Neveldine/Taylor are douchebags. This is a fact. Yet they have an instinct for making appealing if at times appalling trash. Re-watching Crank, their notorious writing-directing debut that's basically Speed in a human body, with several friends who had not experienced the movie before, reactions oscillated between outrage at its displays of racism and sexism (“That’s not right, hey” was often heard) and glee at its extreme ridiculous (“This is the best movie ever” was also heard). I decided to check out Pathology, a medical thriller they wrote and produced, but which was directed by Marc Schloermann and is enjoyably trashy if marked by the distinctive bad taste a Neveldine/Taylor production can leave behind, like eating too much candy-flavoured popcorn at the Royal Show.
So, yeah, the screenwriters’ manuals often tell budding writers to open with a hook in order to pull in the viewer and Pathology has three of them. First, we see shaky video footage of unseen hands treating cadavers like ventriloquist dummies, re-enacting the orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally in true po-mo Quentin Tarantino style. Second, we get the Hippocratic Oath repeated for us in white text across black, establishing a gravelly serious tone to the proceedings. Third, we get a close-up of Alyssa Milano’s lips imploring her boyfriend – our anti-hero Milo Vertimigilia (from TV’s Heroes) – to “fuck me.” This movie just dares you to watch the remaining ninety minutes with a triple-threat opening gambit like that.
What basically happens in this movie is that Milo playing a character named Ted Grey is a hot-shot forensic student who joins a prestigious internship presided over by John De Lancie (Q from TV’s Star Trek: Next Generation). Anyway, making the rounds of the morgue as bodies are sliced upon and cracked apart for our viewing pleasure, all the surgeons are Beverly Hills 90210 types and there’s a lot of dick swinging and name-calling between the new maverick and these snotty brats, particularly when they challenge each other in determining how an eleven-year-old fat cadaver died. So, it’s like the Top Gun of pathologist movies. Then Milo meets Dr. Gallow, Iceman to his Maverick, another young hot-shot played by Michael Weston (the ‘That’s my dog’ psycho from TV’s Six Feet Under) who inducts him into a diabolic clique of young hotshot forensic students who test their skill by playing a game; one murders a bad person (pimps and paedophiles are the first victims, so relax your uptight morals) and then guessing how they were murdered in a late night, sex-filled, crack-smoking bull-session, the allure of which causes Milo to leave his humanity behind. So, it’s like The Lost Boys of pathologist movies, particularly when Milo starts sleeping with Lauren Lee Smith’s red-headed nymphette who displays lesbian tendencies and is aroused by S & M shtick like slicing her tongue with a scalpel before making out. But then Schloermann obviously is a follower of the David Fincher school of film-making so everything is cloaked in pristine darkness and Nietzsche-styled phrases are thrown around like “[everyday people are] consuming, multiplying, copulating. It makes me sick” or “We’re animals. It’s our nature to kill.” So, it’s like the Fight Club of pathologist movies. Particularly when the third act twist involves Milo bringing his loyal girlfriend Alyssa Milano back to the big city and it all goes a bit like the third act of Se7en, just with the asshole villain being subjected to an autopsy but paralysed and conscious, like every second Stephen King short story you've ever read.
On one hand appealing to the sort of torture-porn in vogue with the success of the Hostel movies and yet also a throwback to ghoulish EC Comics trashy-horror, Pathology is entertaining to a certain degree. Milo Vertimigilia is solid as the tightly-jawed “hero” who proves to be as morally bankrupt as the villains in the end. So, it’s like the American Psycho of pathologist movies. Basically it functions as a pretty decent thriller as the majority of the characters are despicable jock assholes (there's that Neveldine/Taylor touch) who want to see hacked to death by the end of the film. However, it totally plays into that fusion of sex and death in its montages of Milo and Lauren Lee Smith copulating in cold medical labs while other strangers are killed off by the other students, which makes me wish I was a fifteen year old with pretensions to being a goth that reads Clive Barker and listens to Orgy so then I could really get off on all this sub-par sadomasochistic crap. Oh, and for another insight into the assholish auteurs that are Neveldine and Taylor, during their DVD commentary over the closing credits, they discuss the design of their onscreen writing credit “Neveldine & Taylor.” Apparently they had to accept an ampersand to join their names by the Writers’ Guild, which was an upset as they prefer to be known by the credit “Neveldine/Taylor” (the slash makes it sexy). But what they did, you see, is slant the ampersand, which “was our little rebellion to the Writers’ Guild.” Now I don't use the word "renegades" often, but they might be warranted here...