I really didn’t know what to expect when I received my copy of Pathology for review. The film – billed as a creation from the writers of the oddball action farce, “Crank” – had next to no promotional campaign, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it theatrical release, and scathing reviews from the few critics who’d actually seen it. Now that I have watched it, I’m wondering why this smart, sexy and slyly entertaining thriller was given such a raw deal.
Ted (Milo Ventimiglia of “Heroes” fame) is a brilliant young doctor who leaves behind his lovely fiancé, Gwen, (Alyssa Milano), to intern in one of the country’s most prestigious pathology programs, under the tutelage of one of his mentors (and close friend of Gwen’s father), Dr. Quentin Morris (John de Lancie). When Ted has a personality clash with Jake Gallo (Michael Weston) – one of the program’s other rising stars – he finds himself consistently trying to out-think and out-perform the cocky Gallo and his circle of elitist friends. Soon, though, Ted finds himself drawn into their world, and, eventually, into the ultimate game of one-upmanship, in which each of the doctors commits a murder and leaves it up to their peers to figure out just how the victim died. At first, Ted is horrified by the game, but, as he falls further under Gallo’s spell (as well as that of Gallo’s sex-crazy girlfriend, Juliette, played by the sultry Lauren Lee Smith), he becomes addicted to the rush, and his secret life of drugs, violent sex, and murder threatens to destroy him.
I really liked Pathology. Quite a bit in fact! It borrows a page from the excellent German thriller, “Anatomie”, but takes that film’s premise and turns it on its ear by giving this crop of doctors a whole slew of extra vices beyond the need to kill in the name of medicine, including heavy duty meth habits and ultra-kinky sex lives. This heightened eroticism mixed with ultra-grotesque violence elevates Pathology into exploitation territory, lending it an even more European flavor than the aforementioned Anatomie, and making it one of the more risky endeavors I've seen in awhile.
Performances, for the most part, are fairly solid. Ventimiglia’s got the surly/pissed-off look down to a science, while Milano’s always a treat for the eyes. Lauren Lee Smith is just plain hot as hellfire, and, between her turn in the highly erotic “Lie with Me” and this film, I’m certainly looking forward to seeing her on “C.S.I.” every week (she joins the cast as a regular this fall). For me, though, Michael Weston steals the show as the sociopathic Gallo, and it’s a blast watching him devolve from genius to murder junkie. Music video director, Marc Schoelermann finds just the right balance of sterile and grungy, with lots of institutional whites and seafoam greens slowly giving way to the grimy browns and blacks that mark the gradual decay of Ted’s morality. Schoelermann’s got a great eye for this sort of material, and I’d love to see him take another stab at the genre.
MGM brings Pathology to DVD with a gurney full of extras, including Audio commentary by Schöelermann and screenwriters/ producers Marc Neveldine and Brian Taylor; Creating the Perfect Murder featurette; The Cause of Death: A Conversation With Pathologist Craig Harvey featurette; Music video: "Unintended Consequences" performed by the Legion of Doom F/Triune; the extended autopsy scene, and more.
While Pathology has its flaws and lapses in logic, it’s still a lot better than the majority of the horror films that hit theaters in 2008. Sure, it’s nauseating, tasteless, and some of the dialogue sounds as though it was being recited from a fortune cookie, but it’s also fun, exciting, and sexy as hell, and the combination of all of these things are the essential ingredients for a kick-ass exploitation film. If you go into Pathology keeping that in mind, you’ll have as much fun with this film as I did.