The Holiday Centipede

King of the critics Roger Ebert may have described The Human Centipede as impossible to rate, a film which “occupies a world where the stars don’t shine”, but there’s no dark realm so degraded that it doesn’t feel the tingly warmth of a little Christmas spirit. In an apparent attempt to soften us up before The Human Centipede: Full Sequence hits our screens and constricts our duodenums in a couple of years, this festive romp combines classic Christmas charm with the gruesome reality of having your mouth sewn to someone else’s arse.

Fans of the original film will remember a mysterious gap in the surgery schedule of Dr Heiter (Will Ferrell takes over the role) – just what was he doing between operating on the Rottweiler triplets and those slutty Americans? Finally, all is revealed! It’s December 23rd, and in just one day Santa (Christopher Walken) will be undertaking his famous ride around the world to distribute presents to all and sundry. However, thanks to the bumblings of his elf sidekick Tanglebeard (Paul Rudd), almost all of Santa’s special supply of cold fusion reindeer chow has been accidentally sold to South Korea. There’s only enough food left for one reindeer and Santa knows the choice is a no-brainer – without Rudolph (voiced by Michael Cera) the skies will be as dark as the tortured mind of M. Night Shyamalan, but he’s too nervous to fly solo.

There’s only one thing for it; Dr Heiter must construct a reindeer centipede with one digestive system but the levitational might of the entire team! It’s a madcap race against time as Santa struggles to convince his reindeer that Christmas depends on them surrendering their veto on what goes in their mouths whilst Dr Heiter rushes to ready his surgery – without alerting his holiday guests (Luke Wilson, Tina Fey and Russell Brand) of his grisly festive commission. Will Christmas be saved? Will Rudolph’s foxy teammate Vixen (Vanessa Hudgens) ever stop thinking he’s a dork? How long will it take for Blitzen to die of blood poisoning? You’ll be semi-literally shitting in your mouth with excitement!

To a certain extent, The Holiday Centipede does suffer from sequel anxiety – the surgical money shot is essentially recycled from the first film, although there are some interesting differences in reaction between the screaming humans and relatively docile reindeer. However, a radical change of pace and the welcome addition of Pineapple Express supremo Judd Apatow in the double-width writer/director chair has helped the series segue from brutal and bloody realism to edgy comedy. Will Ferrell is on classic form and the supporting cast is a well-balanced mix of Frat Pack vets and slightly fresher talent.

Personally, the one thing which concerns me about The Holiday Centipede is not how many reindeer were harmed in the making of the film (if you’re wondering, two died of stress during green-screening but the Icelandic ambassador “doesn’t give a shit”) – rather, I’m fretting over just how Tom Six is going to restore the feel of his original film when he returns to the franchise next year. Has Apatow’s idiosyncratic style left too much of an imprint on our collective unconscious, or will we be happy to return to the least hygienic operating theatre in Germany and find it relentlessly free from one-liners and anecdotes about the time Santa got stoned in ‘Nam? I, for one, can’t wait to find out.

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