Sep 10, 2014

Necrophobia (1995)

Unless you count the grotesque avant-garde works of Frans Zwartjes (Visual Training, Pentimento), Paul Verhoeven’s Catholic-tinged genre-hybrid arthouse work The Fourth Man (1983) aka De vierde man, and/or South African auteur Aryan Kaganof's experimental quasi-documentary Ten Monologues from the Lives of the Serial Killers (1994), there are not really that many notable Dutch horror flicks. Personally, I have never really found classic Dutch horror films like Dick Maas' De Lift (1983) and Amsterdamned (1988), and Rudolf van den Berg's The Johnsons (1993) to be particularly interesting, not to mention the fact that all of these films are cross-genre works and surely not examples of pure unadulterated horror cinema. While not exactly an unsung masterpiece and only vaguely artsy fartsy, the delightfully debasing 60-minute flick Necrophobia (1995) co-directed by Frank van Geloven and Edwin Visser is a rare notable example of where Dutch filmmakers who clearly love the horror genre managed to assemble something strikingly sick and memorably aesthetically aberrant. Indeed, the closest thing to a Dutch Nekromantik, albeit with shades of both classic and not-so-classic works like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), The Toolbox Murders (1978), The Evil Dead (1981), Lucker the Necrophagous (1985), and Cemetery Man (1994) aka Dellamorte Dellamore, van Geloven and Visser’s so-called “psychological horror” film is delightfully depraved celluloid trash with marginal class that reminded me why I am and will always be a horror fan, even if I think about 99% of what the genre has to offer is worthless and innately inane garbage. Although somewhat amateurish and featuring mostly sterile student film style acting performances and not exactly the most attractive of Dutch actors, Necrophobia also features striking editing, genuine shocks, demented dream-sequences, sister-on-sister car chases and sororicide, pale female corpses sporting strap-on dildos and—arguably most importantly—necrophilia. Of course, like many Dutch films, the work also features dark dry humor, nihilistic undertones, and a certain biting cynicism that one can usually expect from cinematic works from the small Germanic lowland country. Like Jörg Buttgereit’s Nekromantik 2 (1991), Necrophobia is notable for featuring an unhinged female necrophile, albeit one who will fuck both male and female corpses so long as a strap-on dildo is mounted on said corpse before she mounts it.  Also, like Nekromantik 2, the film features a weak, goofy, and gawky male protagonist who finds himself the unwitting prey of a nasty brunette Nordic babe with a fiercely foul fetish for newly rotting flesh. A micro horror flick made for horror fans by horror fans, especially those with a special taste for corpse-fucking art, Necrophobia is another great example as to why cadaver-humping and dark humor go together like peas and carrots, as well as piss and shit.

Like many Dutchmen, Mark Embrechts (Martijn Oversteegen) is a rather blunt and leisurely fellow who begins Necrophobia by remarking via off-screen narration regarding his loathing of running and his love of his wife and dog: “They say running is good for your physical condition. That’s nonsense. The only effect it has on me is that I’m sweating like a pig.  The ones having fun are Boris and Rebecca, he always does when I run around. Anyone who wants to keep such a beautiful girls has to stay fit.” Unfortunately for Mark, his life is going to be turned upside down when his wife Rebecca (Grietje Besteman) is tragically killed after she is run over by a less than prole-like pansy wimp driving a large truck that he clearly was not meant to drive.  Mark is so traumatized by his wife’s death that he has his friend watch his dog Boris for him while he attempts in vain to grieve. As Mark contemplates to himself while at his wife’s funeral, “Sometimes life grabs you by the balls…and all you can do is swallow and continue. But I’m not ready to swallow yet.” At the funeral, Mark also notices two attractive young women, and one of them, a seemingly mentally perturbed chick named Colette (Gerry Verhoeven), will soon become the widower’s rebound lover, though it will ultimately have gruesome consequences. Meanwhile, a cloaked individual digs up Mark’s wife Rebecca’s freshly buried corpse, brings it back to a fog-filled torture chamber adorned with corpses in various states of decay hanging from meat-hooks, straps a strap-on dildo on the cold cadaver's pussy, and begins riding the pseudo-phallus on the corpse. Of course, Mark will soon get very personal with the defiler of his beloved wife’s corpse.

