Generating great buzz prior to a minor theatrical run, "Pathogy" impressed many a horror Web writer. So when I finally found the time to see it, my expectations were high. Perhaps that's why I wasn't quite as impressed as some of the Web writers were when this was just a festival film.
"Pathology" seems to want to be a cross between a David Cronenberg film and a noir thriller. A bit reminiscent of "Crash" in its exploration of perverse sensuality and of the dozens of triple twist ending thrillers that have dotted cineplex schedules over the years, "Pathology" ultimately suffers because its protagonist is such a vile, sleazy human being that you really don't care what happens to him. Now Cronenberg had a magic touch when he helmed films like "Dead Ringers" and "Videodrome" -- he had a way of making vile protagonists sympathetic somehow. Director Schoelermann doesn't have that touch. So as his anti-hero doctor, played by Ventimiglia, goes through the motion of being seduced by the darker forces of nature, you just end up hating him for it.
Ventimiglia's young doctor in love, recently engaged to a hot rich girl (Alyssa Milanowho horror fans last drooled at for her role in "Embrace of the Vampire"). When he begins his residency at a pathology unit where dead bodies are given autopsies in an almost assembly line process, he befriends some of his sick and twisted coworkers. These laughing, sneering, lesbian-kissing party animals hit the bars after work and go even farther -- smoking crack! To make a long story short, these evil doctors get off on playing with dead bodies while they smoke cocaine. To make matters even more serious, they have a game going: During their off hours, they kill people and try to prevent one another from guessing how the killing's occurred during the autopsy process at work. They'll often have sex after a kill -- a la David Cronenberg's "Crash."
When it's not going out of its way to shock and offend us, "Pathology" sets up a love triangle drama between our protagonist and the really evil ring leader of the clique -- and some relationship issues between our anti-hero and his gorgeous lawschool hottie, who becomes concerned when she finds a crack pipe in his new apartment.
Of course, a kind of war develops between the anti-hero and the ringleader, there are plenty of twists and turns in the plot, and we get a nihilistic "Saw"-like conclusion to the story.
Inspired by just about everything that's hot these days, from "Saw" to "Hostel" to "CSI", "Pathology" ultimately falls under the weight of its over-seriousness and, again, its lack of a likeable protagonist. It isn't bad, but it's far from brilliant. To put things into perspective, the campier "Saw" films are all better -- and more clever -- and Cronenberg's S&M efforts ("Dead Ringers," "Crash," "Videodrome," all of which this movie also borrows a lot from) are also way better.
But "Pathology" is pretty good, has some very stylish moments and has some of the most gruesome autopsy scenes in a film since "Faces of Death" -- or maybe "Re-Animator." Worth watching, but not something worth writing home to mother about.