Pathology is an unholy mess of a movie, nothing but sloppy buckets of blood splattered over a pastiche of ER remnants. What makes it so incredibly offensive is not that it’s merely a bad movie but that it had the potential to be so good. Instead, it went completely fucking flatline.
This bad apple was grown by Neveldine and Taylor, the brain trust who rubbed their last two creative neurons together to trouble the world with Crank, a movie so mindnumbingly in-your-face stupid it would have only redeemed itself if more dullards went the way of the lemming by plummeting out of airplanes to their deaths. The writers seem content to wield a cleaver instead of a fountain pen, hacking away character development and atmosphere until all that’s left are still-beating hunks of viscera which they Frankenstein together into orgiastic feasts of hamburger meat and humping. While this, for all intents and purposes, should end up a banquet of awesome, it’s more the Thanksgiving-level decimation of discarded bones and greasy smears of gravy. The whole mistake gets dumped, still twitching, into the lap of director Marc Schoelermann, who spackles the entire product with overdark shadows and amateurish bullet-cuts. He brings to the table all the experience and expertise of the many commercials and German short films he’s made, giving us an attention-deficit-pasted reel of vignettes rather than the linear and interesting film we had been hoping to see.
Dr. Ted Grey (Milo Ventimiglia) is a hotshit doctor who, thanks to the connections of the father of his hot, rich, lawyer fiancé, Gwen (Alyssa Milano), is doing residency at the generically faceless Metropolitan University Hospital. He’s just returned from a medical stint in Africa, so the other swinging dick doctors shun him as a bleeding heart know-it-all. In fact, it’s not enough for the other doctors to merely be cold and clinical; they’re like some sort ridiculous sweater-vest-wearing gangbangers. They swear, and drink, and drug, and fuck. They throw darts into the backs of each other’s heads. They hurl organs freshly scooped from corpses at lesser doctors like feces-flinging gorillas strutting for territoriality. They’re not just doctors; they’re motherfucking “cocktors.” The alpha douche is Dr. Jake Gallo (Michael Weston), who sniffs around Teddy’s butthole long enough to presume he’d be down with their hijinks. So to test him, he gets Ted drunk and drags him to a brothel where 80 bucks buys them the chance to bang the bouncer’s grandmother. The next day, with a wicked hangover, Ted finds himself face-to-face with the murdered-up corpse of the bouncer as their test subject in the coroner’s office. He’s been beaten, stabbed 18 times, and shot through the back of the head. So, of course, Ted summons the black magic powers of Nancy Drew to determine the bouncer’s obviously been poisoned. When Ted later freaks on Jake, that’s when he gets his membership card into their twisted little after-hours clique.
You see, the six cool cocktors meet up every night in an abandoned operating theater nicknamed “The Dungeon” to play Forensic Pathologist Clue. One of the doctors has to go out and murder some dreg of society, and then it’s up to the others to figure out how they did it. The goal is to commit a murder so perfect none of the others can figure out how it was done. One of the doctors drains an HIV+ patient of blood and gives him a transfusion of fresh blood so nobody would suspect his death was from the complications of AIDS. At this point, you think it’s going to be a dazzling battle of wits, with these brilliant doctors going to horrific ends just to trump their fellows. But no, it quickly mutates from butcher shop to handling each other’s meats in a back-alley brothel.
The concept of doctors playing God with the great unwashed is rife with possibility. It could have been such an interesting study in the psychology of each character: who they choose to kill, why they commit the murders in the way they do, etc. Not just in the individual characters, but society as a whole — the entire class system of the patients versus the doctors that are trying to do them no harm. Instead, it’s cheapened with extreme sex and edgy gore to the point where the entire premise is so oversaturated with gooey innards, it suffocates in its own fetid mire. They don’t just do a little coke, these motherfuckers are smoking crack. It’s not bad enough they have sex around corpses, but they need to screw while pin-cushioned with acupuncture needles and punch each other in the face while doing it.
