Though now regarded as an amateurish cult classic among horror die-hards, “Nekromantik 2” explores themes taboo enough to get it seized by authorities in Munich 12 days after its release– an action that had no precedent in Germany since the Nazi era. While fascinating and peerless in its subject matter, the West German art house horror films are not ones you can un-see.
The Jörg Buttgereit-directed original came out in 1987 and follows the tragic Rob Schmadtke, who works for a company that specializes in cleaning up dead bodies from public areas– usually car accidents. This gives him the ideal opportunity to practice his hobby of necrophilia. He brings home corpses to his apartment, where he and his girlfriend have romantic relations with them. But after Rob loses his job and his girlfriend leaves him, he spirals into a sadistic, surreal depression that results in (spoiler alert) him receiving sexual gratification while committing suicide.
Released four years later by the same director, “Nekromantik 2” treads the same narrative territory. The previous film ended with a female grave digger, dressed in stockings and high heels, digging up Rob’s body. In the sequel, we get to know the grave-digger, Monika (pictured above), who ironically is also a necrophiliac. Thus, the story comes full circle.
According to Mondo Digital, “Nekromantik 2” became an instant word-of-mouth sensation in the horror community. After word of its legal troubles began spreading, it became a popular swap item at conventions. Film Threat issued a VHS that became an eye-catching fixture at more adventurous video stores.
The 2015 blu ray release (pictured right) includes a very brief introduction to the film by the director, who refers to the film as a romance rather than a horror movie.
But because much of the aforementioned romance occurs between Monika and a dead body, it’s difficult to accept the “romance” label in its pure form, especially with the sequel’s graphic gore and dread. Not to mention the reference to George Romero’s zombie series in Nekromantik’s tagline: “Return of the loving dead.” Also, both films feature tedious clips of animals being dissected– a rabbit in the first and a seal in the second; both of which are very explicitly used to create shock.
Like the original, the lead character struggles with her identity as necrophiliac. Although it is revealed that Monika does network with other necrophiliacs, she outwardly displays signs of shame. It’s unsettlingly easy to empathize with her character, as she genuinely perceives the corpse of Rob as her lover. In this regard, Buttgereit’s shocking sequel is, at its core, a film about a love triangle. Like the living version of Rob in the original, Monika wears her emotions on her sleeves.
Jörg Buttgereit is the only person in Germany who manages to dedicate himself to these darkest of subjects with this much charm.
-Christian Keßler, film critic
“Nekromantik 2” aims for artistic and is occasionally successful. Monika’s struggle to reject her taboo instincts for a more widely-tolerated arrangement with a live human named Mark is actually quite tender. In the most memorable scene, aside from the shocking “climax” (sorry, had to), she figuratively breaks up with Rob, by tearfully sawing his body into pieces and disposing of it. Although she does decide to keep a few select body parts including his head and one select organ.
Ultimately, “Nekromantik 2” provides much more melancholy complexity than the original. At its core, both “Nekromantik” films are about a lonely protagonist’s quest for relief from their unthinkable lust. For all its blood, gore and violence, these splatter flicks have a lot to say about the shock value of necrophilia in art and our tolerance for violence in media. “Nekromantik 2” is the most intriguing, gritty and intimate horror movie that I recommend you never watch.
“Nekromantik 2” is available on DVD, blu ray and digital download here on Amazon; and the original here. And be sure to check out the other entries in the Horror Sequel Marathon right here on My Vinyl Muse!