A new experiment in terror…a horror movie without scares!
Hang your heads in mourning, fellow horror fans, for we have apparently reached the end of the line for inventive fright films. Sure, Rob Zombie tried his hardest and presented a stillborn statement to fear's founding fathers called House Of 1000 Corpses. But for every supposed scare in this moody metal movie, there was a stupid hairy beaver joke clogging the claret. Danny Boyle transformed the zombie flick into an apocalyptic rave with anger management issues, but 28 Days Later failed to instill any lasting confidence in the dread faithful. As the past few months ambled by, we had Michael Bay's Leatherface makeover smelling up the cineplex in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. And outright rejects like House of the Dead, Place Setting of the Dead, Feng Shui Garden of the Dead, Cabin Fever, Monkey Pox Fever, and Dance Fever (starring the true living dead, Denny Terrio) add still more nails to the coffin of corpse grinding. So we all must be pretty f-ing desperate to turn to those tax accountants of terror, the Germans, for an offering of suspense and shock. Aside from the creepy accents, questionable ethnic management issues, and a tendency toward a diet of organ meats, the detached kraut just doesn't scream scare…the uniform statistical breakdown of stress fractures in hand-tooled custom roadsters? Maybe. The development of a master race, most definitely. And wouldn't you know it, that's the terrible terror premise for Anatomy 2. Go figure.
Facts of the Case
Jo is a medical intern traveling to Berlin because he hears that it's a good place to start a life as a depressed, wafer-thin malcontent. He specifically wants to help his brother, a porn-loving pile of immobile muscle to walk and wank again. Once he gets to St. Scheisse, where he discovers that there are a lot more bodily fluids involved in the practice of health care than he had originally anticipated. Realizing that being vomited on by old ladies is a real MD dead end, he makes a play to hook up with neurosurgical Svengali Prof. Müller-LaRousse who, aside from having the goofiest name in the entire hospital, also hangs out with the ultra chic ex-members of Die Toten Hosen. After a strange sexual initiation and a quick lesson in intravenous drug use, Jo is in.
And what he discovers is truly twisted. Professor Hyphen-Name is developing an artificial muscle that he hopes will one day make the invalid walk, the limbless whole, and the impotent potent. But in order to carry out his highly unethical research in semi-complete pseudo-secrecy, he makes his underlings undergo the painful implantation themselves, the better to control and manipulate them, so to speak. See, computers can control each mechanical thigh or bionic bicep, and whenever one of the irritating interns gets out of line, Windows performs an illegal operation on them. Well, Jo decides to get calf replacements, and before you know it, he's Shaolin Soccer! He's running fast and kicking hard. But the accompanying pain is so excruciating that Jo resorts to morphine to heal thyself.
When one of the inject set dies under less than mysterious causes, Prof. Freak-Out decides to go to Phase II of his unclear plan. Someone is going to have to undergo complete neuromuscular deforestation and have a set of robot ripplers placed inside them. Naturally, Dr. Dash picks little Jo, and before you can say "Ich Bein ein Organ Donor," there's an intense chase through the corridors of caregiving. Jo escapes by pretending to be a corpse, and the island girl nursing staff of the hospital perform an emergency calfectomy to release the rogue from his android anatomy extras. But Jo must defeat these evil endocrinologists before they figure out a way to turn gloomy performance artists into angry ersatz automaton.
Why is the horror film such a hard nut to make marzipan out of? Seems that for every sweet meat treat that terrorizes our neck hairs to the ultimate bristle, there is some inanely retarded retread of the giant bug/genetic mutation/oversized testicle formula for fright and we simply let our jaws slack in uninspired tedium. Some slasher decides to carve up his bridge club because they failed to call "four no trump" when he was holding the Queen alone, and we bed down for a stifling slumber. A spooky ghost vessel is found off the coast of Newfoundland and the used to be A-list name cast stumble around its "ooh so scary" infrastructure like drunken squids. After an hour and forty minutes of mindless mulling about, we discover that the tainted Titanic is actually a doorway to the evil world of West Mifland, Pennsylvania. Shock Theater lovers worldwide turn in their lifetime memberships in the Ghoul Squad. Maybe this is why we cotton to such newfangled creep crap as the Blair Witch, the Tooth Fairy, and the Toe Jammer. We are just so desperate for something even remotely frightening that we are willing to discard our highly honed horror aesthetic and worship any woefully misguided mess simply because it tries. Success is not an option or concern. As long as we can see that it's making the attempt to create some spine chilling, we give it a go. Perhaps this explains the well-received nature of Anatomy and its equally contaminated Teutonic sequel Anatomy 2.
