The Film (4/5)
Rob (Daktari Lorenz) works for Joe's Street Cleaning Agency where he helps clean up traffic accidents and murder sites. He has quite a collection of macabre souvenirs like eyeballs, hands and tongues that he has scavenged from work but things take a turn when he brings home an actual rotting corpse for him and his girlfriend Betty (Beatrice Manowski) to have sex with. After Rob loses his job Betty packs up the corpse and leaves him, forcing him to find new ways of satisfying his sexual urges such as going to see a violent horror film and taking a prostitute to a cemetery for sex. None of this goes off like Rob hopes leaving him to commit the ultimate in depraved sexual gratification in a brutal climax that once seen will not be soon forgotten.
Nekromantik has always been a film that hovered around the edges of my horror film fandom. It's the sort of film that could be ordered on a muddy VHS tape out of the back of fanzines or bootlegs picked up at horror conventions. The perception I had was that the film was chiefly concerned with a couple that had sex with a corpse, and while that is true it far from the whole of the film. Director Jorg Buttgereit peppers the film with looks into Rob's daydreams that are violent, haunting and oddly affecting, all at once. It is clear that Buttgereit had a vision for Nekromantik as it isn't only gore pieces loosely connected without a plot and he adeptly makes the viewer understand that Rob has some serious problems with sex and death but does it in a way that is not wholly unsympathetic. And it's hard to decide what will stick with the viewer longer, the surreal dream scenes, the violence, or shots like the murky stain that is left behind on the wall where Rob and Betty had hung their corpse up while not including it in their sex life.
The music is a mixture of pretty piano and synth pieces and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre-esque metal grinding on metal noise. It's an effective juxtaposition for scenes of extreme violence set to a calming, serene piano. In fact, it makes it all the more disturbing. Watching this film reminds me of when I was a teenager and my friends and I rented Faces Of Death; the feeling that you are watching something that maybe you shouldn't be and that now you are part of some kind of unspoken club.
Cult Epics presents two different transfers of Nekromantik. One is a 1080p 24 MPEG AVC in a 1:33 aspect ratio taken from the original Super 8MM negative. The other is a "Grindhouse" transfer that replicates the bootleg viewing experience, also 1080p 24 MPEG AVC with a 1:33 aspect ratio, taken from the original theatrical print (a 35 MM print blown up from a 16 MM internegative of the original 8MM film.) The first transfer is the one that plays directly from the menu and has nice grain detail, blacks are a bit on the grayish side and I noticed a red or two that was a bit blown out. There are scratches and pops throughout the film but this is likely the best that Nekromantik will ever look. The Grindhouse transfer does a great job of retaining the VHS Nth generation dub look, being fairly dark and murky. It's definitely a great bonus addition to the disc but honestly I will watch the main transfer when returning to the film.
The audio is presented in both a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track and a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track. Both tracks sound robust with no noticeable hiss, pops or fuzz. The main transfer has optional German subtitles while the Grindhouse transfer has optically burnt in German subtitles.
Cult Epics knocks the extras out of the park with a bevy of extra features. Included are: introduction and a Q&A with director Jorg Buttgereit, an audio commentary with Buttgereit and screenwriter Franz Rodenkirchen, a making of Nekromantik, a featurette on Nekromantik, still photos, trailers of other Jorg Buttgereit films and two collectible (NSFW) post cards.
Perhaps the most exciting extra feature on the disc is Jorg Buttgereit's never before released short film Hot Love presented in HD. Utilizing some of the same ideas, albeit not quite as impressively, it's an interesting look at the beginnings of, if not exactly a dry run for, Nekromantik.
Nekromantik opens with a warning that children and sensitive people should not watch the film. I think that warning stands. There's animal violence, transgressive sexual situations and lots of gore. It's not an easy watch. But when coupled with Jean Rollin level surrealistic, dreamy imagery, a brilliant soundtrack and a high level of filmmaking skill, I think it's absolutely worth a watch. Especially if you are tired of the usual horror fare.