Having seen trailers for Pathology as early as January, I was surprised to find that upon its actual release in April, it appeared on only a handful of UK cinema screens. I also didn’t see a single billboard or bus ad promoting it. One could almost begin to suspect that the distributors had decided at the last minute that it should be buried but why would they do a thing like that? Well, my own theory would be that it’s because Pathology is so unbelievably tasteless, disgusting, utterly devoid of redeeming moral fibre and misanthropic beyond the comfort zone of most viewers. More fool the distributors, if that’s the case. I loved every blood, sweat and turd drenched second of this sickening abomination.
Milo Ventimiglia from Heroes stars improbably as Ted Gray, a gifted medical student who, upon returning to the US from missionary work in Africa, takes an internship at a highly rated pathology department in the big city. Here he meets Jake Gallo (Michael Weston – a “that guy” whose face you’ll certainly recognise), part-time over-achiever and full-time sociopath. Gallo invites Gray to play a “game” with him, one that he has devised with a small group of cronies. Each of them must plan and enact a “perfect murder” which the others have to solve with their medical knowledge.
I really don’t want to give anything else away, as it’s more fun to just sit back and enjoy the mayhem. But I’ll warn you in advance; given that Pathology is written by the same guys who blessed us with Crank, you shouldn’t expect anything subtle.
It’s interesting because, in a horror film climate where extremity is not only fashionable but also made to appear cool, funny and sexy, I thought I was beyond being shocked. The “torture porn” trend bores me and aggravates me in equal measure. What’s particularly irritating about those movies is their trite tabloid mentality; they’re never actually daring. The onscreen grue in something like The Hills Have Eyes remake feels like something the director is delighting in; reliving his masturbatory schoolyard fantasies about pathetic, cheap revenge on girls who rejected him or jocks that bullied him. It’s no wonder the genre has such wide appeal, considering the number of angry, bitter people out there, but that’s not horror in my book. Horror shouldn’t be something you get your jollies from. I want to feel horrified. I demand nightmares, damnit!
Pathology doesn’t take these easy options. If anything, it’s a middle finger straight up and into the squishy intestines of the torture movie; although it does prove that you can inflict ever more despicable violence upon the human body if said body is already deceased. This film isn’t about sadism or watching victims squirm and scream. It’s about the total and utter debasement of the flesh. The gore may be almost never-ending but it never feels like something in which to take pleasure. In fact, there’s little light at all in all the darkness. It evoked memories of Jorg Buttgereit’s Nekromantik films in its unremitting disregard for the value of human life; it treats ALL of its characters like emotionless pieces of meat and this makes for genuinely unsettling viewing. Ye Gods! A horror film that’s actually HORRIFYING, rather than aiming for tawdry titillation. This is revelation.
So yeah, kudos to whoever greenlit this thing. It’s got a great cast (including the awesome Lauren Lee Smith!), high production values and a truly sick streak that I’ve not seen in a mainstream movie since Cronenberg’s Crash. There are few taboos that aren’t at least poked, if not outright eviscerated, and I admire that they had the balls to not hold back. As a final farewell, following one of the most genuinely vile and oh-my-god-I-can-feel-the-bile-rising finalés I’ve seen in years, they play Parade of the Horribles by the Circle Jerks. Fuckin’ punk rock, man. This is a movie after my own heart. Maybe my lungs too. Maybe my kidneys and colon as well, just because it can.