Welcome back to Film Gutter. Let's go for another swim, shall we?
Today's movie in the spotlight is the second of our three Jog Buttgereit reviews, and the first offering from the director, Nekromantik. Undoubtedly one of the nastiest of the video nasties, the movie is still banned in many countries around the world and was only cleared for screening here in the UK in 2014. I was lucky enough – or perhaps unlucky enough? – to have the pleasure of seeing this movie on the big screen, where its often nauseating imagery was all the more impactful. But what is it that makes this movie so controversial? Well, the clue's in the name – the main subject matter here is necrophilia, which is used as a vehicle to explore the areas of love, sex and death.
Our lead character is Rob, a down-trodden employee working at a firm who clean up the grisly remnants of accidents and deaths. For Rob, in a sense, this is ideal – it allows him to be close to the corpses that he desires, and before long he is bringing home a dead body for him and his girlfriend Betty to 'play' with. But, like any great love triangle, it's not long before jealousy and paranoia begin to rear their ugly heads, and as Betty begins to pay more and more attention to her new 'lover', Rob becomes increasingly despondent and desperate to hang on to her, eventually leading him to drastic measures...
Bearing in mind that the plot itself is relatively straightforward, what follows is a challenging viewing experience, in more senses than one. Although the film is obviously very low-budget, the corpse effects are pretty believable, and the sex scenes that are shown are genuinely difficult to watch and had me looking away from the screen a few times. There's also plenty of violence and gore besides that, including one genuine documentary scene that will leave many people very uneasy and serves as a sort of explanation for Rob's depraved obsessions. This became a motif that was followed through into Nekromantik 2, which we'll be wading into next time around.
So, we've established that it's plenty disturbing enough. But of course the second question is – is it any good? Well, it has many of the hallmarks that would define Buttgereit's work over the following years. It's a fascinating blend of many different elements – flat-out shock, macabre humour (the final scene of the movie is as visually alarming as it is hysterically overdone), dream sequences and human interaction featuring characters from the very bottom of the societal well. It also has that habit of every now and then being so well-shot and fascinatingly put together that you can't help but think that Buttgereit could have potentially succeeded with something a bit more mainstream, had he ever put his mind to it. The overall feeling after watching Nekromantik is that I felt a bit grubby and unpleasant, but that what I had just seen had ably achieved the effect the director was going for. I expect for some audiences this will be more rewarding than the balls-to-the-wall gore we sometimes see, and for others it will not be as satisfying as the more unrelenting offerings out there.
RATING: 6/10. A tough film to rate, but the reason this fell below Schramm was that when the film wasn't offering some of its more controversial material, I did find myself getting a little bored. There's not quite the emotional context set up between the characters to make us really care about what happens to them. With that said, it's a fascinating watch in a host of respects, but perhaps more one for afficionados of the video nasty era – it feels like a director finding his voice and his style, which to me was more refined in his later work.