MGM // 2008 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // November 14th, 2008
No body is safe.
Ted (Milo Ventimiglia, Heroes) has just been accepted into a prestigious medical intern program. His goal -- to become the best pathologist possible, marry his smoking hot lawyer fiancé (Alyssa Milano, Charmed), and take a cushy job in Washington -- thanks to his future father-in-law. When he arrives at the teaching hospital, he meets the young guns in the class of Dr. Quentin Morris (John de Lancie, Star Trek: The Next Generation). There's Juliette (Lauren Lee Smith, An American Carol); hopeless horndog Griffin (Johnny Whitworth, 3:10 to Yuma), a pretty party boy; and Jake (Michael Weston, The Pleasure of Your Company), the brooding, seemingly dangerous leader. Ted soon discovers that these students kill reprobate and homeless people for kicks, employing devious methodologies to try and confuse the coroner. Since he's supposedly the best, our hero is recruited for membership. Of course, by selling his soul like this, he's doomed everything in his life -- his future, his career, and the girl that he loves.
Pathology announces its problems right from the very beginning. It comes across as "oh so cool" and ultra-uber hip, the kind of all style and no substance experience that's going to get very irritating, very fast. Sure enough, this sloppy Hippocratic horse pucky grows dull, witless, and irredeemable towards the end. Scripted by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the guys responsible for that ridiculously retarded guilty pleasure Crank (gotta love some chemically altered Jason Statham), and directed by someone called Marc Schoelermann (an obscure German director is never a good sign), this is a young people's CSI with a decidedly CW bent. Sure, the nonstop autopsy sequences are fun. After all, watching actors dig into F/X corpses, massive bolt cutters breaking ribs and cracking sternums is one heckuva way to spend a Saturday night. But aside from the atrocities, Pathology offers nothing else. The superior students as serial killers set up is stupid, the medical cabal like a failed subplot from Flatliners. It would be nice to say that the grue saved everything. In this case, it can barely compete.
One of the biggest issues here is the characterization. No, we really don't mind the Abercrombie and Fitch catalog level of star power on display, even with Heroes' Peter Petrelli, The L Word's Lara Perkins, and CSI: Miami's Det. Jake Berkeley on display. Robbed of anything distinctive or idiosyncratic, they become stale leftovers from an '80s Brat Pack reject pile. Everyone suffers from single-word descriptions: Ted is the "genius," Jake is the "psycho," Griffin is a "hedonist," and Juliette is "needy" to the tenth power. Quite the group to cheer for and identify with, huh? Clearly, Neveldine and Taylor thought that some inventive direction could create interest where there wasn't any, and yet Schoelermann still seems to be shifting through his Directing 101 Primer as authored by Saw's James Wan. He employs the standard swirling lens, going 360 when a basic tracking shot would suffice. Even worse, the sets often look like leftovers from a postmodern interpretation of a makeover by the Marquis de Sade. Contemporary colleges shouldn't look this dingy and grimy.
Of course, if the thrills lived up to expectations, we'd wind up with something halfway tolerable. Instead, Pathology piles on the murders and yet never once delivers the genre-mandated scares. Ted always figures out the "howdunit," and Jake simply sits back and smirks. Even the last-act "twist" -- in which we discover that some ancillary characters, no matter their marquee quality, can be victims -- lands with the thud of a dead, dried-up cod. And then we get the undying villain with all his pointless, pre-death ranting, and suddenly we're stuck in a scattered slasher K-hole. Sure, it's rewarding to see the bad guy finally go down, but Pathology doesn't even wallow in his misery. Instead, it's an abrupt corporeal "catch you later" and then roll credits. Poorly paced, overlong, and utterly dull, this is one trip to the surgical theater that won't end well for anyone -- the actors or the audience.
Since it's offered up by MGM in that most unnecessary of critical formats -- the "Screening Only" copy -- it's hard to comment effectively on the tech specs present. The final product proposes to be 2.35:1 anamorphic, and hopefully better than the logo-laced, artifact-loaded image offered. The transfer is so dark at times one wonders if this was how it played in theaters or just the result of some pointless piracy protection. The sound should be Dolby Digital 5.1, and if it follows the formatting here, the speakers will get a decent, directional workout. As for added content, there are trailers for other horror-oriented titles. In addition, Schoelermann sits down with Neveldine and Taylor for a funny, festive full-length audio commentary. They clearly get a bigger kick out of this movie than viewers will. There is also something called "Creating the Perfect Murder," which functions as a making-of with F/X spotlights. Finally, we are treated to a conversation with pathologist Craig Harvey, a mindless music video, and an extended autopsy scene (tasty). All in all, the supplements outrank the feature in entertainment value and worth.
Pathology definitely had potential. The story of a scheming group of gonzo med students striving to commit the perfect murder, if done properly, could sizzle with sluice-laden suspense. Sadly, everyone involved here decided to take a somber, more supermodel approach to the terror. The result is neither thrilling nor chilling. You'll definitely be illin' after it's all over, though. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Audio Commentary
* "Creating the Perfect Murder"
* "The Cause of Death: A Conversation with Pathologist Craig Harvey"
* Music Video
* Extended Autopsy Sequence
* Official Site