Oh, those wacky Germans
Guten Tag, alle. Today's review comes from the land of chocolate, beer, schnitzel, and genocide. A German horror movie about murderous medical students seems like a no-brainer. Just about everyone is afraid of doctors and hospitals. Whether it's blood or needles or just hearing bad health news, going to the doctor is rarely a pleasant experience. While there have been a few medical-based horror movies, it's an oft-ignored subgenre despite having a built-in scare factor. Perhaps the Germans can bring the medical horror.
Anatomy is a 2000 German horror movie starring Franka Potente (The Bourne Identity, Run Lola Run) as medical student Paula Henning. Paula wins a spot in the prestigious University of Heidelberg Medical School which was once run by her grandfather. Paula us joined by another girl from Munich named Gretchen. On their train ride, a young man named David, suffering from an enlarged heart, collapses and Paula gives him CPR, saving his life. At the school, they are taught by the strict Professor Grombel (Traugott Buhre) who lays out their difficult and extensive syllabus. All the students go out for drinks on the first night and Paula meets a young man named Caspar (Sebastian Blomberg) while Gretchen meets a student named Hein. David is in the same bar and is attached by an unknown assailant. When he awakens, David is on a dissecting room table at the medical school. He tries to escape, but is killed by two doctors. Paula is shocked to see David on the dissecting table the next day. She secretly sends a tissue sample to her lab friend back home in order to get a cause of death. She also notices that David has a brand on his leg with the label “AAA”. Paula keeps her relationship with Caspar at arm's length while Gretchen eventually leaves Hein, breaking his heart. Paula get's David's results back, explaining that his blood had an outlawed drug called Primodal in it, which plasticized his blood, thus preserving his entire body. She begins doing research on the “AAA” brand and discovers that it was used by a secret society of medical investigators called the Anti-Hippocratic Society. The society performs gruesome medical experiments in the name of science, regardless of hurting or killing people. At the same time, Gretchen begins seeing another boy at school. Enraged, Hein kills the boy and tortures Gretchen. It is revealed that he is part of the Anti-Hippocratic Society and he turns her into one of the cadavers on display at the school. When Paula confronts Hein, he begins to terrorize her. While fleeing, she discover's the society's secret lodge with Professor Grombek inside. He reveals that Paula's grandfather was a member and experimented on prisoners in concentration camps. When the society tries to punish Hein for killing people out of jealousy, Hein kills Grombek and goes after Paula. How will she survive and is Caspar really who he says he is?
That's not sanitary. THAT'S NOT SANITARY!!!
Medical-based horror movies are nothing new, but for whatever reason, they never reach their potential. I was expecting Anatomy to have high amounts of blood and gore, but it never got to that point. In the beginning, I was actually concerned that there would be too much torture in the movie since one of the first scenes is a man waking up in the middle of an autopsy. There are various scenes of body parts and the inner workings of the human bodies which will certainly give some people with weak stomachs cause for concern. Despite this, the movie's horror comes more from Hein's stalking than medical torture. Part of me is glad since I don't like torture, but I feel that more blood and gore would have created a greater sense of danger. There is a good amount of action with some solid chase scenes towards the end, but the violence is pretty tame compared to what I was expecting.
The movie has a pretty good story, far better than other medical horror movies like The Surgeon or The Dentist. The characters are established early and their development progresses well. The pacing is a little slow in certain parts and could have used a few more action scenes to keep things moving along. The mystery and conspiracy are interesting, but things were revealed a little too easily. Hein is not a big part of the first half of the movie, so it was a little odd when he became the main villain. The inclusion of Nazi experimentation had crossed my mind early in the film and I'm glad they touched on it, giving the film a feeling of authenticity. The acting is pretty good all around and the direction captures a fair amount of thrills. The film was thankfully in German, though there are dubbed versions out there. I much prefer subtitles as dubs tend to be distracting and make it impossible to enjoy the acting.
Are they doctors from the future?
Anatomy is a good horror movie for a wide audience, but lacked the blood and guts I was expecting. When you have doctors torturing people, there is a certain amount of gore to be expected, but for whatever reason, Anatomy doesn't go that route. I think have more of that would have created a scarier atmosphere. More effort is put into the story, which is actually pretty good thanks to solid acting and directing. The movie has some good thrills and a scary scene or two. If you're looking for a good movie first, and a decent horror movie second, you might enjoy Anatomy. Auf Wiedersehen!