• Nekromantik

    Released by: Cult Epics
    Released on: October 7th, 2014.
    Director: Jörg Buttgereit
    Cast: Daktari Lorenz, Beatrice Manowski, Harald Lundt
    Year: 1988
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Jörg Buttgereit who co-wrote with Franz Rodenkirchen, 1988’s Nekromantik is a seventy-one minute sickie that follows the story of a man named Rob (Daktari Lorenz, who also created the film’s fantastic score) who, along with a few co-workers, carves out a meager living as a street cleaner who deals in the aftermaths of grisly car accidents. He lives with his girlfriend, Betty (Beatrice Manowski), and they share a morbid fascination, obsession even, with death that borders on the sexual.

    One day Rob decides to break down that border and make it happen so he brings home a corpse for one of the grisliest three-ways you can imagine. It goes off and they get off but soon enough, Rob gets canned and he and Betty split up. Making matters worse for him, she takes off with the corpse. Unable to move on or get over his obsession, he begins the search for a new partner to indulge his kink, be it an unsuspecting prostitute or someone else entirely. This won’t end well for anyone… least of all Rob’s cat.

    Nekromantik may be primitive by pretty much anyone’s standards but it wears its low budget on its sleeve like a badge of honor. What the film lacks in technical panache it compensates for in spades with effectively disgusting practical effects, some remarkable gore and a whole lot of corpse licking. The movie does feature one particularly nasty scene of actual animal violence involving the skinning of a rabbit (shot on a farm where it would have happened anyway… but that doesn’t make it any less unpleasant), so some may shy away from the film for that reason if the necrophilia hasn’t already set off a few warning bells. Behind all of this, however, is a very obvious sense of twisted, pitch black humor that’s hard to ignore and very much of what happens in Nekromantik is so absurd that you can’t help but be in on the joke.

    The performances here are committed. Daktari Lorenz has this sort of strange, somber tone to him as Rob that keeps us interested in him and once Betty leaves him, his turn as the male lead becomes increasingly more desperate and manic as his search to replace what he had with her sees him take one wrong turn after the next. Beatrice Manowski (credited in the film as Beatrice M.) is sexy enough that we have no problem understanding why Rob would want to be with her and she too is bold and fearless in front of the camera, particularly in that infamous three-way scene in which she literally fucks the corpse that Rob has brought home to her the same way a goofy dog brings you a stuffed animal to play with. There really is that sense of naiveté to Rob’s actions that make the taboo shattering reality of what he’s doing seem almost like an afterthought.

    All of this is fairly well shot, though there are definitely parts of the movie where the crew’s inexperience with lighting comes into play (the opening scene is infamously dark). Lorenz’s score for the film (available on its own on this release as an alternate audio option) is actually very effective and quite impressive. This isn’t ever a film that should earn mainstream appeal but for those with an appreciation for twisted horror and humor, Nekromantik is a minor masterpiece of German underground cinema.


    Nekromantik debuts on Blu-ray from Cult Epics transferred in AVC encoded 1080p high definition from the original 8mm negative in its original 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio. There’s some mild print damage throughout but this scruffy little production definitely does benefit from the high definition upgrade it receives here. While you can’t expect it to offer the same amount of detail as 16mm or 35mm productions and should in turn expect some softness due to the elements used, there’s definitely better depth, texture and detail here than was present on the previous DVD release from long, gone Barrel Entertainment that came out years ago. Colors are a tiny bit on the dark side but otherwise well reproduced – this probably looks about as good as realistically possible without a frame by frame clean up job.

    Audio is presented in your choice of Dolby Digital 2.0 or Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, both tracks in the film’s native German language with optional English subtitles. A lossless 2.0 track would have been ideal but that didn’t happen. The 5.1 mix spreads things out a bit as you’d expect, mostly just the score and a few effects here and there, while keeping the dialogue up front. Both tracks are well balanced and pretty clean.

    Extras on the disc are pretty plentiful, starting with what Cult Epics are calling a ‘Grindhouse Version’ which is literally a new high definition transfer taken from the theatrical 35mm print with German Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. This transfer is definitely a lot more worn and tattered than the version taken from the negative but, as Buttgereit points out in his introduction to this version, it does closer replicate what the original theatrical viewing experience would have been like. While not without its charm, the movie is easier to appreciate in the version taken from the negative but this definitely has a grittier, dirtier, filthier feel to it.

    Carried over from the aforementioned DVD release is the audio commentary by Jörg Buttgereit and Franz Rodenkirchen. This is a fun track, the two offer up plenty of interesting stories from the set and talk about where some of the ideas came from but also make some amusing quips about the director’s cameo in the film, the practical effects work and the effectiveness thereof, and about how and why the movie turned out the way it did and was made with the people involved in it. They also address the animal violence and, of course, the film’s infamous finale. The twelve minute long The Making Of Nekromantik featurette from the old DVD release is here too and it’s worth revisiting.

    New to this disc is an extensive forty minute Q&A session that was conducted with Buttgereit at a screening of the film that took place at The American Cinematheque in 2013. This repeats some of the details relayed in the commentary track but it’s a bit more fun to get to see the director as well as hear him as he talks about the origin of the picture, distribution quirks and problems, trying to find an actual, honest-to-God necrophiliac and working on the picture with a small cast and crew of friends. Also new to the disc is a nine minute Nekromantik Featurette, a vintage piece that sees a very young Buttgereit hard at work editing the picture as he talks about censorship issues and why this film exists in the first place. Some amusing clips from the film are featured here to accentuate his points.

    Cult Epics have also included Buttgereit’s half hour minute long short film from 1985, Hot Love, released in North American for the first time on this disc and it’s available with an optional commentary from the filmmaker. The plot of this one follows a young man (Daktari Lorenz) who meets and then falls in love with young woman. When he catches her with another man (Jörg Buttgereit) things get bad quickly and through a series of twisted circumstances she gets impregnated after a rape and gives birth to… something. It all goes downhill from there. It’s a pretty messed up little movie and while it’s rudimentary in nature and at times a bit amateurish in its production values, its inclusion here is very welcome. It definitely lets you see where the director’s work was headed in the not too distant future and if you appreciate the dark humor that runs throughout most of his films, you’ll like enjoy seeing this. A quick four minute featurette on the making of this short is also included on the disc, shot at a theatrical screening.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is an extensive still gallery of behind the scenes and production photos, an isolated score option, trailers for Nekromantik, Nekromantik 2, Schramm, Hot Love, and Der Tödesking, menus and chapter selection. All of this is housed inside a slipcover and included inside the Blu-ray case along with the disc is a pair of postcards relating to the film.

    The Final Word:

    Nekromantik is every bit as nasty as its reputation would have you believe, but it’s also perversely hilarious and quite bold. What Buttgereit’s most notorious film lacks in subtlety it makes up for with wonderfully disgusting special effects and a shock ending that you’ll never forget. Cult Epics have really rolled out the red carpet for the film’s Blu-ray debut, offering it up in a considerably improved transfer over the last DVD release and with scores of extras too. Absolutely not a movie for all tastes, but for those who appreciate the picture, this is a very strong release.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps (some of which are completely spoilery and absolutely not safe for work) from the negative transfer!

    And some caps from the 35mm transfer!

    And while we’re at it, some caps from Hot Love!