In this day and age, movie sequels have become such an inevitability, that they are now expected if a film has any financial success whatsoever, be that during a theatrical release or on home video. The rule of thumb is that sequels are inferior to the original. I don't want to rehash the debate scene from Scream 2, but history shows this theory to be true. This can happen for many reasons, but one of the most prevalent is that the creative team behind the original film isn't involved with the sequel(s). However, when the same director, writers, etc. decide to tackle a second film, there can be some hope that the film will be decent. Such is the case with the German shocker Anatomy 2 (AKA Anatomie 2).
Anatomy told the story of medical student Paula Henning (Franka Potente), who goes to study at a prestigious institute in Heidelberg. Upon her arrival, a series of mysterious murders take place, and Paula learns that a group of radicals who consider themselves Anti-Hippocratics (referring to the Hippocratic oath which all doctors take). These clinicians are pushing the boundaries of science and consider it acceptable if humans are killed in their experiments. As Paula learns more about this secret society, she must fight to save her own life.
Anatomy 2 is set some years later, and is only mildly related to the first film. Young medical student Jo Hauser (Barnaby Metschurat) leaves the small town of Duisburg to take an internship at a large hospital in Berlin. Jo is determined to make it as a doctor, as his brother Willi (Hanno Koffler) has a degenerative muscle disease -- this same disease killed their father. As Jo is getting used to the rigorous routine at the hospital, he is befriended by a nurse named Lee (Rosie Alvarez), but his real interest lies with Professor Muller-LaRousse (Herbert Knaup) and his elite group of interns. Jo approaches this circle of brilliant scientists and learns that they are Anti-Hippocratics. (Their motto is "Do the Possible".) Muller-LaRousse and his team are experimenting with artificial human muscles, but the cost to join this team is high, as one must experiment on one's self. Jo is very eager to join this clique, but is not prepared for their world of voluntary surgery, drugs, and murder.
I heard about Anatomy through the grapevine and was very impressed with film when I finally saw it. I felt that the movie brilliantly mixed a murder-mystery story with a very sophisticated medical plot. However, I was surprised to read many critiques which bashed the movie, many saying that it was too derivative of Scream and that Germans should make more serious films. (For the record, what's wrong with being derivative of Scream? That movie was a critical and financial success which jump-started a failing horror film industry. If you want to see a German film which is a rip-off of Scream, check out Flashback - Mörderische Ferien.) Anyway, as I had enjoyed Anatomy, I had high-hopes for Anatomy 2.
And, those hopes hopes were met with the intriguing opening scene and the introduction of Jo. But, around Chapter 9, I began to get a really bad feeling about the film. The word which kept coming to mind was "silly". The plot involving the artificial muscles may be based in reality, but it simply comes across as ludicrous in the film. And I can't believe that anyone could call Anatomy derivative after seeing this sequel. The latter-half of Anatomy 2 is simply a mixture between a Robin Cook-like medical thriller and any "medical experiment gone awry" film that you can think of, such as Disturbing Behavior, Altered States, Body Melt, etc. At least Anatomy had a mystery element. Here, we know exactly who the bad guys are and that makes it hard to get into the film. The film also suffers from character issues. Jo is likable at first, but once he joins the Anti-Hippocratic Lodge, there is no one in the film with which the audience can relate. The final nail in the coffin comes when the film's final act is simply a series of redundant chases through the hospital, in which Jo is captured and escapes, captured and escapes. It's truly a shame that Anatomy 2 has such a weak plot, for the acting is good for the most part, and writer/director Stefan Ruzowitzky has shot the film in a very interesting style. Perhaps if Anatomy didn't exist Anatomy 2 would come off as a better film, but as it stands, it's just another inferior sequel.
Anatomy 2 is admitted to DVD from Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. While watching Anatomy 2, it's clear that the film had a (somewhat) substantial budget, and that shows in the transfer. The image is very sharp and clear, showing virtually no grain. There are some shots that look soft, but this is a rare occurrence. As with Anatomy, the colors here look fantastic, with the reds, blues, and greens nearly leaping off of the screen. There is some slight evidence of edge-enhancement, but this doesn't detract from the viewing.
The DVD contains a Dobly Digital 5.1 mix of the original German audio track. The track provides clear diaologue and sound effects, with no evidence of hissing or distortion. The surround sound effects on this track consist mainly of musical cues and crowd noise, but there is an occasional stereo or surround effect which really stands out. The bass response is good and adds much needed atmosphere to the film. The English subs are in yellow and are very easy to read.
The DVD contains several high-quality extras. We start with an audio commentary from writer/director Stefan Ruzowitzky and star Barnaby Metschurat. This commentary track is in German, with English subs. While reading the subtitles can make it difficult to focus on the interpersonal dynamics of the talk, the commentary is filled with information about the production of Anatomy 2, and the two participants share several anecdotes about their colleagues. Next, there is a 17-minute "Making of" featurette which contains a great deal of behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with the cast and crew, and a look at the special effects makeup. My favorite part is when the narrator said, "In terms of terror, action, and surprises, Anatomy 2 sets a new standard." Whatever. This segment is in German and has English subs. There are five deleted scenes, two of which would have made the film even sillier. These scenes can be viewed with or without commentary from Ruzowitzky and Metschurat, and these comments can be audio only, or you can view this pair via a picture-in-picture mode. The viewer can compare the screen tests of three scenes to the finished product in the next segment. The extras are rounded out by filmographies, a still gallery, a look at the original German poster art (which is very Scream-like), and the U.S. trailer for Anatomy 2, as well as several bonus trailers.
It's my understanding that Anatomy was unlike any other modern German film and that it's success took many by surprise and, obviously spawned a sequel. Anatomy was a great film and showed true promise for a new source for horror films. I hope Anatomy 2 isn't an indication of where the Germans are taking the genre. Nonetheless, Columbia has done a bang-up job with this release, making this mediocre film look very good.