Nekromantik (1988) | Arrow exhumes Jörg Buttgereit’s taboo-breaking DIY shocker for a restored Blu-ray release
‘Some of this film may be seen as offensive and shouldn’t be shown to minors!!!’
Rob (Daktari Lorenz), an employee of a company in Berlin that cleans up after grisly accidents, takes advantage of his profession to indulge in his chosen hobby – the collection of body parts. Then, one day, Rob brings home a decomposing corpse, much to the delight of his necrophile girlfriend Betty (Beatrice M). There follows a twisted love triangle that can only end in bleak despair…
‘It seemed we managed to make some kind of art with Nekromantik. Funny, eh! Corpse-fucking art! (Jörg Buttgereit)
Back in the late-1980s, the taboo-breaking West German horror Nekromantik from newcomer Jörg Buttgereit was the film that horror hounds had to sniff out. The sick promise of scenes of a couple having full-on trippy sex with a decomposing corpse was just too good to resist. Plus, there was that explicit movie poster of a rotting cadaver fondling the breasts of a naked and aroused pinup babe which became a must-get T-shirt design.
Although it got scant release after its initial underground screenings in its native Berlin and in London – where its cult credentials were sealed at the Scala’s legendary Shock Around the Clock movie marathon in 1988, it ended up becoming a sought after find on VHS in the early 1990s. Banned in my native Australia and in Ontario, Canada were I was living at the time, I ended up tracking it down at my favourite video shop, Mondo Kim’s in Manhattan’s East Village in 1992.
Watching Buttgereit’s graphic, grainy no budget love story the first-time round was a revolutionary experience, and the perfect antidote to the straight-to-video horrors that were coming out at the time. Dark, transgressive and poking two fingers at authority, this meditation on lost love and the finality of death spoke to my punk, goth alternative sensibilities. And that final scene of Rob having an orgasm over his own suicide was world’s away from Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe Price Gothic horrors that I grew up on – especially Tales of Terror which vaguely touched on necrophilia.
Buttgereit became my new horror hero and an inspiration to experimental Super 8 filmmakers like myself (I was involved in Toronto’s queercore scene at the time); and also living proof that you could make a horror with style, inspiration and creativity with very little money, and using just home movie film stock (Bruce LaBruce was another).
After Nekromantik, I desperately needed another Buttgereit fix, so it was back to Kim’s to pick up Nekromantik 2 (which was way more disturbing) and der Todesking (seven sick shorts stitched together), while the 1994 book Sex Murder Art: Films of Jörg Buttgereit, by David Kerekes (who called the film ‘Bad taste with a straight face’), was an indispensable guide through Buttgereit’s death-obsessed oeuvre.
It’s been 10 years since I last watched Nekromantik (on my prized VHS copy), but I was excited to learn that Arrow was restoring it for a new generation of cult film fans. And boy, have they gone to town (just look at the extras), plus there’s the Romance is Dead booklet, which has an impressive collection of essays that celebrate Buttgereit’s visceral vision by delving into the political and intellectual meanings behind the graphic images, involving oral and penetrative sex (including a metal pipe dildo), rape, rabbit skinning (which is real), cat throwing (which is not) and THAT suicide, to elevate the director’s ‘little dirty secret’ (as Alan Jones calls it in the documentary) to bona fide modern cinema classic.
For me, Nekromantik will always be one of those ‘you had to be there’ moments. But it’s been a nostalgic trip to revisit the film now that it has been all cleaned up. It still has the power to shock, while also being a melancholy romance laced with the blackest of humour, which is greatly heightened by the tinkly sythn soundtrack (performed by star Daktari Lorenz and musicians John Boy Walton and Hermann Kopp). But it’s also very much of its time and that’s exactly how it should be.
THE ARROW RELEASE
The Arrow Video limited edition (3000 copies) of Nekromantik includes the Blu-ray, DVD and CD soundtrack on three discs, and comes with a set of five exclusive postcard images and the 100-page film criticism book. The new artwork, by Gilles Vranckx is certainly impressive, but the decision not to use the original 1980s artwork on the cover has come under fire by some dedicated fans.
Included alongside the director-approved feature are two shorts Hot Love (1985, 29min), which looks like a trial run for Nekromantik with its tale about the agony of romantic rejection; and Horror Heaven (1984, 23min), in which Buttgereit surreally interprets great moments from the annuals of horror moviedom. I’d never seen these before, so they were a real bonus. There’s also a host of archival content (which made me very nostalgic), galleries and music videos (another treat), and the new documentary, Morbid Fascination: The Nekromantik Legacy, which features lots of recognisable faces from the UK horror scene. Plus, there’s a newly recorded interview with Buttgereit, an introduction to the film and an audio commentary with both himself and his co-writer Franz Rodenkirchen. To top it all off, the highly-collectable surrealist Nekromantik comic has been reproduced in its entirety. So, is this limited edition box-set worth getting? Hell yeah! Will I be discarding my old VHS copies (certainly not). But this makes for covetable addition to my Buttgereit collection. Can we have Schramm next please Arrow?
Posted on December 20, 2014, in Cult classic, Cult Film News, Horror, Must See, Must-See and tagged Arrow Films & Video, Arrow Video, Beatrice M, Cult classic, Daktari Lorenz, David Kerekes, Gilles Vranckx, Horror, Must See, Nekromantik, Queercore, Scala cinema, Sex Murder Art: Films of Jörg Buttgereit, Shock Around the Clock, Shock cinema, Shock Xpress. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.