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It's hard to fathom how desensitized I've become in the last 20-plus years. Way back in 1991 a little video store opened up in SE Portland, Oregon. It's since become an institution, but in those days Mike Clark's Movie Madness had the movies you couldn't find ANYWHERE. Sweet numbers like Lucker: The Necrophagous and Nekromantik, on dodgy VHS tapes. Back then, low-budget horror films about necrophiliacs were something shocking. Now you can hardly turn on TVLand without watching some reality sit-com about folks shagging putrescent corpses (let alone scanning CNN to watch the latest beheading in the Middle East). Yep, Nekromantik is now on Blu-ray, albeit in a limited edition of 10,000 copies. Snatch up your copy NOW to see what all the fuss was about.
Poor Rob can't catch a break. He and his girlfriend Betty really love death, so he's got himself the perfect job on a car-accident cleanup crew. He's free to stealthily snatch choice bits from the dead - an extruded eyeball here, a handful of guts there - to bring home for fondling with his honey. Sadly, his foreman doesn't cotton to Rob's cotton-picking rotten pickings, leading to troubles on the worksite. Rob's able to snatch one last full, festering cadaver from a swamp (to bring home to sweetie) before getting the axe. To make matters worse, Betty soon realizes she'd rather run off with the real stiff than live a life of poverty with her unambitious slacker boyfriend. What's a lovesick boy to do?
Love and sick are truly the operative words here, in a film that - OK - will still likely disgust and confuse the hell out of any viewer other than hardened horror hounds such as myself. As a movie, the slight (70-minute) horror tends to, believe it or not, lose focus and meander a bit before its shocking conclusion. Nekromantik is almost dialog-free, actually, tilling its weird soil as a thoughtful meditation on love, hopelessness, and the hopelessness of love. It just happens to do so using such tropes as; psychedelic sex scenes with a moldering carcass, swinging a cat in a garbage bag at the wall - then luxuriating with the guts, bisecting Farmer Brown's head with a shovel, killing, skinning and gutting a real live rabbit, and the piece de resistance ... well, I'm not going to tell you, (you probably know already) but it's a real corker (let's just say it's the most ambiguously 'happy ending' you've ever seen).
Daktari Lorenz (as Rob) and Beatrice M. (as Betty) bring sincere and instant pathos to their pathetic lives and relationship. Writer/director Jorg Buttgereit concocts a stately and oddly poetic movie on a shoestring budget, salting things liberally with a haunting score. However, despite the sincere debauchery, there's not enough here to sustain the short run-time. After Rob's left alone, he's free to wander aimlessly - as does the movie itself. He checks out a movie, traverses the countryside, and suffers fever dreams wherein, in a sunlit field, he plays catch-the-intestinal-tract with a benign nurse/angel figure. Thankfully Buttgereit's got more on his mind, as he ends things with a real bang, conflating musings on life, love, sex, and death in a mini-cataclysm of fluids that really leaves you thinking. In an extras-laden Blu-ray edition, Cult Epics brings you one of the grand-daddies of transgressive horror, Highly Recommended for fanciers of the forbidden (even if, by now, you've seen it all before).
A new Director's Approved 1.33:1 ratio HD transfer from the original Super 8mm negative looks pretty spanky considering the source. This is low budget filmmaking, though, so don't expect a miracle. Colors are on the slightly drab side, and the image is of course grainy and sometimes soft or slightly out of focus. There are no transfer defects to mention, and really, the movie looks better than it ever has. However, should it? If you're not sure, you can also watch a Grindhouse HD version, taken from the theatrical 35mm print. In many ways this is the preferred method for viewing, as it provides plenty of grit, grime and film damage for a more authentic, sleazy experience. The only complaint about the Grindhouse version is that it's extremely dark, compared to the Super 8mm restoration. Nice to have both options.
Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Audio, or Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks in German (with English subtitles) constitute your sonic choices. The 5.1 mix beefs things up a tad, but seems beside the point for a movie originally recorded in Mono. The 2.0 stereo mix is slightly more subdued, but perfectly serviceable. Dialog (when there is any) is not that hot, (as per the source) but discernible enough, while the soundtrack - in all its creepy/goofy glory - sounds great. You'll have the love theme stuck in your head for days.
Cult Epics serves up a decent slate of extras, many of which appeared on a previously released, now out-of-print, DVD. You get a new Introduction by Jorg Buttgereit, presented before the Grindhouse version of the movie, and a new 40-minute Q&A with Buttgereit at the American Cinemathique, both from 2013. The Q&A covers some similar ground as covered in other extras here, but is quite entertaining, especially as far as Buttgereit's bemusement regarding the longevity of his film is concerned. A previously released Commentary Track with Buttgereit and co-author Franz Rodenkirchen, in English, is sometimes quite amusing, sometimes a little quiet, and always informative about low-budget filmmaking and the particular trials of this production. The Making of Nekromantik (previously released) delivers 12 minutes of BTS footage and stills, mixed with cast and crew interviews in English. A slightly newer, also previously released Nekromantik Featurette, shows Buttgereit sitting at an editing suite, discussing the film, with some of the same BTS footage.
Additionally, you get a Still Photo Gallery, and Trailers for Nekromantik, Nekromantik 2, Der Todesking, Schramm and Hot Love. The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is included on the Blu-ray disc to torment you with its lovely-creepy vibe, as well. The 29-minute short film Hot Love (1985) is presented for the first time, and includes its own 3-minute Featurette and a Commentary Track from Buttgereit. It's similarly nutso, weird and gross. Lastly, enjoy two Postcards that you'd never be able to send through the mail!
Wow. Nekromantik isn't for everybody, even if you've been slaving in the trenches of extreme horror for as long as I have. (Don't ask how long.) Is a movie about sex with the dead, in all its slimy glory, the right thing for your video library? With this new and shiny transfer, plus a few never-before-seen extras, (not to mention previously released extras you won't get unless you plunk down big dollars for the out-of-print DVD) the answer is most definitely yes. That is, if you see the humor in a man jilted by his girlfriend in favor of a cadaver. Highly Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke