Nekromantik Blu-ray Review
Directed by Jörg Buttgereit
Written by Jörg Buttgereit and Franz Rodenkirchen
1988, Region B/2, 75 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Blu-ray released on 12th December 2014
Bernd Daktari Lorenz as Robert Schmadtke
Beatrice Manowski as Betty
Harald Lundt as Bruno
Colloseo Schulzendorf as Joe
Harald Weis as Dead in Garden
Heike Surban as Prostitute
We've all been guilty of bringing our work home with us from time to time, but street cleaner Rob takes the maxim entirely too far when he steals a decomposing corpse for he and his wife to use, sexually, in the bedroom. It makes that stationery you stole from the office seem like a positively, well, positive – prospect by comparison.
As video nasties go, few feel quite so genuine as Nekromantik, which combines its attention grabbing title and ghastly concept with the look and feel of an authentic German Grindhouse, complete with scenes of non-simulated animal murder and people having sex with a corpse. Nekromantik joins the elite likes of Cannibal Holocaust and Salo in being precisely as bad as its reputation suggests. Whether there's artistic merit to be found in such a film is up for debate, but one can't help but admire director Jörg Buttgereit's tenacity. That his feature debut has received such a (relatively) high profile release from Arrow seems all the more impressive when you stop to realise that the film was made purely to shock, in rebellion against Germany's film rating system. Even today – occasionally rough special effects and all – Nekromantik has lost none of its power. It makes David Cronenberg's Crash look like Love, Actually.
Any newspaper agony aunt will tell you that threesomes are rarely a wise way to spice up one's marriage, and Rob finds that adage to be true when he realises that his wife prefers the company of the corpse to him. In this case, the simile 'it was like shagging a corpse' isn't a negative comment. Whatever floats your boat, I guess, although there are many people who will find their boats distinctly unfloated by Nekromantik. I haven't felt so ill during a sex scene since that Andreas Bethmann prison movie I for some reason watched from start to finish (a cult German filmmaker, no doubt inspired by Buttgereit, along with frequent collaborator and sensation Olaf Ittenbach). Like pornography, no-one does troubling horror quite like the Germans.
Look past the upsetting animal violence and nasty sex scenes, however, and there's something quite sweet and beautiful about Nekromantik. No, really. It does more with its low budget than hundreds of studio horror films have ever done with so much higher, possessing a grimy and realistic - yet simultaneously surreal - sense of visual expression reminiscent of Tobe Hooper's Texas Chain Saw Massacre (not to mention its equally black sense of humour). Like Cannibal Holocast, Salo and more recent films such as A Serbian Film and The Bunny Game, Nekromantik was never made to be enjoyed, as such. It's a piece of art, intended first and foremost to provoke a reaction. While I'd never go so far as to say I enjoyed Nekromantik (mostly because I don't want to end up on a register of some sort) I can certainly appreciate it as the artefact of extreme cinema that it is. Many will (and already do) hate this film as much as you might expect people to hate a film about necrophilia and animal cruelty. They'd be as right as the people who might love it for its unconventional beauty and sense of humour. Art, like sexual attraction, is entirely subjective. Often, what feels so wrong can be the thing that feels the most right of all. You dirty bastard, you.
Video and Audio:
That sheen of grit and grime remains slathered over the film print, which comes in Blu-ray, standard definition and an even dirtier-looking 35mm Grindhouse version. Its grotty visuals are entirely appropriate given the subject matter. It sounds lovely, thanks in no small part to its wonderful soundtrack (available as a bonus disc if you opt for the 3 disc 'Ultimate' version).
As we've come to expect from Arrow by now, the Blu-ray comes loaded with heaps of extras. In addition to the film, Buttgereit's short films and music videos are also included for your pleasure along with the usual audio commentaries, documentaries, image galleries and featurettes. Most notable are the informative documentaries The Nekromantic Legacy, The Making of Nekromantik and a Q&A session with Buttgereit himself. Whether you get to see any of this depends entirely upon your being able drag yourself away from the hypnotic menu screen, which plays that lovely music on a loop while the film's stars nut away hazily in the background.
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