Back in 2016, Cult Epics released Sex Murder Art: The Films of Jorg Buttgereit, a collection of his four underground horror films, including the necrophilia classics Nekromantik and Nekromantik 2, the death and suicide anthology Der Todesking (The Death King) and the premiere of the serial killer film Schramm on Blu-ray. I had previously seen the Nekromantik films, but never had the pleasure of witnessing Der Todesking and Schramm, so I'm truly grateful to Nico at Cult Epics for providing me with this magnificent box set to review.
Nekromantik tells the story of Rob (Daktari Lorenz) who works at a street-cleaning Agency, and visits roadside accidents to clean up the scene. Incidentally Rob collects the body parts and shares them with his girlfriend Betty (Beatrice M.) When Rob presents a complete corpse taken out of a swamp, the couple have a saucy threesome with it and their love reaches its peak as soon after, Betty develops more feelings towards the corpse and leaves Rob. Unable to satisfy his unusual sexual urges, Rob is pushed to the sick end of his destruction. A memorable and literally "climactic" ending that you won't soon forget.
Jorg Buttgereit's Nekromantik fits into many categories, horror, splatter, exploitation, extreme cinema, but most importantly, it's a film that you certainly can't unsee. On it's surface, the film seems like one made with the sole purpose of disgusting its audience, but with further understanding of the film's creation, one will find that there is much more to this production than all that. Made over the course of two years, before the wall came down in West Berlin, Nekromantik reflects the darker side of social decay and was created as a big middle finger in the face of Germany’s censorship laws.
Of course, I must mention the film's gross out gore effects, which are easily my favorite part of the film. I've always appreciated Buttgereit's ability to create scenes that are truly repulsive, but utterly captivating. I imagine when Nekromantik was first released, viewers could've easily thought that the gruesome sequences were created with real corpses and body parts. Everything looks magnificent in regards to special effects, it's totally sickening and you won't be able to look away. Ironically, the film uses an almost entirely romantic piano soundtrack that accompanies scenes of necrophilia and self-mutilation, this adds to its overall unique appeal
As a whole, most can agree that Nekromantik is by no means a masterpiece, but there are those out there, such as myself, who actually appreciate the film for more than what's seen on its surface. The film is deserving of its long-time fan base and cult following.
Moving on to Buttgereit's next feature, Der Todesking. Made in between Nekromantik and Nekromantik 2, the film features seven stories that center on death and suicide, each taking place on a different day of the week, bookended by the decomposition of a human body.
And here I thought the Nekromantik films were vile and depressing (in a good way, course). Der Todesking will have you questioning your own mortality. You'll bear witness to individuals who are tortuously depressed, insanely homicidal and overly intent (and successful) on ending their own lives in brutal fashion. But much like Nekromantik, you won't be able to look away.
In Nekromantik 2, the gore horror sequel to the 1987 classic. Picking up before the end credits of the first film, the sequel follows Monika (Monika M.), a beautiful necrophiliac who lives alone in Berlin. By day she works as a nurse. By night she prowls through cemeteries while searching for fresh corpses. When she reads about the suicide of Rob (Nekromantik’s Daktari Lorenz) she finds his grave to dig up his body and brings it home. Mark (Mark Reeder) lives across town and makes his living dubbing “sex films”. After meeting Monika, romance blossoms and they fall in love. But all is not well in Monika’s world. Her relationship with Mark begins to falter and she has to make a final choice between loving the living or the dead. Once again, this film ends with an unforgettably climactic scene.
Nekromantik 2 returns to the subject matter of the first film and is a perfect continuation of Buttgereit's twisted love story, and in some ways, it even tops the first film. There's more gore, more sex and more artistic value, though that last one is subject to viewer opinion. At their core, the Nekromantik films are love stories not horror films, as Buttgereit himself has stated, they just happen to be the most fucked up love stories you've ever seen. The sequel also features longer scenes of disturbing content, which will leave you simultaneously disgusted and oddly transfixed. If you're a fan of Lucio Fulci's work, you'll most likely notice various instances of Fulci inspired techniques, including snap zooms, red paint colored blood, and a seventies style color palette. Some may call it imitation, I call it totally awesome!
Also like the first film, Nekromantik 2 features insanely well made practical effects and realistic instances of human depravity, all set to an ironically beautiful score. Your senses will be so confused as you watch instances of debauchery, set to lovely piano music. I'm sure the score would work wonders for casual romantic encounters, sex with dead bodies, not so much. But that's Jorg Buttgereit for you, always succeeding tremendously at making the viewer overly uncomfortable, and that's what makes him an integral part of extreme cinema history.
