NEKROMANTIK 2 (1991) Blu-ray
Director: Jorg Buttgereit
Cult Epics

Cult Epics follows up their limited edition Blu-ray of Jorg Buttgereit's NEKROMANTIK with its slightly more obscure sequel in high definition (and even more limited).

Having read of the exploits of necrophiliac and murderer Rob Schmedke (Daktari Lorenz) and his subsequent suicide, lonely nurse Monika (Monika M., SCHRAMM) digs up his corpse and takes him back home. Unfortunately, Monika lacks the stomach to realize her fleshly desires for Rob's putrefying corpse and decides that perhaps they are better off as friends (she meticulously cleans him up and takes Polaroids with him). She seems to find a healthier alternative in Mark (Mark Reeder, DIE TODESKING), an actor who dubs pornographic films into German, even though she does not let him move while they are having sex. Mark is so besotted with Monika that, even after discovering Rob's severed penis in the fridge, he indulges her fetishes by "playing dead" and letting her take photographs of him suspended from the ceiling upside down like a slab of meat. Mark becomes increasingly disturbed by his girlfriend's "perverse" nature, but it is ultimately up to Monika to choose between the living and "the loving dead".

Buttgereit's artier follow-up to NEKROMANTIK focuses a bit more on love than lust, exploring the loneliness and consuming lust of less pathetic and more fetching protagonist. The film's icky set-pieces is not so much restrained as parceled out (and the effects more accomplished), saving the splatter for the finale which is as memorable as that of the first film. Unfortunately, the film drags interminably (at a comparatively epic one hundred and two minutes), quashing whatever momentum it had first with the film-within-a-film "Mon Dejeuner avec Vera" – a deliberately pretentious art film that unfortunately does not devolve into a slasher (unlike the film-within-a-film "Vera" from the original) – and then by an eight minute montage of the couple frolicking at an amusement park, a scene of Mark getting drunk at a bar played for comic relief, as well as a not-unpleasant musical interlude performed by Monika M. In place of Rob's recurring farmyard memory of a rabbit skinning is the much more revolting video of the butchering of a seal carcass which makes Monika seem less sympathetic and more perverse than Rob (which is just as well given the climax, but it's still more repellent than anything Buttgereit could simulate). The main plot is rather abruptly handled amidst all of the arty padding with no true emotional hook (although the film is reportedly looked upon more favorably by women's groups than gore hounds). Beatrice Manowski appears briefly as Robert's ex Betty who arrives too late to discover Rob's grave has already been pilfered (although she seems to be acquainted with Monika later on).

Unlike the first film which was shot in 8mm and blown up to 16mm and then to 35mm (Cult Epics' Blu-ray of the first film featured an HD transfer direct from the 8mm negatives and another transfer from 35mm), NEKROMANTIK 2 was shot in 16mm and not only looks technically slicker but also stylistically evolved over the first film. More thought has also gone into wardrobe and art direction, allowing for more striking compositions. That said, producer/cinematographer Manfred Jelinski's photography is often as self-indulgent as the direction with "neat" angles and camera movements (from DIY camera rigs), and the scoring is a distractingly uneven compilation of cues from NEKROMANTIK composers Lorenz and Hermann Kopp, as well as actors Monika M. and Reeder (and some guy named "John Boy Walton").

NEKROMANTIK 2 first appeared on these shores via Film Threat's VHS release, available in the back pages of various fanzines and in some of the more adventurous video stores. Barrel Entertainment's long out-of-print DVD was fully-featured with audio commentary, making-of, and various shorts (the first 20,000 copies came with a soundtrack CD). Cult Epics' Blu-ray features a 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC pillar-boxed 1.33:1 transfer looks crisper, more colorful, and generally less grainy except for underexposed shots and parts of the frame (the colorist decided against crushing the blacks so they are a bit noisier) than the first film thanks to the greater resolution of the film gauge with only the splices during a few shot changes, one or two reel changes, and a spec here and there as the noticeable damage. Audio is once again lossy, but the mono mix (in Dolby Digital 2.0) is not particularly vibrant in sound design apart from the score, and the stereo and 5.1 remixes are welcome but can only do so much within the constraints of the original mix components (I found the stereo mix most agreeable). The English subtitles are optional and easy to read; however, they do not translate Monika M.'s musical number. The extras are not quite as extensive as Cult Epics' package for the first film, but they are still quite generous and comprehensive.

The film can also be viewed accompanied by a new introduction by Buttgereit (1:35) as well as a light-hearted English-language audio commentary by Buttgereit (the menu misspells the director's surname as "Buttgerei"), producer Manfred Jelinski, co-author Franz Rodenkirchen, and actors Monika M. and Mark Reeder from 2001 carried over from the DVD editions. They discuss the frustrating attempts at casting the lead role before discovering Monika M. at a horror film festival two weeks before filming was to commence. Monika M. discusses the necrophiliac scenes and interacting with the corpse while Reeder, a British man who owned a bar in Berlin at the time, reflects on the porno dubbing scenes and his amusement at the shocked reactions of people with whom he has watched the film. Monika M. and Reeder point out their musical contributions while Buttgereit, Jelinski, and Rodenkirchen discuss not only filming on location guerilla-style but also filming in both West and East Germany shortly after the wall came down. When the film was banned, they got a film historian to testify that it was art because it depicted the fading East German Republic, and they continue to discuss the banning and seizure of the film throughout. They also elucidate all the multiple roles the cast and crew played before and behind the camera, and note that the brighter DVD image spoils the blood effects.

"The Making of Nekromantik 2" (26:34) is a montage of 8mm behind the scenes footage that also includes footage of the actor being cast in the nude (Reeder also shows more in the behind the scenes footage than he probably intended) for the corpse sculpture puking up his guts. The making-of was available on the Barrel DVD with either a radio interview with Buttgereit and Rodenkirchen or an audio commentary with Buttgereit, Rodenkirchen, and Monika M. while the Blu-ray features only the latter. Buttgereit talks about making the film from a woman's point of view after interviewing a female nercrophiliac (as well as the chance to redo the concept with more filmmaking experience under his belt) while Monika M. recalls how she was discovered by Rodenkirchen at a horror film festival and discusses how she feels about feminist interpretations. We also get a look at some of the other effects the artists were doing for a music video, the construction of which Buttgereit agreed to film if he could use it in his documentary CORPSE-FUCKING ART.

The selection of outtakes (11:02) are silent and of variable interest with nothing particularly juicy (the unrestored condition of the footage probably gives one an idea of what the 16mm negatives looked like before the remastering). Besides an extensive photo gallery (13:28) and the film's trailer (1:08), the disc also includes trailers for Buttgereit's NEKROMANTIK, TODESKING, SCHRAMM, and HOT LOVE. Only one Buttgereit short film is included: "A Moment of Silence at the Grave of Ed Gein" short film (2:13) in which Buttgereit visits the Plainfield, Wisconsin cemetery where Gein was buried and where he dug up some of his corpses (don’t expect anything transgressive). Like the first disc, the film's complete soundtrack is available in a single chapter (57:28), but the disc also includes a live performance (47:08) as well as a 2011 "20th Anniversary Live Concert" performed by Monika M. and friends (11:43) – highlights from the live soundtrack performance with video – and the music video "Half Girl - Lemmy, I'm a Feminist" (3:07). The 5,000 copy limited edition – half of the limited run for the first film – comes with a slipcover and a limited edition postcard-sized photograph and a piece of artwork in the same dimensions. (Eric Cotenas)