The best thing that can be said about Anatomy 2 is that it was made by Germans as a work of fiction and not as some factual recreation of the Nazi's more rogue scientific tendencies. Actually, this movie wants to push the boundaries of the horror genre and it does, right out of the scary pits of fright and directly into bad Robin Cook sci-fi medical action movie territory. Fans know it's an unwritten rule of the terror tale—like Jason never dying, nubile bee-atches getting nekkid, and minorities becoming first kill mincemeat—that infirmaries and doctors (unless they are mad doctors) make lousy domains of dread. Some fans foam over The Kingdom, a Danish soap opera about a haunted hospital. Others point to Michael Myers appointment in the ER known as Halloween II to support an intravenous version of fear. But as a matter of standard operating procedure—forgive the pun—a place of healing and terminal disease doesn't quite quiver the shivers.
And yet Anatomy 2 sets all of its medico mumbo jumbo and wobbly German techno inside a hideous hospice that's supposed to chill the bone when the most it will eventually do is mellow out your marrow. Now it's true that a sanatorium or asylum can be a very creepy place, what with their exploratory cranial surgeries, spinal taps, bed pans, and hefty co-payments. But the sterile setting of Anatomy 2 looks more like a bad theme restaurant instead of an actual place of medical practice. There are even premise-specific rooms available to serve your cerebellum tartar in. Most of the action takes place in OR 17, or the "spine room," a strange highly technical playground decorated with machines that go "ping" and a carved ornamental vertebrae entrance. There's the beloved soiled laundry room, piles of puffy white pillowcases stuffed to the gills with even more yellow and brown tinged ivory unmentionables, scattered about the low ceiling locale like dirty marshmallows on a sweet potato casserole. There's the bathhouse style ER, with its never-ending corridors and individual private waiting rooms set-up that matches the quick service needs of the sterilized Eurotrash homosexual on the go. And let's not forget the grounds themselves, complete with weirdly warped window views and its own murky moat. Indeed, Anatomy 2 spends so much time focusing on the finely detailed science setting that it forgets there is supposed to be a plot inserted somewhere within it.
Writer/director Stefan Ruzowitsky, an able Austrian obviously getting back at his ancestors' oppressors, sure loves to play fancy camera trick games in this movie. Returning behind the Panaflex and the Corona for another go at Anatomy's managed care mania, he is a visual encyclopedia of borrowed styles. As a matter of fact, one could test their secondary cinematic education aptitude or actually receive film school credit by simply watching this motion picture menagerie and name-checking all the filmmakers, movies, and mannerisms it steals. Over-cranked strobe light like Ridley Scott action sequences ala Gladiator? Check! Jittery jump cut juxtapositions between characters thinking and anterior images of foreboding ala Gore Verbinski? It's all here. Steadicam drug trips featuring motionless actors leading the camera around chaotic scenes ala Darren Aronofsky and Requiem For A Dream? Oh yeah! Direct to video monster movie anarchy and/or slow motion freeze frames to heighten the hysteria ala Trainspotting's Danny Boyle? You got it!
Only problem is, all this pretty pilfered picture packaging is in service of a really stupid schnitzel of a story. Take The Six Million Dollar Man, fire Lee Majors, and add murderous members of Mummenschanz, and you've got this artificial body part poop basically down pat. Oh, you will have to add some Philippine pearl divers turned RNs and a paralyzed blob of brotherly bratwurst that wants to sniff nurse's panties, and then maybe you'll reach the level of ridiculousness found in this film. If you just keep reminded yourself that it was created by people who embraced Nena's "99 Luftballoons" and made Falco an Amadeus rocking revolution, it will be that much easier to digest and move on. At times, it is difficult to figure out what Anatomy 2 is trying to say. They mention this group, the AAA or Anti-Hippocratics (if it was the Anti-Nowhere League, maybe the movie would make more sense), but their doctor dogma seems more wrapped up in fashion and jewelry (their gaudy gold rings make a mockery of the entire "secret society" concept) and less into pure therapeutic theory. The members of the cabal like Lodge (Black? White? David Lynch, are you there?) all seem like they are waiting for Holly Golightly to pass judgment on their accessorizing before they enter the operating theater. But no amount of black raccoon eye makeup or strangely rectangular eyeglasses can guarantee a geek breakfast at the Reichstag, let alone Tiffany's.
Apparently, ever since a fellow Frankunfurter made a certain fraulein sprint three times more often than reality and logic should have allowed, our Black Forest friends have believed that massive style and some powerful synth beats can more than make up for a severe lack of story substance. While Run Lola Run did provide some meat with its memorizing, Anatomy 2 just tosses us the bone and the fat and hopes we get full off it. There are no real characters here; just pawns in a putrid game of "guess who's going to totally change their absent personality this time." Characters we accept as one way in Act 1, become completely unhinged in Act 2, only to try and redeem themselves in Act 3. This kind of persona pinball game gives us nothing to hang our compassion or consideration on, so for all we care, each of the individuals involved in this convoluted CPR could dissolve into a runny putrescence before our eyes and we would simply stretch and sigh "Next?" Anatomy 2 doesn't want you to get involved with a hero or heroine. It wants to bait and switch and lie and cheat you into paying attention, but it has no desire to get you off. You will leave this movie frustrated and fooled with a pair of cobalt cajones that no amount of automanipulation can cure.
