Clive Barker is not a good writer. His stories are ineffectual and undemanding, largely due to a juvenile prose style which walks a fine line between irrefutably grotesque and gut wrenchingly hilarious.
So why then (I hear you scream) do so many filmmakers draw such heavy influence from Barker’s embarrassingly trite, genre casualties? The answer is simple; the images that he evokes as an artist are undeniably iconic. Even his strongly disavowed cinematic adaptation of Cabal (which was given the moniker of Nightbreed upon its theatrical release) included an impressive array of rubbery monster designs. Necromentia is a film like so many before it that draws heavy influence from Barker’s vivid tales of flesh and bone, a choice which reaps mixed results.
Necromentia follows the non linear paths of three troubled males, each one affecting the others life in a significant way. Wejump between protagonists as they deal with the rituals of the afterlife and the demons that dwell within it. Morbius is a likeable bar tender, a deaf mute obsessed with the occult that pains to please his frankly insane girlfriend, Elizabeth. Travis is a poor heroin addict who struggles to make the money he so desperately needs to support his mentally handicapped brother, Thomas.
Hagen is…well…Hagen f**ks a corpse; that is his basic role in this movie, there genuinely isn’t much more to say about this poorly constructed, one-dimensional pervert. As each of their stories interconnects we are treated to a cavalcade of monstrous encounters and embarrassing film making follies.
After the post-Texas Chainsaw styling of the opening credits the film leaps straight into the Hagen story arc. He mumbles incoherently to his dead girlfriend whilst servicing her rotted body with a series of increasingly absurd mortician’s tools. His mental state is meant to present itself as quietly insane –he talks to the corpse like it was a passive acquaintance, thoughtfully digesting his solemn monologue- but Santiago Craig (I’m not bullsh***ng you, that is the actors real name) runs off the dialogue like an embarrassed school kid, causing Hayden to appear painfully banal.
This false start is another case of a young, over eager director who hurries to present a world of abnormality without first establishing a general sense of normality. For a horror to truly be scary there must first be equilibrium to disrupt. However, this minor complaint becomes almost superfluous around the twenty minute mark when the film goes from being unremittingly bad to glorious, hammy fun. The man at the helm, Pearry Teo uses occult magic and wannabe cenobites in order to deliver an entertaining trip through hell. Unfortunately our prayers are not answered for long before the movie takes another extreme thematic shift in the direction of ‘what the f**k?’.
We are soon introduced to Travis’ plotline, a jack hammer morality tale that teaches us about the evils of drug abuse and television. Travis struggles to support both his brother and a heroin addiction, letting his disabled sibling stare blankly at TV static so that he may shoot up in a seedy torture den. It is around this point that Mr Skinny appears to Thomas. Mr Skinny is a work of demented brilliance. He is a pig headed man who springs forth from the televisual portal in order to melodiously seduce Thomas into viciously murdering his minder. Although fun, this sequence poses a serious problem and as Thomas gleefully hacks at his victims naked gut, one cannot help but notice a weird hypocrisy taking place. So, drugs and TV are evil but murder porn is fine, right? Necromentia indulges itself far too much to be taken seriously, the film makers cannot be so naïve as to ask the audience to engage with its dubious message whilst acting so ignorantly cavalier towards violence pornography.
Ultimately, Necromentia is a promising if confused cinematic venture that leaves many important questions unanswered, like: Why does the quality of acting differ so drastically from scene to scene? Why was the monumental continuity error in the shaving scene not spotted and fixed in post production (watch out for that one, it’s like the editor was wasted)? And why does Morbius look like an ashen Michael Douglas?
However, these questions become largely irrelevant because while Necromentia is certainly not a good film, it is definitely worth watching if only for the entertaining inclusion of a children’s sing along song, presented by a mutilated pig man.
Additional film information: Necromentia (2009)