Pathology

2008, Movie, R, 93 mins

Review

PATHOLOGY
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It takes a certain genius to make butchered corpses, sociopathic lunacy and meth-fueled debauchery nerve-scrapingly dull, and German director Marc Schoelermann and screenwriters Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (CRANK) possess it.

Newly returned from four months of humanitarian work in Lagos, Harvard Medical School graduate Ted Grey (Milo Ventimiglia, of TV's Heroes) enjoys a too-brief reunion with wealthy fiancee Gwen Williamson (Alyssa Milano) before entering a prestigious forensic-pathology program. Ostensibly run by Dr Quentin Morris (John De Lancie, of TV's Star Trek: The Next Generation), an old friend of Gwen's father, the program is actually dominated by swaggering resident Jake Gallo (Michael Weston) and his gang of four: bisexual nymphomaniac Juliette Bath (Lauren Lee Smith, of TV's The L Word); smirking bully Griffin Cavenaugh (Johnny Whitworth); sly lesbian Catherine Ivy (Mei Melancon); and some guy named Chip (Dan Callahan). Gallo's gang demean and intimidate serious residents like Ben Stravinsky (Keir O'Donnell), barely acknowledge Morris' authority and abuse corpses when there's no one around, which is most of the time. Jake dislikes golden boy Ted on sight; Ted responds in kind until he doesn't and joins Jake for a liquor-lubricated night crawl. Ted bails after seeing glowering ex-con Harper Johnson's (Buddy Lewis) family whorehouse -- his wares include a wide-eyed toddler and his own granny -- only to find Harper on the slab the following morning, his cause of death a perplexing tangle of contradictory clues. Jake counters Ted's hung-over consternation with an invitation to join his medical murder club: They take turns killing people in baroque ways and daring the others to figure out how they did it. Ted declines until he doesn't, and is soon tweaking, killing and having wild, sleazy sex with Juliette. A holiday visit with Gwen clears his head, but getting out of the game proves harder than getting in.

PATHOLOGY earns its R rating via copious nudity, gore and what the MPAA discreetly calls "disturbing and perverse behavior throughout"; if it made a lick of sense it might be creepy. But since it takes place in some bizarro world where sociopaths have the run of esteemed medical institutions, hospitals are 100 percent security-free, the police take no interest in freakish murders, and one drunken night on the town turns a high-achieving do-gooder into an amoral psychopath, it's hard to get too upset about the ghoulish goings-on. In the annals of onscreen medical malfeasance and corpse bothering, which include Lars von Trier's THE KINGDOM and THE KINGDOM II (1994, 1997), Nacho Cerda's 1994 short Aftermath and the grandfather of them all, Stan Brakhage's brutally straightforward documentary The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes (1971), PATHOLOGY doesn't bring much to the autopsy table. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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