For you see, the biggest problem with Anatomy 2 is that it is not really a movie. A movie has a plot and a set of characters and a beginning, middle, and an end. Leave it to those Bavarian bastards to shuffle the cinematic certainties and mete out the movie parts like gruel at a "camp" commissary. Don't ask for more, because they will simply pistol-whip you into not demanding additional entertainment nourishment. Like they do with banking, beer, and the Benz, the Germans want to micromanage all the fun, ferocity, and bodily fluids out of the fright flick and make it over into an exact replica of themselves: pasty white, emaciated sore losers. Anatomy may have been a terrifying experiment in fear, mixing medicine with the mysterious and murderous to create a truly terrifying film, but if the sequel is any indication of the level of suspense available in this series, then avoid both of these exasperating x-rays immediately. Anatomy 2 is a lot like a lesson in human sexuality taught by a virgin: it doesn't understand how "things" work and completely mishandles the attempted "show and tell."
Columbia TriStar must have some hidden Holocaust bank accounts they want to keep secret for the way they treat this steaming pile of poorness. Anatomy 2 gets a full-fledged Special Edition treatment that Oscar winners and major blockbusters could only beg for. This single DVD has more bells, whistles, and widgets on it than on a circus clown's car. Beginning with an image that's pristine and deliciously detailed, Anatomy 2 looks better than it deserves. The original aspect ratio of 2.40:1 is preserved and the carbon copied artistic flourishes in Stefan Ruzowitsky's compositions and framing look great. The aural presentation is equally impressive. The Dolby Digital 5.1 is very atmospheric and the German language soundtrack is up front and clean (there is no English dub option available, so get ready for a long night with Adolph and Eva at Berchtesgaden). Then like the inflated opinion of themselves that have occasionally lead them into "skirmishes" with the rest of the world, this Berlin based disc is loaded down with bonus content to hopefully explain an unexplainable film.
We begin with a text commentary from director Ruzowitsky and lead actor Barnaby Metschurat. Again, these cats can't sprechen ze English so we are forced to listen to them speak in their Fatherland tongue and then read their rote insights. They do acknowledge the attempt to make something different from the first Anatomy movie, but most of the non-stop yak-fest (these two guys never shut up) is fluffy and frivolous. There are deleted scenes (which don't amount to much) with more written narrative. However, just in case you can't get enough of pickled cabbage eaters chatting about their movie, you can choose the commentary with picture in picture feature and actually see the idiots talking. And this is still not all. We get a made-for-German television behind the scenes feature that has some great, arcane subtitle translations, a set of filmographies of selected cast and crew, production artwork, galleries, trailers, bonus trailers, and a comparison between several scenes in their screen test format and in their final version. All of this fru-fur in support of a stupid little thriller than can't make up its mind if it wants to be scary or pulmonary. Either way, Anatomy 2 fails, just like a cheap Deutschland pacemaker.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Perhaps this review is being to hard on Anatomy 2. After all, it is at least endeavoring to break out of the tired old mold of most modern movies of the macabre and show us something new and unusual, even if it is Germans with personalities. It is very stylish and the set design has a real Bauhaus meets Dachau ideal. But overall, the movie just sucks, coming up scheißen when it should have been shocking. Still, there is one really neat thing about the Anatomy 2 DVD, something that actually makes the disc worth viewing. No, it is not the movie now, so just cut it out. It's the menu screens. That's right, from the cool, creepy opening of the DVD to the selection options, this disc has some awesome menu features. Indeed, the menu screens are everything the movie is not: disturbing, unnerving, eerie, and vibrant. Perhaps the best way to experience Anatomy 2 is not to watch the movie at all, but simply play with the menu screens over and over again, creating your own morbid psychological medical terror tale up in your head as the gloomy guide pages animate and unfold.
Let's hope that someone comes along and saves the horror film from a fate worse than Freddy vs. Imaginary Pixies before it's too late. Certainly something like Anatomy 2 isn't going to make macabre matters any better. This bumbling John Banner of a movie "knows nothing" and accomplishes the same over and over again. Like the human harvesting of Coma, which was really just a dressed up version of "Parts": The Clonus Horror without Keenan Wynn's weird overacting, Anatomy 2 imagines medicos as maniacs but fails to provide them with any significant psychosis to make their murdering merry. Instead, it's like a lesson in applied thermodynamics on the Autobahn with this German engineered junk. So if the notion of Arian irritants running around screaming about how they can't create their master race because of inherent bureaucracy and paperwork in the scientific research community straightens your strassa or if the mind candy camera conniptions get your Goebbels in a groove, then by all means take a peek at Anatomy 2. Just don't be alarmed when it does a Hindenburg on your horror hungry ass and explodes with all the humanity of a helium fire.
Das Gericht findet Anatomie 2 schuldig vom Sein schrecklicher deutscher Trödel und verurteilt den Stupidity zu 10 Jahren in einem Zwangsarbeitslager.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Director and Cast Audio Commentary
Review content copyright © 2003 Bill Gibron; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.