* * * PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS THROUGHOUT * * *
People often turn to movies when a proper escape from reality is needed, but sometimes we’re taken to a place that’s anything but a “safe retreat.” The Corpse Of Anna Fritz is one such film that would rather prod about our moral makeup than offer a cheerful fantasy, but without exploring the darkness, we might never stumble upon the revealing stories that take a little more digging to find.
Now, to be fair, I’m not referring to director Hèctor Hernández Vicens and co-writer Isaac P. Creus’ statements about necrophilia – those are waters never to be traversed. I’m more interested in the dilemma that unfolds after a morgue is turned into a sexual playground, which, while sounding sickly disturbing, offers a horrifying admission of faults only brought upon by guilty convictions.
Vicens’ film follows three friends who start pre-gaming for the night’s activities with a famous celebrity named Anna Fritz (Alba Ribas), but there’s a catch – Fritz is dead. Pau (Albert Carbó) works as a hospital orderly, which sounds like a drag, so his friends Ivan (Cristian Valencia) and Javi (Bernat Saumell) drop in to lift his spirits. But why do lines of coke and rip shots when all the entertainment you need is hidden in the hospital’s morgue, covered in a white sheet? Everyone wants to see the corpse of Anna Fritz, but these lucky bastards have the opportunity – an opportunity they turn into a necrophiliac’s wet dream. Wouldn’t you want to be the last man to bed Anna Fritz?
As expected, The Corpse Of Anna Fritz does not end once the final injection of man-meat is administered. As Pau is thrusting away at the presumed-to-be lifeless corpse, Anna opens her eyes and catches the men with their pants down (well, one of them at least). What begins as a stomach-churning act of necrophilia turns into a full-blown case of rape as soon as Anna regains consciousness, and the questions already swirling around our minds form a moral tornado of repulsive proportions. It’s here where Creus’ story evolves into a suspenseful kidnapping thriller about three friends now faced with a criminal choice – save the girl who can identify two of them as corpse-humping rapists, or silence Anna Fritz forever.
Buying into the absurdity on-hand will rely on your ability to never question why Anna Fritz awakens. We learn from an introductory voice-over that Anna was found in the bathroom during some sort of party, but her miraculous resurrection is never met with much reason. If you’d like to dissect the medical rationale behind Anna coming back to life (and not as a monster or zombie), there’s a very good chance that you’ll ruin The Corpse Of Anna Fritz before you open your mind to the mystery unfolding. I suggest you fight this urge, because Vicens’ first feature sure doesn’t play like one.
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The film itself is abhorrently disturbing in its practice, but the claustrophobic horrors that haunt each scene delve relentlessly deep into the psyche of everyone involved. Javi never partakes in the “festivities,” so his only intentions involve setting Anna Fritz free. This rubs Ivan the wrong way, because it’s his idea to keep Anna Fritz dead, just like the entire population already assumes. Pau shows an obvious hesitation to follow Ivan’s deranged spin on things, but he also cowers at the thought of his parents learning about what he’s done. Their heads butt, fists are thrown, and the proverbial pot boils over when they find themselves locked inside the morgue with only one convoluted method of escape.
The horror doesn’t come from bloodied floors and violent outbursts, but instead man’s primal instincts of protection, and more importantly, Anna’s state of paralysis. The subtext is flowing with society’s celebutante obsession, translated into a maddening decision to violate a young woman’s lifeless body, but the abusive fear caught in Anna’s eyes immediately strikes viewers through her cold, helpless stare. The savage disregard for humanity in that one gripping second instills something so raw, so upsetting, and that’s really thanks to Ribas’ constrained performance. She gets to act out her own homage to Uma Thurman’s “Bride” in Kill Bill, reminiscent of the character’s own hospital bed resurrection, except Ribas spends most of The Corpse Of Anna Fritz without many of the motor skills that would make escape easy. The stakes are heightened, yet Anna must fight insurmountable odds without the aid of physical strength, only her manipulative speech.
With that said, The Corpse Of Anna Fritz is not a perfect thriller – but it’s an aptly paced ride that doesn’t shy away from divisive boundaries. There’s an icky, sinful nature to Creus’s story, yet the moments of necrophilia are never grotesquely exploited in a deviant manner. Translation: we’re not forced to turn Vicens’ film off immediately upon humpage (this isn’t A Serbian Film). Some faith is lost in the lack of explanation, given Anna’s ability to just wake up in a morgue after being pronounced dead-as-a-doornail, but ignoring that fact makes for an exciting experience. Well, more precisely, an exciting ENOUGH experience.
The Corpse Of Anna Fritz is a morally-repugnant thriller that shines a dark spotlight on our celebrity-obsessed culture, but the film's taboo doesn't overshadow the conflict at play.