Friday, April 25, 2008

REVIEW: Pathology

Hardcore horror fans are reflexively distrustful of theatrically-released films at this point. So goes the logic, anything that doesn't arrive with angry protesters on it's heels or circulating-legends of how much 'good stuff' got cut out to get an R just won't be worth the time. While not without basis, this mistrust means that on occassion worthwhile entries that might HELP the genre's theatrical-reputation like "Pathology" wind up having to wait for DVD to get deserved attention. Too bad.

This is a slicked-up new spin on the "mad doctor" theme, wherein the godlike power/perspective afforded to Men of Medicine drives some practitioners to amorality and unspeakable acts - the sort of films Vincent Price turned out by the dozens once upon a time. Here, the medicine in question is Forensic Pathology (thanks again, "CSI!") via our hero (Milo Ventimiglia) a rising-star Pathology prodigy doing his residency at a prestigious hospital while awaiting marriage to his super-rich super-hot fiance (Alyssa Milano.) Upon arriving, he discovers that the residents all live/work in fear of an elite clique of brilliant, hard-partying young super-docs led by Gallo (Michael Weston.)

Not only do Gallo's crew torment the other residents with all the cruel subtlety of the villians from "Mean Girls" along with flaunting drug-fueled hedonism after hours (both the male and female members toss Lauren Lee Smith's seemingly-nymphomaniacal redhead temptress back and forth like a softball)... their REAL kick is an elaborate murder game by which one member of the team creatively-murders a deserving (or maybe not..) victim and challenges the others to figure out how they pulled it off. Soon enough, our hero is drawn into their world for the intellectual challenge, the goading of the very Tyler Durden-like Dr. Gallo and a quickly-out-of-hand infatuation with the Smith's insatiable seductress.

Now thats a nice, nasty premise for a thriller if I ever heard one. The script comes courtesy of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who between this and their debut collaboration "Crank" are setting themselves up as masters of creative excuses to wallow in movie-mayhem. "Pathology" is good-looking bad people doing horrid things for their (and our) amusement; and as far as that goes it's a damn fine exercise in that particular subgenre. You get nasty murders, nastier autopsies and then the infrequent elaborate kinky sex scene - often all staged around the same medical equipment. Ew. But it's all engaging enough that it's hard to stop looking.

That said, yeah... it's not QUITE as nuts as it needs to be, though I've got to say there's a moment of blunt, hammer-force visual poetry involving a certain character's autopsy near the end that's damn near the kind of diseased-genius that you used to only be find in Luis Bunuel movies (you'll know it when you see it.) This is no classic, but it's not for lack of trying - and I bet it finds more than a few fans among ACTUAL Pathology residents.