Following this she worked alongside other leading names in the Horror Genre- including Jen & Sylvia Soska - before launching her crowdfunding campaign for the long-anticipated feature 'The Stylist'. Laurence reflected on how Jill had worked alongside others in the industry.
"I hate the idea of Networking. But there is something to be said for going out and talking to people.
Find out what they are interested in and seek to work on projects and with directors that interest you. "
On The Starburst International Film Festival
Having read Starburst magazine regularly as a child, Laurence is particularly pleased to be taking part in the festival this year. I asked what films he was planning to see himself .
" I will be watching Black Gloves. Laurie Brewster has produced some interesting work and I enjoyed Lord of Tears."
The Starburst International Film Festival will take place on 13 & 14 March 2020 in Media City UK. Tickets are still available for a limited time. You can follow Laurence R. Harvey on Twitter and Instagram