For example, Juliette (Lauren Lee Smith) — it would be hard to call her the love interest to anyone in particular so let’s just call her the team jizzjockey — enlists the help of Ted to commit her murder. She chooses a morbidly obese, drug-addicted child molester (the criminally underused Larry Drake of Darkman and Dr. Giggles fame), who we see dumping empties as he waddles out of his trailer in the middle of the city. She tearfully confesses to Ted that this man is her father, who touched her as a wee prostitot. So the two of them entice him with the promise of a medical marijuana prescription and whippets. Instead of the delicious, delicious nitrous, they are filled with liquid nitrogen, freeze-drying his lungs into little crispy balloons. Juliette proceeds to pound his chest cavity with a canister, turning his lungs to jelly. And as the grand finale, inexplicably, Ted and Juliette fuck like bunnies on the seedy carpet in front of the dead body.
And this is where the movie lost me. (And I wasn’t the only one. At the screening I attended, at least three couples walked out at this point.) It’s already a huge steaming cliche to kill your molester daddy, unless your name is Janie and you got a gun. But at least it offered some insight into the victims beyond them just being homeless drifters or drug-addicted prostitutes as pawns for the doctors’ sick amusement. Instead, the murders are now fodder for the atrocious love parallelogram, eventually devolving into some sort of ludicrous revenge story. It’s no longer about being the craftiest carver, but being bitter over who’s polishing whose pickle. The ending is so abrupt and contrived it looked like the last reel of the movie fell off under the weight of its own suckage.
Neveldine and Taylor would have benefited from actually paying attention to Bret Easton Ellis’s work, whose influence is smeared all over this sloppy hackjob, rather than snorting heroin and rubbing the books all over themselves while falling asleep in front of Michael Baden’s Autopsy. It was a poor attempt at the delightful balance between dark humor and suspenseful action in American Psycho. That film’s Patrick Bateman is a well-to-do businessman who gleefully drops a chainsaw on a fleeing hooker from three stories up, but you never question his actions as a character. Similarly, Ventimiglia was probably hoping this movie would be the one to break him from the family friendly constraints of “Heroes,” similar to when James Van Der Beek toweled off the dredges of “Dawson’s Creek” by playing a hard-fucking drug dealer in another Ellis adaptation, The Rules of Attraction. The career ramifications will undoubtedly be the same. Milano, my favorite Pepperidge farm cookie, seemed to be under same delusion as Ventimiglia, figuring if she went full frontal like Marisa Tomei in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, people might forget all about Poison Ivy II. But her character was like my prom condom: thoroughly wasted and better off in something else.
The rest of the cast is relegated to crayon sketches of stereotypes: the tough prep-school thug (Johnny Whitworth); the nerdy shy guy who gets bullied (Keir O’Donnell); the skeevy, pompous program director (John de Lancie). Even worse, two of the killer doctors are little more than The Lesbian Who Might Be Some Kind of Asian (Mei Melancon) and That Other Guy (Dan Callahan), who’s so forgettable I forgot he was in the movie even as he was speaking. Michael Weston was the only one having any fun: During one scene, it looks like he got drunk and tried to get himself fired. Instead, the director kept it and figured no one would notice.
Because most of the action takes place in a morgue, there’s going to be a certain amount of gore, but the filmmakers felt they had to tweak it that extra exploitative notch to get the audience squirming. It was bad enough that every corpse was filleted and had its chest cavity cracked open with a pair of industrial bolt cutters to get to the squishy goodness inside, but it’s incredibly unnecessary to perforate an intestine to unleash a brown poop geyser. From there, the film descends into typical slasher fare, complete with a room full of chopped-up streetwalkers. The director couldn’t pay attention long enough to decide whether he wanted to make this a suspenseful thriller or a dark surreal comedy, so we get smatterings of both and ultimately neither.
Brian Prisco is a warrior-poet from the valley of North Hollywood, by way of Philadelphia. He wastes most of his life in desk jobs, biding his time until he finally becomes an actor, a writer, or cannon fodder in the inevitable zombie invasion. He can be found shaking his fist and angrily shouting at clouds on his blog, The Gospel According to Prisco.Gonna Take More Than a Shot to Get This Poison Out of Me
Film | April 22, 2008 | Comments ()