Necromentia appears to be something of a thematic sequel to Pearry Reginald Teo's 2003 short Children of the Arcana and firmly rooted in the type of dark, occult material generally regarded as the preserve of writers and filmmakers like Clive Barker. It begins in a barber shop where a portly man is sweeping up and two swarthy guys walk in. The man, Hagen, tries to get rid of them by saying that the owner has left and there is no money but it is clear that the visitors are not there for cash. Forcing Hagen into a barber chair and shaving him with a cutthroat razor, all the time telling him that they know about the dead girlfriend he keeps downstairs and what they want him to do.
Flashing back 11 months, the film shows how the main intruder, Travis, came to become involved with a dead man called Morbius and explore the art of necromentia - the opening of portals to the underworld by carving an elaborate pattern in a corpse. This brings him to the attention of a grotesque demon, known as Mr. Skinny, who exploits Travis' interest in the dark arts.
Travis is a single man who looks after his disabled younger brother and earns his money in the dark world of S&M where he chains people down and works at their flesh with a wide variety of sharp instruments, all for pay. He desperately wants to kick his heroin addiction and one of his clients pays him in experimental chemicals that allow the mind to enter areas that are otherwise closed. One of these trips brings him into contact with Morbius and the demon and Travis enter into an agreement involving Travis' brother.
Necromentia has all the feel and tone of a Clive Barker book, with Morbius as a Cenobite-type figure and Travis the equivalent of Frank in Hellraiser. The visuals are similarly striking, with some particularly gory scenes that benefit from the improvements in special effects make-up during the last 20 years. Teo is a very visual director with some wonderful set pieces and the characters and sets are fantastic in their designs.
Whilst no Hellraiser, Necromentia is a very interesting film that is not for the squeamish and fans of Barker's work will find a lot to like. It is initially confusing, though probably intentionally so, and as the peices fall into place it becomes quite a satisfying watch. I'm not sure if the pay-off is good enough, but the film has enough good stuff to make Teo and the film worth remembering.
Much of the film is dark but the definition is good and there is no loss of clarity in the low light scenes. It creates a claustrophobic and uncomfortable atmosphere, with plenty of well executed gore effects to complement the tone. There is a slight amount of noise - this would certainly benefit from the added detail that a high definition transfer would provide - but, as it is, this is a very good picture.
Similarly oppressive, the sound design is excellent and there is no escape from the horror by closing your eyes. The film makes good use of the industrial metal soundtrack, with a couple of the tracks reminding me of Nine Inch Nails - it's the sort of music that David Lynch used in Eraserhead. The dialogue is clear and surrounds used to good effect, immersing you in the Necromentia world. There are some interesting voice choices with Mr. Skinny having an androgynous quality and his voice is clearly provided by both a man and a woman, giving him a disconcerting quality.
This won't be for everyone as there are no moments of levity and it is quite a tough watch, but the way that the story unravels is very well done and for fans of dark and disturbing horror films, Necromentia is a film worth checking out. It's a shame that the disc is so barebones, only coming with a trailer, as an interview/commentary with Pearry Reginald Teo and writer Stephanie Joyce would have been an interesting listen.