Four years ago on this site, Spank The Monkey described Nekromantik 2 as “a film I still hold as a personal benchmark of Going Too Far in the movies.” From next week, you’ll be able to buy it in the shops. Does he need a new benchmark now?
You have to feel sorry for necrophiles – they’re poorly served by mainstream cinema. Maybe once in a while, an arthouse director with a desire to get in the papers might throw them a bone, so to speak. Off the top of my head, I can think of the Charles Bukowski adaptation Crazy Love, in which a man looking for love ends up lowering his standards as far as they’ll possibly go: and Kissed, featuring a young Molly Parker as an apprentice mortician who gets a little too attached to her work. Both of these caused a stir at the time, but were tasteful enough to get past the UK censor. In each case, the love was pure and romantic, and the corpse was unblemished.
Jörg Buttgereit doesn’t make those sorts of movies. His two forays into the subject of love after death – 1987’s Nekromantik, and its 1991 sequel – are gory, visceral affairs that tackle it head-on without blinking. The love is warped, the corpses are rotting. When I saw these films at the Scala cinema under club screening conditions in the nineties, I found it hard to believe that we’d ever reach a time when the BBFC would allow them to be shown uncut commercially.
Still, here we are in 2015. Arrow Films released Nekromantik last year, and Nekromantik 2 is now joining it on the shelves, both of them proudly bearing 18 certificates and no cuts. To be honest, I wasn’t really gagging to watch either of them again – to the 1990s version of me, they were really the most extreme example of the Scala mindset, where the simple fact that they were unwatchable anywhere else automatically made them must-sees. Nowadays, I’ve got better things to do. But I was curious to see if my opinion of Nekromantik 2 had changed in the two decades since I originally saw it.
It’s not often that the Nekromantik franchise is compared to the Bill And Ted films, but for me they have one factor in common – in both cases I saw the second in the series first, and had to reverse-engineer the plot of the original film from the evidence of the sequel. That’s easy enough to do with Nekromantik 2, although not seeing the first one makes the opening sequence one hell of a shock, as we watch the ultra-graphic depiction of what I hope is cinema’s only auto-erotic hara-kiri. Fans of the earlier movie will have seen it all before: literally, in fact, as it’s the climax of Nekromantik, in which corpse-botherer Rob (Daktari Lorenz) takes the easy way out of the turmoil he’s been causing.
It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Rob. Because the movie proper opens with Monika (Monika M.) taking a spade to his grave and running off with his body. Turnabout is fair play, as they say. However, despite her initial enthusiasm for Rob, things don’t seem to go as well as she’d hoped they would. Around this time, an accident of timing helps her meet up with Mark (Mark Reeder), a reasonably ordinary bloke who happens to dub porn films for a living. You may have been expecting certain things from a film called Nekromantik 2, but the depiction of a love triangle where only 66.6% of the participants are alive probably wasn’t one of them.
I’d forgotten an awful lot about the film in the last 20 years, in particular how bizarrely rambly it is. Most of what’s stuck in my head came from the surprisingly small number of show-stopping gore sequences, and it has to be said that the effects work is still impressive today – Buttgereit knows exactly when to cut away before a prosthetic becomes too obvious. But there are so many bits where the narrative, such as it is, comes to a halt for an unexpected digression. Monika and Mark’s first date, where we’re treated to several minutes of the snarky art film parody they watch, My Breakfast With Vera. The girls’ night in that involves Monika and her mates sitting at home eating chocolates and watching a seal autopsy video. There’s even a musical number, for no obvious reason other than to remind you that the score is unnecessarily pretty given the subject matter. (It’s credited to a team of musicians, including all of the principal cast and someone called John Boy Walton.)
Tonally, it’s all over the shop, and it’s to Buttgereit’s credit that it somehow all holds together as a single piece. The overall feeling is of black comedy – it has to be, given the farcically overlapping relationship Monika has with Rob and Mark. (Mark’s obliviousness to Monika’s needs is hysterical, particularly when she shows him her family album, entirely made up of photos taken at funerals.) At the same time, the inventive photography of Manfred O. Jelinski suggests that Buttgereit is aiming for something closer to an art film, with some ambitious crane shots and exquisitely lit closeups of Monika M. But that has to be balanced against the peculiar pacing of the narrative, some ropey acting (especially in a couple of English language sequences), and the way that the gore – when it comes – steamrollers over everything else. Nevertheless, comedy wins out at the climax, accelerating the film towards the sickest possible punchline.
It’s probably not the sort of film you’d want to see too often – I suspect once every twenty years or so will do for me – so if you’re going to have a copy in your house, you’d want it to come loaded with additional material. Arrow’s limited edition package looks suitably impressive, with a new HD transfer, oodles of featurettes, a CD of that excellent score, and a 100 page book. If you’ve got the stomach for it, it’s the best possible way to own Nekromantik 2. But if you were looking for a date night film, you might be better off with that seal autopsy video.
Nekromantik 2 is released on Blu-ray by Arrow Films on November 23rd.