The gross German shock film receives lavish treatment from Arrow Video

Nekromantik is not for everyone. The obscure 1987 horror film is an exercise in shock cinema and depraved human sexuality. Its raw subject matter and graphic depictions of necrophilia will elicit contempt and disgust in most viewers. Director Jörg Buttgereit’s film feels like an underground film leftover from the grindhouse ethos of the 1970s, bathed in blood and cheap exploitation. It is a tone poem to death, filled with grotesque imagery set to a synthesizer score.

Nekromantik graphically tackles subjects left untouched by mainstream cinema. If you can’t handle visceral animal cruelty or a couple engaging in a threesome with a desiccated corpse, there is little point in watching the deeply disturbing film. The German-language film relies on little dialogue; its dream-like storytelling emphasizes a rather unique score. A loose narrative is centered around Robert Schmadtke (Daktari Lorenz), a young man with a serious fetish for dead things.

Rob Schmadtke works for Joe’s Streetcleaning Agency, a company which cleans up after grisly accidents. They are the workers that collect human remains from crime scenes and deadly car accidents. Rob likes taking body parts home to a small apartment he shares with Betty, his very bizarre girlfriend that apparently shares Rob’s predilection. She seems even more enthusiastic about the habit than Rob, bathing in blood from dead animals.

This is low-budget euro-horror looking to make a name for itself by going beyond the scope of polite film-making.

Things heat up for the twisted couple when Rob brings home a skeletal corpse. Betty is probably out of Rob’s league but stays with him since Rob provides what she craves, contact with death. In a way, the insane psycho-sexual relationship between them is the crux of Nekromantik. Boy meets girl, boy introduces girl to a corpse, girl then falls in love with the corpse. It’s a tale told a thousand times before. Things fall apart for Rob when he loses his job and his girlfriend.

Nekromantik is so far beyond ordinary that it is hard to even properly classify. Its brutal depiction of animal killing is trash cinema looking for shocks, while the hazy necrophilia scenes seem included for perverse titillation. This is low-budget euro-horror looking to make a name for itself by going beyond the scope of polite film-making. I guess in that sense it has succeeded: the film is mildly amateurish and would likely have been forgotten already without its extreme subject material. Some of the scenes are tough to watch. Nekromantik pushes sex and death as far as they ever have gone together on film.

Movie★☆☆☆☆

The following information about the transfers were included in the 100-page book from Arrow Video that comes with this set:

Nekromantik was originally shot on Super 8mm, using a Beaulieu 2008 camera. Uwe Bohrer served as both director of photography and cameraman during filming. Kodak K40 film stock was selected after tests with this stock showed a green hue that fitted perfectly with the subject and tone of the film (…) Once editing was completed, 16mm blow-up negatives were produced for the cinema, which served as the basis for any 16mm and 35mm print distribution.

For the purposes of this restoration, the decision was taken by the filmmakers to go back to the original Super 8mm negative and to grade the film and restore the effects digitally to match the original release prints (…) The “Grindhouse Version” of Nekromantik was transferred in 1080p from the only existing 35mm distribution print. The print, which contains burned-in English subtitles, was scanned in 2K (…) No picture or audio restoration has been applied to this version, in order to accurately represent how the film appeared in theatres.

There are obvious limitations in Nekromantik’s cinematography. Super 8mm film is more suited to student film and amateur projects than lasting cinema. Resolution is more limited than even DVD’s quality. The restoration master shows obvious signs of filtering and heavy processing in 1080P, though it does help to clean up the film damage accrued over the years. The Grindhouse Version looks exactly like what it is – a dirty film print with an excess of heavy grain and varying levels of debris. In some ways, it is the more authentic version of Nekromantik. This is not a pretty film even making allowances for its low-budget origins. The video is soft and the dark contrast occasionally crushes black levels.

The two main features run approximately 71 minutes, included on one BD-50 at solid compression parameters. The AVC video encode does a decent job at pulling whatever detail can be found from the new film transfers, but some bursts of compression noise pop up. Nekromantik is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, its native framing.

