You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Pathology (2008, dir. Mark Scholermann) sat on my DVR for months before one evening when I was looking for something to watch that did not have subtitles and was well under two hours long. Pathology seemed to fill the bill.

When it was over I thought it the most immoral film I had ever seen.

Our hero is a hotshot pathologist who arrives at a new facility -- I never quite understood where the film was set -- for the last year of his residency. He is played by Milo Ventimiglia, an actor I had never seen but who is known from The Gilmore Girls and Heroes. According to IMDB his smile is his trademark. I found the smile a little smirky, and in this film his trademark could be the style of skin tight briefs he wears in several scenes, a style I did not know you could buy in this country.

His first day he meets the director of the lab; one nice, kind of nerdy guy; and, the core group of brilliant young pathologists. All four of this crowd bristles with aggression, and their leader, played by Michael Weston, is clearly a psychopath, a condition it seems that someone in a building full of medical professionals would have noticed.

Opened cadavers and lighthearted jokes with body parts provide the necessary yuck factor, but the plot centers around a game Milo is soon invited to join. The cool kids like to prematurely terminate terminally ill patients, but do so in such a devious fashion that, in the middle of the night (ooooh), in some kind of abandoned autopsy room in the basement of the hospital (ooooh), they can perform the autopsy and try to stump their friends on the exact cause of death. (This, by the way, is not the part of the film I found objectionable. It's just silly and implausible.) Milo enters the game with enthusiasm but begins to question things when some of the bodies appear a little too have hardly been at death's door when they met their end, while others are directly related to other incidents in the film.

What to do? What to do? Since he is into this shit up to his skinny neck, and the psychopathic team leader is planning to make him take the fall for their little game, Milo cleverly lures his coworkers into the secret autopsy room and arranges a gas explosion to wipe them out.

But dang! Guess who gets away? Not only does the Michael Weston character escape the massive explosion, he goes to Milo's apartment and murders his extremely wealthy girlfriend, using some of the skills he learned in med school to make it look like a heart attack.

Now Milo is really pissed, and this psycho is still on the loose. Their final confrontation takes place in the pathology lab -- why are there never other people around ?-- and just when the psycho is about to win again, the nerdy guy from the first of the movie, remember him?, sneaks up from behind and plunges into his neck a hypo filled with one of those paralyzing drugs they give patients going into certain kinds of surgery. Then Milo and the nerdy guy put the psycho, although by now these are relative terms, onto a table and explain that they will be eviscerating him as he remains conscious. Off-camera sound of bone saw. The End.

What's wrong with this picture?

Let's compare the end of Pathology with the final scene of the underrated and unjustly maligned Hostel: Part II (2007, dir. Eli Roth.) At the end of Roth's film, our heroine cuts off the genitalia of her would-be torturer, tosses said genitalia to the dogs, and uses her daddy's money to buy her way into the hierarchy of the corporation that runs the torture-for-pay enterprise. Granted this is ethically questionable behavior, but as a finale it is redeemed by comedy and a good final twist.

And what happens at the end of Pathology? The cool guy wins.

You don't have to be Cotton Mather to find that there is something profoundly immoral about this. The dreaded Hays Code mandated that all criminals must be brought to justice for their crimes, and that made for decades of namby-pamby Hollywood endings. But in Pathology, the little jerk bastard beats the big jerk bastard, and that's it. I'm not upset that some one gets away with murder, but this is a revenge fantasy straight off a junior high school playground. ("I'll get that guy!")

My real objection is that the movie just isn't clever enough. But clearly for its intended audience of 16 to 25 year old males, holding such a cool dude as Milo accountable for his actions would just be, face it dude, a downer.

1 comment:

  1. You had me at, "Let's compare the end of Pathology with the final scene of the underrated and unjustly maligned Hostel: Part II (2007, dir. Eli Roth.)"!?!!!!!