Finally, we come to Schramm. Having viewed all of these films over the course of a single weekend, I'm now desensitized to gratuitous violence, necrophilia, suicide and pretty much any other form of disturbing content. Thanks Cult Epics! The film centers on Lothar Schramm (Florian Koemer von Gustorf) who's dying, face down in a pool of his own blood (and white paint). Behind his closed eyes, fractured memories repeat themselves. He runs by the sea. He lusts after the whore (Nekromantik 2’s Monika M.) across the hall. He staggers through life uncertainly. He kills. Schramm is the story of the notorious “Lipstick Killer” Lothar Schramm’s last days on earth. Revealed in a series of tightly constructed flashbacks, the film offers an unflinching look into the mind of a serial killer.
Schramm is best described as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer meets Bill Lustig's Maniac, as we see our killer in normal societal interactions, while also witnessing his disturbing internal visions and habits. Schramm is a rather short film, running only 65 minutes, and while it's a fairly quick watch, it doesn't fail to leave a lasting impression. The film successfully invokes pity for the killer, as well as disgust. Uncompromising in its depictions of violence and perversion, Schramm is a poetic masterpiece of horror guaranteed to make you squirm. Especially during an ultra realistic scene that involves a cock being nailed to a table...ouch!
I can comfortably and truthfully say that Jorg Buttgereit's films hold a solid place in horror history, and by no means are they masterpieces, but they offer a viewing experience unlike any other. If you're a fan of extreme cinema (you've probably already seen these) or are looking for something darker to spice up date night, you can't go wrong with these! Buttgereit's films also scream cinematic ingenuity. The filmmakers, all close friends, created most of their camera rigs and props using everyday objects. For example, a pig's eye and honey were used to create the gross eye effect in Nekromantik and in Der Todesking, they basically baked a human shaped cookie over guts and a skeleton, ultimately creating something flies would be interested in, causing it to decay in a realistic manner. That's creativity at its finest! Buttgereit's unique cinematic voice is, to this day, unlike anything in underground or mainstream cinema, and pre-dating the modern subgenre referred to as "torture porn."
And this could just be me, but despite these film's disturbing subject matter, Buttgereit's productions seem to have a lighthearted and fun side to them...or maybe I'm just a pretty messed up individual...
Content and presentation wise, the folks at Cult Epics deserve major kudos for all of the love and attention they've given these films and this release. All four of the features look absolutely phenomenal, restored in HD from their original 8mm and 16mm material. Of course, there's a healthy amount of film grain and scratches, but this is most certainly the best all of these films have ever looked. The same can be said for the sound, with all films featuring remastered audio tracks, allowing for superior depth and clarity.
The bonus content included in this set could easily be written into a review of their own as there is an overwhelmingly immense amount of goodies to dive into. I'll start off with the 40-page booklet, which features interviews and exclusive photos. Also included in the package are two CDs in cardboard slip cases. These feature the scores from all four films, two per disc. Each film is presented on its own separate Blu-ray disc that had has been filled to the brim with bonus content. Including two versions of Nekromantik, new and exclusive introductions by Buttgereit for each film. Informative and in-depth Audio Commentary Tracks are included for all four films, with Schramm actually having two. Most of these feature only Buttgereit and Franz Rodenkirchen. There are Making-Of featurettes for each film that offer informative looks into the production of all four, with a highlight being "Corpse Fucking Art," a feature length documentary of behind the scenes footage.
The set includes a handful of short films from Buttgereit, including Hot Love, A Moment of Silence at the Grave of Ed Gein, Horror Heaven, Bloody Excess in the Leaders Bunker, My Father. Most of these are amateur and early attempts at filmmaking, they're cheesy, silly and wonderful addition to this collection. Hot Love is the short film that basically led to the creation of Nekromantik and put Buttgereit on the map. I must also mention My Father, a hidden gem in this release. It consists of home movie footage and photos of Buttgereit's father and follows his life, failing health, and eventual death 1993. This is a haunting piece of filmmaking and one of the best shorts I've ever seen.
Also included is a 20th Anniversary Live Concert of Nekromantik 2, Outtakes, a music video and rounding things out with an extensive Still Photo Gallery consisting of 70 photos, a real treat of a gallery that possesses the same power as the films. You just can't look away, no matter how disturbing.
Well, that's all folks. One hell of a review for one hell of a release. Cult Epics has done a phenomenal job in creating the essential collection for these films. This set is by far the best way to experience the raw and controversial films of Jorg Buttgereit and a monumental homage to the filmmaker's career. I highly recommend that all extreme horror fans purchase this release, and witness all the praise I just heaped upon it for yourself. You certainly won't be disappointed!