31 Days of Hell: Nekromantik

The abysmal Nekromantik was finally released on blu-ray a couple weeks ago. This is not something the world needed.

There are numerous horror films that tread that fine line between art and exploitation, sometimes finding a middle ground while other examples tend to spill over into extremes.  Jörg Buttgereit’s 1987 homemade Super 8 shocker and necrophilia love story Nekromantik finds itself in the latter category and not necessarily for the better.  Banned outright in many countries around the world, the controversial and scandalous German grindhouse sensation came under fire in its native homeland for defying censorship standards of West Germany.  

"She keeps saying things are
dead in the bedroom. Now
I know why."
Around the time its sequel Nekromantik 2 was making waves amid German authorities, mail orders of Nekromantik were temporarily banned and the film went out of print for quite some time.  Only recently did Cult Epics make the much sought after transgressor a remastered collector’s edition Blu-Ray, limited to 10,000 units.  Now, the question is, was it worth all the dialogue caused by its inception?

The film tells the story of Rob, who works for a company which cleans up after deceased remains from accidents or murders.  In Rob’s spare time, he brings home body parts and practices necrophilia with his girlfriend Betty.  One day on the job, he retrieves a unique romantic present for himself and Betty: a fully intact decomposing human corpse.  Soon with the help of a metallic pipe for a phallus, the couple engages in a threesome with the body as writer-director Buttgereit lingers over the sordid sexuality on display and it’s unclear whether or not the death obsessed duo also practices cannibalism.  

During these scenes, a lovely piano concerto, composed by the actor portraying Rob, fills the soundtrack that modern viewers will likely associate with the sick irony of internet shock videos like 2 Girls 1 Cup.  Spliced in between are scenes of a rabbit being murdered and skinned by a professional rabbit breeder on the job, heaping animal cruelty onto the steadily rising pile of atrocities.  After being fired and dumped by Betty, who takes the corpse with her, Rob loses it and kills Betty’s cat before bathing himself in its entrails.  Soon Rob murders a prostitute and rapes her body before eventually disemboweling himself in the moment of sexual climax, replete with an over the top ejaculation scene of semen and blood that would make Lars Von Trier blush.

"I really hate the dentist."
And that’s really it.  Beyond some dream sequences suggesting Rob’s twisted thoughts and a loose connection between sex and death as transcendence, Nekromantik is dull and flat.  There’s really nothing to these characters whose sole existence is to perform aberrant sex in front of the camera amid a prosthetic corpse.  The plot, if you can call it such, merely meanders with these underwritten saps’ foray into murder and self-destruction.  If Buttgereit has an underlying point, it is to create a scandal to make a name for himself.  As short as Nekromantik’s running time runs, the film feels torpid and padded out.  Loose links to Nazi fascist symbolism are drawn by the insignia printed on the cleanup company vans, and there’s an underlying notion of unspeakable acts taking place within the closed walls of bunkers.  

Still, it’s a complete stretch of a thinly veiled attempt to intellectualize mere grotesquerie ultimately created for our shock value.  When esteemed BBC film critic Mark Kermode presented his condemnation of Srđan Spasojević's A Serbian Film, understandable immediate comparisons to Buttgereit were drawn.  I myself, however, would like to believe A Serbian Film is better at being A Serbian Film than Nekromantik is at being a movie.

-Andrew Kotwicki