Video ★★★☆☆

Like the new video restoration, Nekromantik’s soundtrack gets its own restoration. The cleaned-up new transfer features two different soundtracks: German monaural PCM and German stereo PCM. They receive optional English subtitles in a white font. While the audio still has limitations, the mono audio has surprisingly decent fidelity and is mastered with pleasing dynamic range. I was less impressed by the stereo presentation, the larger soundstage reveals more limitations in the original recordings. There isn’t much dialogue but it is rendered intelligible enough for an understandable experience.

The Grindhouse version gets its own 1.0 Dolby Digital German soundtrack. This version only contains burnt-in subs.

Audio ★★★☆☆

It’s incredible such an obscure film receives this extraordinary home video edition from Arrow Video. There are Best Picture winners that have never seen anything like this exhaustive Nekromantik limited edition set. A common thread to most of the features is director Jörg Buttgereit. In his broken English he talks in depth about the film. The included 100-page book makes for very interesting reading if one has any interest in the subjects raised. Filled with color photographs and essays, it makes for essential reading for fans.

Arrow shot new interviews specifically for this set.

The now sold-out 3-disc limited edition set included these special features not found on the normal combo pack (Blu-ray and DVD):

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of three Buttgereit films: Nekromantik (1987), Hot Love (1985) [29 mins] and Horror Heaven (1984) [23 mins]
  • Optional English subtitles for all three films
  • Limited Edition packaging featuring new artwork by Gilles Vranckx
  • Individually-numbered #/3,000 Certificate
  • Set of 5 Exclusive Limited Edition Nekromantik “polaroid” postcards
  • Exclusive Limited Edition 100-page book.
  • 27-track CD featuring the complete Nekromantik soundtrack composed and performed by star Daktari Lorenz and musicians John Boy Walton and Hermann Kopp, plus rare tracks from Hot Love.

100-PAGE BOOK – ‘ROMANCE IS DEAD’ – LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE

  • Exclusive perfect-bound book featuring a new article on Nekromantik from critic Graham Rae, alongside pieces from writers David Kerekes (Sex Murder Art: The Films of Jörg Buttgereit), Kier-La Janisse (House of Psychotic Women), Linnie Blake (The Wounds of Nations ) and an archive interview with real-life necrophile Karen Greenlee, all illustrated with new artwork and original archive stills.

Here are the special features found on the ordinary edition from Arrow Video:

  • Nekromantik audio commentary with Jörg Buttgereit and co writer Franz Rodenkirchen
  • Hot Love audio commentary with Buttgereit
  • Horror Heaven audio commentary with Buttgereit
  • Director’s introduction to Nekromantik
  • Alternative “Grindhouse Version” of Nekromantik, newly-transferred for this release from the only existing 35mm print [Blu-ray only]
  • In Conversation with The Death King – A brand-new 2014 interview with Buttgereit conducted exclusively for this release
  • Morbid Fascination: The Nekromantik Legacy – A brand-new 2014 documentary looking at the impact of the film on the horror scene both in the UK and abroad, featuring interviews with genre critic Alan Jones, Marc Morris, producer of Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Parts 1 & 2, and Buttgereit biographer David Kerekes
  • Q&A with Buttgereit recorded at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts (2014)
  • The Making of Nekromantik – A vintage documentary featuring a wealth of behind-the-scenes footage, newly-transferred in HD and viewable with two different audio tracks: an English commentary with Buttgereit, co-author Franz Rodenkirchen and David Kerekes, and a German-language audio track featuring radio interviews with Buttgereit, Rodenkirchen and producer Manfred Jelinski
  • Nekromantik Featurette – A look back at the film’s production, featuring interviews with Buttgereit and Jelinski, produced for the film’s 10-year anniversary German VHS release
  • Nekromantik Premiere – A short featurette comprised of footage from the film’s premiere in Berlin, January 1988
  • Das Letzte” – A short featurette comprising footage from the 1985 premiere of Hot Love
  • Horror Heaven trailer featuring outtakes from the film
  • Two Buttgereit-directed music videos: ‘I Can’t Let Go’ by Shock Therapy (1995) and ‘Lemmy, I’m a Feminist’ by Half Girl (2013)
  • Complete collection of Buttgereit feature film trailers: Nekromantik, Der Todesking, Nekromantik 2 and Schramm
  • Extensive image gallery including behind-the-scenes stills and the rare, surrealist German-language Nekromantik comic by Berlin artist Fil, reproduced in its entirety.

Extras★★★★★

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.