When I was younger, I had a bit more of a creative streak than I do now. I’ve dabbled in ceramics, photography, metallurgy, and poster making. In something like 2007, I made this awesome collage of horror movie posters that I copied out of a movie poster book I bought in Italy. When I made the patchwork collection of horror movies, it was in many ways, aspirational. It did contain cutouts from posters of movies I had already seen, like Nosferatu, Suspiria, and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but it also featured a number of movies I hadn’t yet seen: Cannibal Holocaust, Oni Baba, Gore Gore Girls.
Finally, after a decade and a half, I think I have completed the aspiration of my horror movie board. Back in June, when filmgoers were busy enjoying Barbenheimer in the theaters, I watched Nekromantik, a bizarre piece of West German insanity from the ‘80s that opens with a woman peeing on the side of a road. And that’s just where the craziness begins.
With that opening in mind, I want to be clear that this column is going to be covering some pretty vile stuff. If you aren’t interested in one of the most disgusting movies you’ll ever see, then I would steer clear of the next few pages this month. For the rest of you fucking sickos, let’s talk Nekromantik, starting with content warning number one:
Nekromantik contains video of the slaughtering of a rabbit. Not in any sort of abusive nature: as far as I can tell (to be clear, I have never slaughtered anything) this is footage of a legitimate harvesting of a rabbit for a meal. It’s not pleasant, but it is a real part of how human carnivores get their food. Yes, this is a cute bunny, but it’s not different (and likely more humane) than the chicken, cows, and pigs we regularly eat in the US. However, the slaughter is then crosscut with the vivisection of a human corpse, which although clearly fake, constructs a defined perspective for the rest of the film, where the more one thing becomes more real, the other more stylized.
Now, for content warning number two: our presumptive heroes have a threesome with a decomposed corpse. Somehow, this taboo act seems less offensive to me than the slaughtering of a rabbit. I will admit though that the scene does feel overwrought with shots of the skeleton rubbing nipples with our heroes over a score worthy of Angelo Badalamenti. The director, Jörg Buttgereit, perfects this bizarre scene with a jump cut to the searing of a steak, really doubling down on the meatiness of the whole situation. Truly, a cut on action only defeated by the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Let’s just go ahead and dispense with content warning number three: our protagonist kills a cat, but unlike the bunny, this murder is not real. I mean, at least I hope not. But the scene is brutal and the evisceration of the corpse and bathing in its blood is certainly a choice.
Now, we come to our fourth: we see the crew play a little toss with a human skull. This scene is where I changed my mind about this movie. Up until now, I was thinking, “What a fucked up, bizarre horror film! Only some crazy person out of West Germany in the 80s could come up with something this depraved.” Once the head hacky-sack started, I realized this is a comedy. This is much closer to Braindead than Halloween, and this was a trick I never saw coming when I put it on. I’m not sure there is any other way to comprehend a woman making a corpse go down on her. Guess I probably should have given a fifth content warning there, but at this point it felt a little absurd.
Over the rest of the film, we continue to see murders, more necrophilia, and finally the suicide of our hero as he has one final orgasm. Out of all of this though, I was most upset by the scene in a theater where a woman is getting chased down in a slasher film. As they cut around the film goers, we see a man, chain-smoking cigarettes in the back and taking notes. I guess it’s always upsetting when you recognize yourself in a movie, but this was a bit too close to home for me even. Maybe there should have been a content warning here for all the film nerds.
In the end, if Nekromantik is a comedy that is exposing the ghoulishness of the movie viewing public who are busy taking notes, maybe it shouldn’t have been on my collage board of horror movie aspirations in the first place. But looking back, when I think about how it also sat next to Evil Dead, Re-Animator, and Young Frankenstein, a clearer portrait of horror comes into focus. Comedy and horror truly reside next to each other in some off-kilter way, balancing the truly debauched with the truly buffoonish. How else can we understand the value of something as depraved as Nekromantik?
In the final capstone to the film, we see a crucifix over the necrophile’s grave, the seeming end for our tragic hero. That is, until he gets the well-deserved high-heeled boot that shoves a spade in his final resting place, digging him up for one last objectified fuck. Having not seen Barbenheimer yet, I did want to ask, does Barbie fuck a dead guy? Given what I know about history though, it sounds like Oppenheimer definitely did.
Noah Springer is a writer and editor based in St. Louis. You can follow him on Twitter @noahjspringer.