Nekromantik (1987)
By: Mr Intolerance on September 25, 2009  | 
Barrel Entertainment (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 4:3. German DD 1.0. English Subtitles. 75 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Jorg Buttgereit
Starring: Daktari Lorenz, Beatrice M, Harald Lundt, Suza Kohlstedt
Screenplay: Jorg Buttgereit, Franz Rodenkirchen
Country: Germany
External Links
John Waters is quoted on the cover of the DVD as having said about NEKRomantik: "Ground-breakingly gruesome. The first erotic film for necrophiles." That should be enough to let you know what you're in for. - when a fine pervert of the likes of Waters makes a statement as as bald as that, you know you're in for a long and dusty ride...

To me, this is the film that embodies the term "video nasty". It's incredibly squalid, grotesquely vile and definitely guaranteed to offend. That said, it's also riotously hilarious and comically, if rather blackly, gruesome. I guess that you have be of a certain mindset to "get" NEKRomantik. I mean, traditionally, necrophilia is not really a source for entertainment or engagement of the audience (unless, of course, you're a fan of Cannibal Corpse, or your favourite film is A Weekend at Bernie's), and unless you've even vaguely entertained the idea of fucking a horribly decayed corpse, this film may be rather upsetting for you.

Okay, so it's not as polished as the far superior sequel NEKRomantik 2: Return of the Loving Dead (which stars the awesomely, sleazily gorgeous Monica M.), but I think that the amateur-hour approach to the film really aids it's purpose, and helps to make it a superb piece of the gore-hound's canon. At 75 minutes it never outstays its' welcome, and the lush piano score helps to make it a piece of sexploitation gold – a beautiful melding of sound and vision, even if the rather dubious visuals are more than just a little bit on the icky side, and the quasi-Romantic piano score seems a trifle incongruous through its prettiness.

"WARNING: Some of this film should be seen as "grossly" offensive and should not be shown to minors!!!" I have no idea why Buttgereit attached this caveat to his film – unless it was for the sheer H. G. Lewis-style exploitation-style thrill of it all. It couldn't have been because he thought he was going to have a teenage audience grossed out by corpse-fucking. Was he trying to warn a potential audience of horror-nerds? I don't think so. Was he being a carny-style huckster? Yes, I think that's more than likely the case. Imagine if you saw that warning at the start of a low budget film – you'd sit up in your seat toute-de-suite and probably start salivating. I know I would.

Buttgereit's DIY masterpiece stars Daktari Lorenz (who has since gone totally underground) as Rob, a useless schmoe who works for a company (Joe's Streetcleaning Agency – watch for Buttgereit in a cameo as one of Rob's co-workers) who remove dead bodies from crime-scenes (and it's molto bloody, let me tell you – Buttgereit never stints on gore and horribleness). He and his girlfriend Betty (played by uber-bitch Beatrice M, who likes to bathe in blood, Erzebet Bathory-style) use the various dead bits Rob souvenirs from his workaday life as sex-toys (they have one hell of a collection, incidentally), culminating in a threesome with a rotting corpse scored with a beautiful piece of piano music I once used as an intro-tape for a death metal band I used to play in. A menage a trois? You'd better believe it – and with all the trouble and jealousy that goes with such a deal; you'd better believe it all happens here – two members of the menage becoming more dominant, or shall we say making their own power-bloc – two's company; three's an orgy – or a nightmare. It's just kind of creepy in this instance that one of the dominant members of the menage has been dead for a long time.

From the very opening scene (not easily seen by the casual viewer – the lighting and camerawork are pretty indistinct) of a girl, panties pulled down by the side of the road and squatting, pissing on a dead dove, this is a downbeat film. Even at the points where you laugh (the almost beheading of the cemetery caretaker, for example, or the utterly unforgettable end scene), you do so uneasily, wondering where that core of humour sits within you, and whether you can excise it or not. Worse than that, the images of carnality with the corpse Rob souvenirs seem so overtly romantic (mainly due to the score) as to have you sympathising with a fella who likes to dip his wick in dead people – even to the point where he makes his own dead people out of live ones. Okay, so maybe our sympathy dies around then...

Rob, aside from making a hobby of keeping parts from human roadkill he scrapes up for a living, has odd visions of performing autopsies, visions which are interspersed with his memories?fantasies? of carving up small woodland creatures – to whit, bunnies. Human life is relegated to that level, that of vermin. At one point, we watch Rob slice'n'dice a human body intercut with the killing, skinning and eventual disembowelling of Peter Cottontail. It's really not very pleasant in the slightest. Even when you view this film as a comedy, as I do, it's hard to take, mainly due to the fact that rabbits are such inoffensive creatures to city-dwellers such as I – imagine yourself abacinating Bugs Bunny and see what I mean.

Buttgereit likes to throw scenes into his films (the tautly told story of Schramm aside) that would commonly be seen as padding, and his inclusion here of the sequence where a sandal-and-sock-wearing fella gets made into what becomes Rob and Betty's love-doll shows exactly what I mean. The image of the beer-guzzling Aryan neighbour who likes to listen to Wagnerian marching music while stroking his air-rifle is a bizarre one at best, and could have been more economically inserted into the film – the sequence goes on for way too long, in my opinion. Adding to the comedic nature of the film? Sure, but at the risk, like the cinema sequence, of the film's general pacing.

