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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 7/20/00

1987 (2000) - Barrel Entertainment

review by Florian Kummert and Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Nekromantik Film Rating: C-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C/B/A

Specs and Features

75 minutes, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered (additional layer for supplemental material), Amaray keep case packaging, commentary with director Jörg Buttgereit and co-writer Franz Rodenkirchen, Horror Heaven short subtitled in English, featurette with outtakes and interviews, The Making of Nekromantik, 2 stills galleries, theatrical trailers (Nekromantik, Nekromantik 2, Der Todesking, Schramm), liner notes by Buttgereit biographer David Kerekes, Nekromantik comic book adaptations, Buttgereit filmography, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (24 chapters), languages: German (DD mono), subtitles: English

WARNING: Like the film, this review is rated off the charts. There are words, ideas and descriptions in this review that aren't meant for audiences of Disney films. If you have no idea what the title of this film means, go back to the home page and pick a new review to read. You've been warned.

Jörg Buttgereit likes to call his movies "corpse fucking art". Nothing like an artist to not beat around the bush and get right to it, eh? A large part of his oeuvre focuses on people who enjoy having sex with decomposing bodies, so the description pretty much jibes with the final product. Disney, this ain't. Buttgereit, the German bad boy of horror movies, has acquired a notoriety among horror fans that remains to be equaled. He's the king of German splatter, the fearless crusader against the FSK (the German equivalent of the MPAA), the artist, the sick corpse freak. In Germany, the director's name evokes a mythical fascination with hard-core splatter, sex and death. Even in his own country, his movies never found a distributor, and only a few people saw them at rare art-house screenings. But thanks to Barrel Entertainment, Nekromantik, Buttgereit's first and still most notorious feature, is on DVD.

The film was shot in 1987 on 16mm stock. This DVD gives us the uncut, unrated version. But if you're a brave soul and purchase this disc, please don't expect the goriest film you've ever seen. And certainly don't expect some sort of masterpiece. You see, the problem with Buttgereit's reputation is that it creates images and expectations in your head that nothing could ever fulfill... especially given a budget of $1.25, a pack of smokes and a used florescent condom.

Nekromantik tells the story of a young couple that loves death, corpses and body parts. Robert works at a clean-up company responsible for removing bodies after accidents. Thus, Robert is able to bring home some toys for his girlfriend Betty. Now... dear Betty is not your average girlfriend. She likes to take baths in tubs filled with blood, she eats raw meat and she reads fairy tales to rotting corpses lying in bed next to her (Betty's not the kind of girl you bring home to Mom). One day, Rob returns home with a water-bloated corpse and they immediately initiate a threesome of the sort not seen in any Gen-X flick before or since. But, growing dissatisfied with Rob when he loses his job (and thus cuts off her supply of all things dead), Betty dumps Rob and runs off with the corpse. He goes berserk... and who could blame him?

For all you splatterheads who have never seen this film... be warned. Nekromantik is no Braindead. This film was produced with virtually no money and boy does it look like it. The ending sequence (a climax of sorts - pun intended) showcases Rob stabbing himself while having an orgasm... squirting semen and blood around the room. Sounds... er, neat doesn't it? Well, the schlong just looks like K-mart rubber (if K-mart sold such things) and the flow is inhumanly thick and long running. Buttgereit himself once said at a screening that the Japanese version (which has a black bar covering all the genitalia) is more effective, as you don't see the penis but just the blood and semen. And we have to agree - less is more (at least here).

The overall feel of Nekromantik is of an experimental movie with non-actors who didn't get paid, but who love to shock audiences and produce art. Buttgereit never wanted his films to be labeled "entertainment," although they sometimes are (by whom, we have no idea). Above all, he tries to overstep - to break the moral boundaries in our society. Buttgereit apparently views religion as a big prison. In Nekromantik, Robert takes a Jesus figure and nails it to a cross. Afterwards, he jumps around, naked and happy in a lush meadow. It's hard to tell if Nekromantik is supposed to be art... or a flick made by kids with a sick view of life and access to film equipment. It's weird, to be sure. It's also a bit cryptic and disgusting... but somehow it's interesting to watch, even if you don't normally lean towards gross out stuff like this. The thought has to cross your mind every once in a while - who the hell would make something like this?

Barrel hopes to answer that question with this DVD. For this kind of film, there's a surprisingly nice selection of special edition material on board. Just about everything you could think of finds its way onto this DVD. We'll go into that more in a minute. This is a 16mm film transferred to DVD. What does that mean to you? Grain... and lots of it. It also means loss of detail. The opening sequence looks like shit, seriously. We certainly don't blame Barrel, but when you first pop it in, and that's the first thing you see, it sends a serious chill across your shoulders. These opening shots where filmed at night, outside with no light. But hang in there - most of the film takes place indoors, so you can expect the picture quality to get a bit better. We can say that this film looks much better here than it has on any video or theatrical exhibition we've seen before. There is a small bit of digital artifacting going on in some of the background textures, but what are you going to do? The audio is German mono, and it sounds like a low budget film. Then again... it is a low budget film. At least the track is clean and clear and there aren't any audible distortions. And for those of us that don't speak German, there are nice subtitles that you can turn on and off - a plus.

The extras we touched upon are really pretty good, for what they are. If you don't care for this movie, you're obviously not going to care for the extras. There is a commentary track featuring Buttgereit and his co-writer, Franz Rodenkirchen, where they give the hows, whys and history (both past and present) of the film and its stars. It's fun, but very German. The accents are thick, but you can understand what's being said. Are they having fun? I guess, but they seem so stern. The info flows fast and furious however, and that's what counts. There are also plenty of video supplements, two "making of" featurettes, two still galleries, trailers for Buttgereit's other films and a short he and his buddies did when they were high schoolers. It's cute and juvenile, but shows that Buttgereit really loves movies. There is also a brief essay written by Buttgereit biographer David Kerekes (who also wrote the bookSex Murder Art: The Films of Buttgereit). It's a nice little package overall and is a good DVD introduction from a start-up company like Barrel.

It goes without saying that not everyone will enjoy this movie. It's not the best-made film, but there is some talent behind it. If weird people doing weird things to dead bodies is humorous or enjoyably horrifying to you, then by all means... this is your flick. But if that sounds like something that would offend you... yeah, you'll probably be offended. Either way, Nekromantik is on DVD where it belongs and the choice to watch it is all yours.

Florian Kummert

Todd Doogan

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