Not taking the senseless unexpected death of his wifey very well, Mark contemplates suicide and even attempts to slit his wrist with a seemingly dull bread knife, but he pussies out the last second. Of course, Mark is somewhat cheered up when he bumps into cemetery girl Colette at the local graveyard where his wife was recently buried, as the young lady asks him out on a date, which he naturally obliges, though he naturally has mixed feelings about the situation as he still loves his belated spouse. That night, a seemingly hysterical young woman wearing a horrid wig named Martha Morbeck—the other young woman that the widower spotted at his spouse's funeral—comes by Mark’s home to warn him to stay away from Colette by making the seemingly far-fetched claim that she will put him and his wife’s life in danger, even if the latter is already dead. After Mark rudely kicks her out of his humble abode, Martha hits the road and is soon involved in a car chase with Colette, who ultimately shoots her in the shoulder before running her off the road. Martha eventually wakes up in the necrophile’s torture chamber and is soon killed by a chainsaw-wielding Colette, who is also sporting a featureless white mask.  Indeed, Colette is the necrophile, though it is not initially apparent why she prefers fucking female corpses with strap-ons as opposed to male corpses with real rotten cocks. When Mark finally goes to Colette’s house for a dinner date, he asks his new love interest about Martha. Colette reveals that Martha is, in fact, her sister and that she fell in love with the same man as her, thus resulting in a bitter rivalry between the two siblings. Indeed, Colette was married to a man named David that died from a heart attack the previous year and Martha has apparently attempted to wage a “crusade” against her ever since. When Mark and Colette have sex, the latter has a traumatic flashback regarding how her husband died of a heart attack while they were having bondage-based sex and she was unable to escape from the rotting corpse of her dead beau because she was tied up.  Indeed, Colette had a truly transcendent carnal session with her belated boy toy, which ultimately caused her to develop a softspot for rotting flesh.

Needless to say, Mark leaves shortly after the rather awkward sex session, but not long after he gets back to his home, Colette abruptly arrives, hits him over the head with a mallet, and brings him back to her corpse-fucking torture chamber, where the somewhat pathetic protagonist wakes up naked with a large strap-on dildo attached to his seemingly brittle body. While Colette soon attempts to kill Mark with a chainsaw, the widower manages to disable her weapon and she is soon shot dead by her curiously crazed psychiatrist Dr. Bernhardt (Rutger Weemhoff). As Dr. Bernhardt reveals to Mark, he is the one who got Colette hooked on corpse-fucking in the first place. Indeed, on top of suffering the distinct trauma of her husband dying on top of her during S&M-fueled sex, Colette was trapped under her postmortem hubby’s corpse for a week before anyone found her, thus leading to posttraumatic stress of the rather perturbing meta-perversion-inflicting sort. As it turns out, it was Dr. Bernhardt's idea to get Colette to “relive” the experience of necrophilia and he even helped her dig up the corpses. Naturally, Mark must die since he knows of Dr. Bernhardt's dubious relationship with Colette regarding grave-robbing and corpse-based carnality. While Mark manages to kill Dr. Bernhardt by stabbing him in the throat with a meat-hook, the doctor manages to shoot him in the stomach and genitals with a sawed-off shotgun just before he drops dead. As he dies, Mark thinks to himself, “Sometimes life grabs you by the balls. Literally. Thank god it’s over.” In a twist ending, it is revealed that Colette has survived the gunshot wound and she wants to fuck Mark, who says to himself while dying, “over my dead body.”

Undoubtedly, what sets Necrophobia apart from similarly themed America films is that, aside from featuring corpse-fucking, it is undying in its relentless cynicism, pessimism, and misanthropy to the point where the protagonist is killed and even has his balls blown off. Indeed, even the death of the lead’s wife is depicted in a totally unnervingly nihilistic fashion, as the woman is depicted twitching spastically as she succumbs to her fatal injuries.  Of course, gorehounds will also probably be sad to know that, unlike Buttgereit’s Nekromantik films, the necrophilia scenes in the film are not depicted in graphic detail, but are more implied than anything. Indeed, while the American influence on the film is blatantly obvious to the point of almost seeming like parody, van Geloven and Visser’s work is decidedly Dutch in character, as it spares no ones feelings, never wallows in sentimentality, and prides itself on being pathologically pessimistic and absurdly anti-romantic.  Somewhat notably, the two directors of the flick would collaborate on one more film together—the somewhat popular Dutch-Belgian coproduction Slaughter Night (2006) aka Sl8n8—before Visser himself became a corpse after he died unexpectedly of a heart attack on August 26, 2012 while in Crete, Greece. While not exactly a masterpiece of arthouse cinema, Necrophobia is certainly an underrated and overlooked masterpiece of Dutch horror, which may not say much considering the sorry state of the genre in the Netherlands, but considering it is the same tiny nation that produced cine-magician Frans Zwartjes—a master of the aesthetically grotesque and macabre—it also says a lot. Also, while not the greatest film that the totally taboo subgenre has to offer, Necrophobia will certainly appeal to necro-cinephiles who enjoy similarly themed works like Joe D'Amato's Beyond the Darkness (1979) aka Buio Omega, Buttgereit’s Nekromantik series, Nacho Cerdà’s Aftermath (1994), and Philippe Barassat's Le nécrophile (2004).  Of course, I would not recommend the film to the necrophobic.

-Ty E

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