Director: Hector Hernandez Vicens
Writer: Isaac P. Creus, Hector Hernandez Vicens
Producer: Marta Carbo, Laia Cirera, Cristian Valencia
Stars: Alba Ribas, Cristian Valencia, Albert Carbo, Bernat Saumell, Belen Fabra, Montse Miralles, Danel Aser, Henry Morales
A night at the morgue escalates from curiosity to chaos when three men sneak in to see the body of famous actress Anna Fritz.
Even though it is only one less word, “that corpse f*cking movie” became a shorthand reference to “The Corpse of Anna Fritz” between my girlfriend and I during SXSW 2015. How else to describe it simply? The Film Guide synopsis revealed little. The one-minute teaser culminated in a man mounting a body in the morgue, prompting its eyes to open during a pelvic thrust. Could this movie really be weird, wild, or bold enough to involve f*cking a dead person back to life?
“I don’t want you to miss your corpse f*cking movie,” my girlfriend would say while we coordinated my Film screenings with her Music activities for overlap opportunities. “Maybe you could go with me,” I thought in a momentary judgment lapse regarding sensible entertainment options for a couple involved romantically. Maybe I just didn’t want to brave it alone. (She accompanied me to “Turbo Kid” (review here) instead.)
“That corpse f*cking movie” continued popping up in occasional conversation. Both of us wondered what else the movie had in store. Three men apparently f*ck a corpse back to life and then what? Does the woman become a zombie-like killer? Are the men supernaturally cursed somehow? Who selected this film for SXSW?
“The thing of it is,” I added when the movie was mentioned, “I’m not sure I want to watch a movie with necrophilia as a theme.” That kind of premise doesn’t exactly scream entertainment, even for a horror film. Hemming and hawing as I kept re-slotting when/if to attend a screening, I realized “The Corpse of Anna Fritz” was the only Midnighter unaccounted for in my coverage. I had to see it if I wanted to be a completionist.
It was then I reasoned, this isn’t the Temecula Terror Titans Underground Splatter Fest. This is SXSW, a world-renowned festival featuring leading-edge premieres and elite names in independent film. Unless programmers intended to birth a bit of buzz with a little loose controversy, I couldn’t believe they would carelessly select salacious schlock without any artistic or narrative merit. There had to be more to it than just being “that corpse f*cking movie” my girlfriend and I joked about.
There is in fact more to “The Corpse of Anna Fritz” than initial assumptions might believe. Though with a 69-minute runtime and only four principal actors primarily in a single location, it wouldn’t be right to say there is “much” more to it.
Seeing the movie, one understands why descriptions are so vague. Say more than the synopsis and the whole story is revealed. Know too much about that story and the plot’s path is predictable.
While the world mourns the sudden loss of beloved actress Anna Fritz, hospital orderly Pau sneaks his buddies Ivan and Javi into the basement morgue for a peek at Anna’s body. Ivan thinks this might be his only shot at sex with a famous star, even if she is dead. Pau wants in on it too, except when he takes his turn, Anna unexpectedly opens her eyes. Either they really did f*ck Anna back to life, or she was never dead to begin with.
“The Corpse of Anna Fritz” is neither supernatural nor a slasher, and isn’t overly heavy on mystery. The film fits best as a realistic revenge thriller, as when Pau and his pals realize they are rapists as well as necrophiliacs, they submit to a snowballing scenario in hopes of hiding their crimes, with a wide awake Anna helplessly trapped in the middle.
“The Corpse of Anna Fritz” uses several typical beats for this type of thriller. One instance is a “will he or won’t he find out?” moment when a third party stumbles on the scene and Pau works at a distraction while Anna tries to scream. In another, Anna privately appeals for aid from the trio’s presumably weak link. Although filled with this familiarity, the film ends up suspenseful with respect to how the story unfolds, even though the expected outcome is never in doubt.
The premise is painted into a corner by having three unlikable men activating nearly every action. It can be debated who is the “worst” of the three, but none of them can be considered innocent. Regardless of whether Anna was alive or dead, two of these men still committed sexual assault while the third condoned it by doing nothing but figuratively cover his ears. Keeping this in mind, it’s hard to fathom the script daring to shade this trio with redemptive heroism or allowing any one of them to enjoy a happy ending.
Director Hector Hernandez Vicens nevertheless gets the job done with straightforward style. Visually, the film looks very good, with a pale green tint slathering the set in an appropriately cold and sickly feel. Vicens also moves swiftly between scenes, although he can on occasion linger long within each one.
He is sensitive to the subject matter too, gradually accustoming the audience to controversial content by depicting Ivan’s initial act from behind a half-open door with just legs in full view. Having demonstrated intent to sell a taboo with some taste instead of exploiting it sensationally, only then does Vicens willingly open the figurative door wider.
Vaulting over initial uncertainty in the premise, “The Corpse of Anna Fritz” is not as disturbing to watch as one might fear. Its intention is self-contained suspense entertainment, and it mostly succeeds through sincere filmmaking in spite of a rape-revenge center that doesn’t challenge conventions nearly as much as it could, or perhaps should.
NOTE: The film's Spanish title is "El Cadaver de Anna Fritz."
Review Score: 65