Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Anatomically Correct: "Anatomy" (2000)

This German film puts a European twist on all those "Scream"-type horror films we have been sitting through lately, and succeeds.

The beautiful Franka Potente from "Run Lola Run" and "The Bourne Identity" is Paula, a very smart medical school student who is accepted to an exclusive school in Heidelberg. She meets busty party girl Gretchen (Anna Loos), and the two become roommates. On the train trip there, Paula revives a young man named David, who has a heart condition. He is on his way to Heidelberg to seek treatment for his rare illness.

Right away, Gretchen hooks up with studly Hein (Benno Furmann) while Paula flirts with the weird Caspar (Sebastian Blomberg). The film has already shown us that the medical school is using live subjects for its autopsies, and are putting the victims in a specimen museum when they are done. David winds up on an autopsy table, very much alive, and stabs a masked doctor before being killed. Paula suspects nothing until David winds up on an examination table one morning in anatomy class.

Paula suspects something, but her professor (Traugott Buhre) tries to throw her off the trail. Paula soon finds some strange initials on David's body, and discovers a strange group of doctors who only research, never cure. They sacrifice a few to help several. These Anti-Hippocratics are banned in Germany, but still operate, and we find out Nazis were also members of the sect. Gretchen dumps Hein for Phil (Holger Speckhahn), and Hein gets a little angry.

I cannot give away too much more, except Hein is part of the sect, and begins killing students. He is not doing this for the sect, he is insane. Paula discovers more and more, and finds out the sect is huge and involves members of her own medical family. This sets up the violent finale between Paula and Hein.

The gore flows freely here, and there is a lot of terrific suspense. One great scene involves Hein trying to get rid of a body while people try to get into a blocked morgue room. The finale involves Hein chasing Paula through the school, as another student tries to save his own life by making a saline solution out of table salt. The film has a great expensive look, and the editing (by Ueli Christen) and musical score (featuring some Euro-pop songs, instrumentals by Marius Ruhland) are first rate. The sterile hospital set is cold and creepy.

I could only get the dubbed version (from German to English), but even that is done better than most foreign films. Franka Potente is great, holding the film in her grasp. She is believable and watchable. Anna Loos is a riot as Gretchen, watch her scene in the restaurant as she sucks down oysters while talking medical school "shop." Benno Furmann is introduced as just a hunk, but he is able to turn the tables on the audience, giving us an evil character that we never suspected from his opening scenes.

Of course, the rest of the world seems to have been influenced by the junk coming out of Hollywood, and this film is no different. We do have a predictable finale, and a villain who comes back to life when thought dead. Paula believes the sect is definitely killing people, but assumes a good friend (who we see murdered) really left for a long weekend when we know better. The local police, of course, do not believe her. These are small flaws, but they detract slightly.

"Anatomy" is gory, and the squeamish should turn to something else. This film is brazenly over the top, but does not resort to the same smugness that permeates so many American films today. Paula is a great heroine, not needing a man to save her from dangerous situations.

I read on IMDB that the same director has made an "Anatomie 2," already falling into another Hollywood trap- the unnecessary sequel. Open up this "Anatomy" and dig in. (* * * *) out of five stars.