The body is washed up along a river, the JSA get called to clean up the mess, and our homeboy Rob starts to get some nefarious ideas about what he can use it for – namely: fucking. You can almost see the Looney Tunes-style light bulb go on over his head when he thinks it. This leads to the centrepiece of the film – a necrophile's wet-dream, and one I won't spoil for you any more than that. From this point on, the film takes a downwards turn, mood-wise (as if it could get any more bleak) and heads into a black Hell, basically. Yeah, I said before it was a comedy, and I stand by that, but the laughs are really won at a considerable price.

NEKRomantik will get a fully uncut release in Australia when shit sticks to the moon. It's really that simple. The most important scene in the film is the one that would have it banned. I mean, it's beautifully shot, the score is vibrant and vital, and the sequence is one that makes even a heretic like me stand up and applaud – for the sheer chutzpah of having filmed such a gross-out, if for no other reason. I guess that the OFLC probably wouldn't make the same judgement – necrophilia not being high on their list of things to celebrate in films.

Rob and Betty hang their lover on the wall (don't the neighbours smell it?), draining its bodily fluids into dishes, and live their life of domestic bliss – and all goes well until Rob loses his job with the Street-Cleaning Agency. Betty is not best pleased by this – hey- she's living with a loser, in her eyes (he's a nobody, but yet with her proclivities towards corpse-fucking...), and despite Rob's best efforts, she leaves him; what happens to the cat he buys her as a making-up present is not for this review, and needs to be seen to be believed. This leaves poor old Rob in a bit of a pickle – and he doesn't really handle the whole thing terribly well. This leads inevitably to Rob's doing Bad Things, and the ending which, if you've not seen it before, needs to be seen – it's jaw-droppingly awesome, and completely unforgettable.This is the point of the film where your reviewer is telling you to FUCK OFF and watch the film. The final third of NEKRomantik cannot be adequately described without presenting massive spoilers – if you don't see it, you won't get it; but I'll let you know right now – it's horrible. I mean, really indescribable and yet also ludicrously hilarious.

You have been warned.

It's a remarkably well acted film, given its' budget, the inexperience (non-experience, really) of the director and the actors and the general grimy and squalid DIY look and feel of NEKRomantik. The score is also noteworthy – not only for the beautiful piano-laden corpse-fucking music, but the uneasy post-industrial soundscapes that litter its running time. The grinding, haunting, uncomfortable sounds that pepper the films' soundtrack really do add marvellously to its' nasty feel.

As the epigram to the film states: "What lives that does not live from the death of someone else? - V.L. Compton" A fair enough statement given the thrust (no pun intended) of the film. Mind you, it probably intellectualises it a bit too much at the same time. Oh, I'll just reiterate: if you like rabbits, there's one part of NEKRomantik you might want to fast-forward through. It's not as evil, or as long duration-wise, as the bit with the seal in the sequel (you know the part I mean), but still pretty distressing, nevertheless, to those who don't like animal cruelty. Those of you like me who revel in such carnage won't find it distressing at all. I mean, you won't pop a boner, but you'll grasp the idea of what Buttgereit's trying to say – we are no better than the things we kill to eat. Period.
I'd really like to be nice to this film about its video presentation, but that ain't gonna happen. Bad full-frame VHS quality is the best you can hope for (re-mastered as it was from an original negative of Jelinksi's), and at some parts of the film, that would seem to be a pipe-dream. It lacks any kind of clarity or crispness. That actually works in the film's favour, making it seem even more squalid than it already is. By the way, I'm not excusing the film's poor picture quality here, I'm simply stating that if it was in an icy 2.35:1 anamorphic picture, it would lose something of the humidly claustrophobic atmosphere it creates. Sometimes less is more.
Serviceable at best. Sure, I've heard better than this, but given the film's grimy nature, the German mono track with subs is just fine. Anything more would simply not make sense, and would be kind of like gilding a rotting lily.
Extra Features
In a mini-booklet that comes with NEKRomantik, you get, briefly, the thoughts of both the director Jorg Buttgereit, and those of author David Kerekes (one half of the Killing For Culture crew, and editor of Headpress) on the film, many years after its' release – both are worth reading. But it's in the video Extras that the value of this particular release of the film really comes into its' own. To begin with, there's a feature-length commentary track with Buttgereit and co-writer Franz Rodenkircher (one I whole-heartedly recommend that you listen to, if you've any interest in the making of the film), a short film directed by Buttgereit called Horror Heaven, two different featurettes on the making of NEKRomantik (both of which I think you should look at), trailers for some of Buttgereit's other films (NEKRomantik, NEKRomantic2: Return of the Loving Dead, Der Todesking and Schramm), an extraordinary amount of stills from the collection of Buttgereit and producer Manfred Jelinski, and much, much more! Keep an eye out for those Easter Eggs, too.This is one of the best Extras packages I've ever had the privilege to look at. You tend to expect the best from Barrel, and in this instance, they didn't disappoint – as per usual.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Shot cheaply on Super 8, NEKRomantik is a film that completely transcends its budgetary constraints. It absolutely coruscates its audience while making them laugh at the same time. Quite frankly, if you don't own this film, then I'd be questioning why you'd be looking at this review or browsing this website in the first place. Absolutely top-shelf entertainment for the horror-fan – comedy and horror mixed beautifully together, and in such a way that you never actually become jaded to.

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