Color, 1991, 104m.
Directed by Jörg Buttgereit
Starring Monika M., Mark Reeder
Cult Epics (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), Barrel (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)

Nekromantik 2

How do you outdo one of the most notorious, extreme splatter movies ever made? Simple: make an art film. Though still chock full of the usual body bonking and assorted Nekromantik 2gross outs, this is a far more elegant and polished piece of work than its predecessor, more concerned with a mood of unease and melancholia than spraying bodily fluids (until the last five minutes, anyway).

Beautiful young nurse and fledgling necrophile Monika (Monika M.) steals into a graveyard and digs up the rotting corpse of Rob, our hero from the first film. She takes his congealed remains home and deposits him in the bathtub, where does some impromptu prep work and dresses him up to pose for homemade photographs. Of course, our happy couple becomes a love triangle thanks to Mark (Mark Reeder), a nice but slightly kinky guy who makes his living dubbing and providing sound effects(!) for hardcore porn films. When she isn't at home spending quality time with deadbeat Rob, Monika goes with Mark to pretentious art films and watches seal brutality videos, occasionally suspending him naked by his feet. The strain soon takes its toll, however, and Monika devises an ingenious and thoroughly perverse solution for the two suitors in her life.

Best known as the film that finally sent the German censors off the deep end (including a well-publicized theatrical raid and attempts to destroy the negative), Nekromantik 2 (sometimes subtitled The Return of the Loving Dead) uses its comparatively epic running time for a more ambitious and densely-textured narrative. While the corpse scenes are naturally gruesome, there's a strong surrealist sensibility at work that keeps it more curious than repellent. Apart from the aforementioned seal scene, a depressing and ill-advised attempt to Nekromantik 2outdo the bunny footage from the original film, Buttgereit strangely avoids any graphic bloodshed or nasty latex dismemberments for most of the running time. Of course, he's really just saving it up for the powerhouse finale, which amazingly outdoes the Daktari Lorenz's "climax" from Nekromantik. The narrative also has a stronger pull in this case, stopping along the Nekromantik 2way for some humorous and romantic asides before the ironic final scene. Much credit must also go to the alluring Monika M., a terrific lead who should have gone on to do far more work. (She even chipped in on the lyrical music score, along with five other people!)

As with the original, Nekromantik 2 became an instant word-of-mouth sensation in the horror community and became a popular swap item at conventions, particularly once word of its legal troubles began spreading around the globe. Film Threat issued a VHS that became an eye-catching fixture at more adventurous video stores, and In 2003, the now-defunct Barrel Entertainment released an impressive DVD with a transfer that's still quite satisfying for a standard def presentation of a 16mm film. The new stereo mix is mostly confined to the music, while the mono original is retained as well. Buttgereit returns for another commentary along with co-writer Franz Rodenkirchen and the two lead actors; it's a highly enjoyable and informative track, ranging from discussions of the extensive make-up appliances to the censorship hassles to the camaraderie behind the scenes.

"The Making of Nekromantik 2" is basically a repurposed version of the half hour of making-of footage from the Buttgereit documentary, Corpse F*cking Art; the creation of Rob's corpse is especially interesting to watch and makes one very, very sorry for the poor actor, whose ordeal wouldn't be out of place in a Jackass episode. Also included are German radio interviews with Nekromantik 2Buttgereit and Rodenkirchen (with optional subs); "Rise Up" (a heavy metal music video for The Krupps directed by Buttgereit); "Manne: The Movie," an early Super-8 Buttgereit film apparently done as a lark; a reel of outtakes showing bloopers and the crew at work on the set; a huge still gallery; trailers for the Nekromantik films along with Schramm and Der Todesking (annoyingly still unavailable on DVD in the U.S. -- please do this, Cult Epics!); a hidden peek at a Buttgereit-designed video game; Nekromantik 2and of course, the usual filmographies. David Kerekes and Buttgereit contribute liner notes to the extensive booklet, and the first 20,000 units included a second bonus disc, a soundtrack CD containing music from both Nekromantik films along with extra tracks (cover and alternate versions). The first handful of tracks are in mono, but have no fear; most of the music from both films is in beautiful stereo and would stand as a particularly odd New Age album on its own terms.

Twelve years later, Nekromantik 2 followed the path of the first film to Blu-ray from Cult Epics. Advances in video technology have resulted in a startling transfer that easily blows away any other version of the film, taken from the 16mm negative. Apart from the opening credits (which integrate footage from the "climax" of the Super 8 original), it's a very detailed, colorful experience with an appropriate veneer of light grain and rich, deep black levels. The original 1.33:1 aspect ratio is maintained, and the German audio is presented in Dolby Digital stereo. The original mono mix and a slightly beefier 5.1 mix are also included in Dolby Digital; it would be nice to have these lossless, but given the tinny nature of the original mix, what's here sounds fine.

The film can be played with or without a new video intro from Buttgereit in Berlin; he quickly runs through the film's troubles in its native country and advises that you watch it as a love story, not a horror film. The original commentary is carried over here along with the video making-of, outtakes, and trailers for Nekromantik 1 and 2, Der Todesking, Schramm, and Hot Love. Otherwise it's all new stuff here, kicking off with a great 11-minute segment of the film's musicians (including Monika M.) performing the score live at a 20th anniversary screening in 2011. "A Moment of Silence at the Grave of Ed Gein" is a (very, very) short Buttgereist shot in 2012 at the famous serial killer's unmarked grave, and the 2014 Buttgereit music video, "Lemmy, I'm a Feminist" by Half Girl, is a fun slice of German rock with an obvious celebrity cameo from a certain Motörhead founder. The entirety of the live score performance is also included along with the audio of the original soundtrack (all 57 minutes of it). The limited 5,000-unit package comes with another pair of hilariously inappropriate Johnny Ryan-created postcards that would never make it through the U.S. mail service.

Updated review on January 31, 2015.