There are easier tasks than adapting Clive Barker's writing to the big screen. Many have tried, many have failed. And even the films that turned out okay never really managed to capture his twisted visions of horror. And so it came as quite a surprise that Teo succeeded with relative easy in doing exactly that. But most peculiar of all, Clive Barker wasn't in any way involved with this project.
Only five minutes into the film my girlfriend and I were absolutely certain this was an adaptation of Barker's work. Everything here just oozes his style. From the dark netherworld, the malformed mutants and the fetish-inspired environments to the twisted interludes, this is what a Barker book feels like when reading. Imagine our surprise when it turns out this is in fact the work of Teo (who, it must be said, royally admits to the influences of Clive Barker).
Necromentia is another tale of demons luring humans into their netherworld. Through some occult scribbles on someone's back (Book of Blood, anyone?) one is sent to the world of the demons, a rather unpleasant place for the human race to reside in. The demons themselves resemble the Xenobytes from Hellraiser, their world an endless concrete hallway filled with industrial pipes. Teo has been paying attention.
The story starts at the end, following a guy trying to bring his deceased wife back from the dead. What he doesn't know is that he is tracked down by a victim of our illustrious demon. The film works backwards from there, revealing more and more about the story which each jump. By the time the film reaches its finale you'll have witnessed a couple of twists and turns, all in all unravelling a pretty decent story underneath. Not a given in modern horror films.
Visually Necromentia is pretty accomplished. There's a low-budget vibe running through the film, but Teo manages to hide it very well. Snappy editing tricks, ominous and dark lighting and some nifty gore effect make his film rise above many of its peers. The Xenobyte-like monster kicks ass, the other demons are not as stylized but still pretty cool. This dark, snappy vibe running through the film earns it many extra points.
The soundtrack too is pretty good. Some crunchy industrial tracks liven things up and add some extra depth to the atmosphere. Voice manipulation is a little cheesy at times but that's easy to forgive considering the rest. Acting is decent too. Nothing too great but definitely better than average comparing it to other low-budget affairs. None of the actors falls short, which is more than I expected when I started this film.
Not since the first Hellraiser has there been a film that captures the likes of Barker on screen this well. And let's be honest, Hellraiser is starting to show its age. With a bigger budget (or with a little more genius) Necromentia could've been a true horror masterpiece, now it lacks that tiny bit of fine-tuning to make it rise as one of the best horror flicks ever.
That said, it's nice to see horror return to the world of retracted skin and metal bolts sticking out of body parts. I won't mind one bit if the minds of Giger and Barker are once again revived to bring us hordes of creatures from hell, replacing all the (somewhat boring) zombies and vampires so rampant in modern-day horror. A creative creature designer is one of the biggest assets any horror film can have.
Necromentia belongs to the best Barker adaptations not written by Barker himself. If you like Barker's visions of demons and netherworlds, there's a big chance you'll love Teo's Necromentia. Reception for this film has been rather tame, which is completely unjustified. It's no doubt one of the better American horror films of the last couple of years.
Check out the trailer, ignore the voice over.