Sequels rarely improve upon the first film. I believe, if I really sat down and thought about it, I could come up with maybe three or four films, but in the horror genre, I'd be hard-pressed to think of any besides Evil Dead 2 (which most people would discount due to the fact that it's sort of a remake rather than a proper sequel). In any event, I hardly expected to enjoy Anatomie 2 at all, let alone more than the original film. After all, Anatomie, which, at first glance, looked to be an interesting medical conspiracy thriller, panned out to be nothing more than a polished slash-by-numbers affair, buoyed only by the presence of Franke Potente. It wasn't a bad film, but it hardly made me walk away with high hopes for a sequel. I felt it had wasted it's intrigueing concept of a secret medical society by dumbing down the content to appease an audience looking for the next Scream; pretty faces, stylized murders, hip soundtrack. So when it was announced that Ruzowitzky would once again write and direct the sequel, I prepared myself for more of the same. What I got, however, was a smart, brisk, and satifying horror/sci-fi thriller. Colour me impressed.
Jo Hauser (Metschurat) is a young intern from a small German town who takes up residency at a Berlin hospital. In his first few weeks, Jo's somewhat passionate approach to medicine takes his supervisors by surprise, and lands him a place on the personal staff of legendary neuro-surgeon, Muller-LaRousse (Knaup). The professor has been working with his team to perfect an artificial muscle that not only promises to end paralysis and muscle dysfunction, but, with it's computer interface, can actually make one stronger, faster, and more durable. Jo's brother, Willi (Koffler), is an invalid, slowly dying from a muscular disease that claimed the life of their father, so Mueller-LaRousse's research has more than a clinical importance to him, and he gladly accepts the team's invitation to join their special group; the Anti-Hippocratics. As in the first film, the shadowy medical organisation is committed to research above all, eschewing the binding rules and regulations of normal doctors in favour of progress at any cost. When it is revealed to Jo that all of Mueller-LaRousse's students have had muscular implants, he agrees to have one of his own placed in his leg. The results are extraordinary; strength, speed, endurance. The only drawback is that, to prevent rejection, the body must be given massive doses of endorphins, which lead to addiction, and ultimately, a dependence on one another that binds them to Muller-LaRousse's cause. When it becomes clear to Jo that these experiments are being conducted at the expense of the health and safety of the professor's team, he decides to get out and expose Muller-LaRousse for what he is. However, the professor's brainwashed assistants, as well as the faceless members of the secret society, have different plans for Jo.
Anatomie 2 is a very fun and exciting thriller that really took me by surprise. It features the same polished production values of the first film, but surpasses that one by exploring the promise of the great premise set forth in the original, and expanding upon it in the tradition of great medical/horror thrillers like Cronenberg's The Brood, and the classic Coma. The film features a lot of humour, but it keeps the pace brisk and the performance by Barnaby Metschurat is a star-making turn. Ruzowitzky also shows tremendous improvement, and a keen eye for action and suspense, with dizzying camera moves, heart-pounding chase scenes, and just infuses the film with a kinetic energy that's irresistable. Fans of the original film will most likely not be pleased with the sequel's new direction, but I found it to be quite effective and I appreciated the "anthology" feel of it all. It's also given me more of an appreciation for the original film as well as a lot of hope as to what's coming next.
The DVD from Columbia Tri-Star features a great widescreen transfer, with optional sub-titles, and a fantastic audio mix that rumbles the knick-knacks right off the shelves. The disc also features a host of extras, including a commentary by Ruzowitzky and Metschurat, deleted scenes with picture-in-picture commentary by the duo, a making of featurette, trailers, and more. Of special note are the fantastic animated menus. I never comment on these things, but the ones included here are extremely well done, and are a nice bonus for a fabulous overall disc.
Anatomie 2 is quite a departure from the first film, actually bearing little to no resemblence at all to it (save for a cameo by Franke Potente, who reprises her role from the first film, but is now a police officer bent on taking down the Anti-Hippocratics). It's for this reason that I caution fans of that film to approach this one with an open mind.