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I read a quick synopsis of this movie and added it to my Netflix queue. I figured this may be interesting in spite of generally mediocre reviews all around. After all, the subject matter in and of itself was sure to turn off most people, so maybe the film was just too tough for people to take? In the end, this is a botched movie with a clear lineage from far better efforts that no amount of gloss was able to save.
Ted (Milo Ventimiglia, from Heroes) is a top student in Pathology entering a prestigious university to do his residency. However, as soon as the first day of class, he becomes the target of a group of doctors who think very highly of themselves and immediately see Ted as a threat. At first combative and provoking Ted at every chance they get, they slowly warm up to him, won over by his impeccable skills and smarts. But under the care-free demure of the group lies a horrible secret. They engage in a game where they each take turn in killing people and letting the rest of the group figure out how the murder was committed. The quest for the perfect murder is what ultimately drives this clique, along with drug abuse, sexual depravity, and the "funny" games they play with the corpses entrusted to them. Ted is initialy seduced by this nihilistic attitude, lured in by the sexy Juliette (Lauren Lee Smith), but the game quickly reaches a point of no return.
All the while i was watching this movie, i couldn't help but think of three other movies that were all far superior in pretty much al respects. First, it's hard not to think about Anatomy (2000), the German gorefest about medical students gone mad. Except, that film was far more entertaining, and edgy and suspenseful, with a far better and more believable premise, and more believable characters. Then, i was thinking about Vital (2004) which i consider a modern masterpiece. Ted dissecting his own girlfriend to figure out how she died was a direct insult to the subtle and beautiful imageries and character psychology in Shinya Tsukamoto's film. Finally, the general theme of the movie and its nihilistic approach, even all of its autopsy scenes and how they were filmed and lit, was a direct reference to Aftermath (1994), a very strong unapologetically nihilistic philosophical view of the body after death. Except, once again, that film had a point that it drove through so effectively while Pathology felt exploitative and empty and thin without much redeeming values through and through. Even worse, it was just plain boring.
From a technical point of view, the film was actually well done, with an attractive score, clean cinematography, and a good detailed attention to the art direction, including very convincing gory scenes. Although, once again, if you have seen Aftermath (1994), there is nothing new here in terms of autopsy effects. What is most damaging though is simply the writing. This could have been interesting as a premise, but the movie sensationalizes too much its characters and the gore we see on screen. It makes you feel like you just had a Big Mac: you feel full right away, but after 10mn, you feel hungry again. In the end, the characters are too over the top, unintentionally, and behave in ways that made no sense to me. In particular, Ted's descent into hell felt all too simple and unforced, something that damages his character and the dramatic potential he may have had on the story. Performance wise too, the bad guys are such caricatures. Finally, even the sex scenes, a strong R in the US, but probably barely a PG-13 in most countries in Europe, are boring and uninspired, not even feeling creepy when they should.
All in all, this is a movie that borrows too much from too many classic horror films of the past 15 years while not adding anything new or interesting. It's a rehashed remixed remake that doesn't hold the road. The gore-hounds may enjoy some of its effects, but without a strong uncomfortable narrative like in Aftermath, they feel gratuitous and empty even if they can feel strong initially: let's just show someone crack open a rib cage, and let's show some pubic hair and some boobs. It's boring if it can't make a deeper point, and this film simply lacks the brains, or philosophy, to make any impact beyond its visual shocks which any self-respecting horror fan won't even bat an eyelash at given the strong prior history in the genre. You are better off watching the three movies i mentioned above than spending 90mn of your life on this one.
- Laurent Hasson