Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pathology (2008)

Pathology and forensics have always fascinated me. The science that’s behind discovering how, why and when someone died is inherently interesting to me, as is what happens to our bodies after we die. Which is why the film Pathology, finally seeing a release on DVD, had me pretty intrigued. I wasn’t expecting something as disturbing as the great Aftermath but I did expect something better than the horrible Unrest. Sadly, Pathology is DOA.

Dr. Ted Grey (Milo Ventimiglia) has got it all going for him – a beautiful, wealthy fiancé named Gwen (Alyssa Milano), graduating at the top of his medical class in Harvard and now, a residency at one of the most prestigious pathology labs in the country. He moves across the country and away from his fiancé to attend, but is quickly greeted with disdain by most of his peers, lead by the cocky Dr. Jake Gallo (Michael Weston). Jake and Ted soon go head-to-head in trying to show off, but once Ted shows his dark side he is inducted into their little group. Problem is, the members of Jake’s group like to play a game where they kill “deserving” (wife beaters, child molesters, pimps, cheaters, etc.) victims in unique ways so that everyone else can have a grand old time trying to figure out just how they did it.

With a little coercing, Ted becomes entangled in the group, as well as with Juliette (Lauren Lee Smith), the fiery redhead of the group who also happens to have a kinky relationship with Jake and other members of the group. Do these residents know how to party or what?! Soon, our Dr. Grey is smoking crack, cheating on his fiancé and having sex on autopsy tables…oh yeah, and killing people in creative ways with his newfound buddies. He finally sobers up after a visit to his fiancé and realizes he wants out…but is it already too late?

Pathology is a slick little movie that tries to walk to line between mainstream and hardcore horror audiences, yet fails at both. This film will be too graphic for mainstream audiences (though I wouldn’t call it gory) but too tame for horror fans (it really is more of a thriller than a horror movie). The story of falling into deep void and having to find your way out again is nothing new, and the writers (Neveldine and Taylor, who also wrote Crank) don’t try to add any twists or anything that would elevate it past its been-there-done-that vibe.

Probably the biggest problem with the story is the lack of sympathy we have for any of the characters. We hardly know anything about Ted Grey, yet we are expected to sympathize him when he falls into “the game” of Jake and his cohorts. If you ask me, he joins the game rather willingly and with little prodding from Jake. Ted is supposed to be this great, independent and highly intelligent individual, yet he caves into peer pressure at the whisper of a threat. Also, when he joins the group he throws away all his morals and willingly kills patients, cheats on his fiancé and starts taking drugs. None of this was very believable and made me not care what happened to Ted.

As for the other characters, they are also underdeveloped. Jake Gallo (and Michael Weston steals the show with his portrayal) is supposed to be the leader of their little group and one of the top residents, but he is so unstable I wonder how he didn’t get kicked out of medical school. It’s strange that none of his professors or superiors caught on to his craziness. Don’t doctors have to take psychological tests?? As for the other characters, we don’t even get to know them. Juliette is mainly there so both Ted and Jake can have violent sex with her, and the other members of the group just disappear after a while with no real point for them to be there in the first place. No attempt at all is made to develop them. I didn’t even know their names! As for Alyssa Milano, she is just wasted as Ted’s sugary sweet fiancé. She didn’t even seem to serve a purpose in the film except to spurn Ted into action at the end of the film.

Instead of constantly focusing on Ted’s minuscule guilt and scenes of partying and sex, it would have been a lot more interesting if some of the murders were actually shown (most happen offscreen and none are particularly violent). There aren’t even that many that happen!

One thing that this movie actually does right is the special FX by Tatopoulos Studios. The cadavers are incredibly realistic, both inside and out (of which we see plenty of both). I would have loved if the movie focused a bit more on pathology so we could have seen more of the corpses, but what I saw was very satisfying indeed. Keep in mind, hardcore horror fans will be disappointed by the lack of gore in regards to the “kills,” but these realistic-looking corpses try to make up for that fact (though they don’t quite make up for the crappiness of the movie).

Pathology is directed by Marc Schoelermann, whose previous efforts included music videos and commercials. The effect is a slick movie, but one that has no emotional depth. Pretty typical for a commercial director, but the weird thing is that the film carries a heavily somber tone throughout that makes you think some deep revelation is coming at the end, but when we get there, there’s absolutely no philosophical questions answered (not that they were asked in the first place). The abrupt ending, while it does tidily wrap up all loose ends, feels as empty as the rest of the film.

Like the autopsy rooms it takes place in, Pathology is a cold, clinical film. Though it’s not incompetently shot, it lacks emotion, a complex story line and believable characters so it ends up stiffer than a corpse.

Available from Amazon!

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