Nekromantik – stylized as NEKRomantik – is a 1987 West German horror film directed by Jörg Buttgereit. It was his first feature length film, although he had shot several shorts earlier.
The controversial movie, banned in a number of countries, became a cult film over the years due to its transgressive subject matter.
Contrary to popular belief, the film was never submitted to the British censors, and so has never been officially banned; however, UK customs would seize any copies they discovered being imported into the country, and the film was caught up in several raids on bootleg video dealers. The film did, however, play film festivals in London and Manchester, including Shock Around the Clock and Black Sunday.
This film centers on Rob Schmadtke (Daktari Lorenz), who works for “Joe’s Cleaning Agency”, a company that removes bodies from public areas. This job leaves him the perfect opportunity to pursue his full-time hobby: necrophilia. He returns home from his job to his apartment and girlfriend, Betty (Beatrice M). He plays with his assortment of preserved human remains and watches television while Betty takes a bath in bloody water.
He is lucky enough to find a whole rotting corpse. It is discovered in a pond and during the removal process Rob absconds with it. He excitedly returns home to Betty like a husband returning with a romantic gift for his awaiting wife. They immediately cut a steel pipe and put a condom over it so Betty will have a phallus to straddle during their “ménage a trois”. This is immediately followed by a jump shot of grilling meat which is never established as either human or otherwise.
After Rob loses his job, Betty leaves him, taking the corpse. In a violent outburst he kills their cat and bathes with its blood and entrails in the tub while the body hangs over the tub. He then leaves to go to see a film and after being bullied by a fellow movie-goer leaves to go back to his apartment.
Once there he attempts suicide with pills and whiskey. He begins to drift into a dream where he emerges from a garbage bag as a partially decaying Rob. He is soon greeted by a woman in white who gives him a corpse’s head and they begin to dance, tossing the head and entrails of a body back and forth. Once he wakes up he leaves his apartment and hires a prostitute. They go to a cemetery where he strangles her and then has sex with her corpse. He is startled as he awakes beside her with an old man standing over them. Rob grabs the man’s shovel and chops the old man’s head off. This is followed by Rob running along the coast.
The film closes with Rob’s suicide. A grisly “climax” to the film which is composed of Rob stabbing himself while ejaculating. This scene is filled with flashbacks to the rabbit slaughter seen earlier in the film but in reverse. In a final ironic twist, we see Rob’s gravestone as a woman starts digging him up.
Shot on 16mm, Nekromantik has developed a cult following over the years, thanks to its taboo imagery. The film spawned a soundtrack release, initially on 7-inch picture disc vinyl and later on CD with Nekromantik 2. There was also a satirical comic book inspired by the film in 1988.
On December 8, 2014, a Director-Approved Special Edition was released in the UK by Arrow Video. This rapidly sold out.
On August 3, 2015, Arrow released another Special Edition with yet more extras:
- High Definition Bluray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of three Buttgereit films: Nekromantik (1987), Hot Love (1985) [29 mins] and J.B.’s Horror Heaven (1984) [23 mins]
- Optional English subtitles for all three films
- 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, transferred from the only existing 35mm print [Blu-ray only]
- In Conversation with The Death King – a brand-new 2014 interview with Buttgereit 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 Jörg Buttgereit recorded at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts (2014)
- The Making of Nekromantik – A vintage featurette including behind the scenes footage, viewable with two different audio tracks: an English commentary featuring Buttgereit, co-author Franz Rodenkirchen and David Kerekes, and a German-language audio track featuring radio interviews with Buttgereit, Rodenkirchen and producer Manfred Jelinski, viewable with optional English subtitles
- 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 – short featurette comprised of footage from the film’s premiere in Berlin, January 1988
- “Das Letzte” – short featurette comprising footage from the 1985 premiere of Hot Love
- 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 film trailers: Nekromantik, Der Todesking, Nekromantik 2, Schramm
- Extensive image gallery including behind-the-scenes stills, rare promotional material and the German-language Nekromantik der Komik, from Berlin comic artist Fil, reproduced in its entirety
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Godmachine
“It’s a remarkably well-acted film, given its’ budget, the inexperience (non-experience, really) of the director and the actors and the general grimy and squalid DIY look and feel.. The score is also noteworthy – not only for the beautiful piano-laden music but the uneasy post-industrial soundscapes that litter its running time. The grinding, haunting, uncomfortable sounds that pepper the films’ soundtrack really do add marvellously to its’ nasty feel.” Digital Retribution