REVIEW: Post Mortem (2020)

dir. Péter Bergendy

Set in 1918, director Bergendy’s supernatural chiller sees the Spanish Flu ravaging mainland Europe. Tomász (Victor Klem) is an ex-soldier who has now taken up the profession of post-mortem photography and – after deciding to follow a curious girl called Anna (Fruzsina Hais) back to her village – discovers a whole community haunted by ghosts and mysterious deaths. As the poltergeist plague increases, affecting not only the living but also the recently deceased who are not buried due to frozen ground, Tomász and Anna must investigate how to bring peace to the residents. 

Any film using the background subject matter of post mortem photography is instantly shiver-inducing and this is no exception. From its gothic, morbid setting to the way Tomász nonchalantly poses the corpses to interact with their grieving relatives, the film turns the spook factor all the way up to eleven. The fact that the hauntings are not just rooted in one household, but are manifesting across a whole village, is a smart and interesting take on the traditional haunted house genre, especially when the setting is planted firmly in a community with such strong supernatural beliefs. 

At a running time of nearly two hours, Post Mortem is overlong and would have benefited from stricter editing. The scare scenes are elongated but unfortunately do not hold tension well, and so by the time the “jump” happens it’s lost its potential for a visceral reaction from the audience. Similarly the relationship between Tomász and Anna feels somewhat strange and unexplained, sometimes bordering on the uncomfortable which unfortunately detracts from the wonderfully grim and unearthly atmosphere.

Ultimately an eerie tale set amongst a historically bleak period, the film doesn’t exploit its setting: instead it relies on the chilling real life phenomenon of post mortem photography to depict the relationship that communities have with their dead. This, combined with established genre traditions, making for a haunting cinematic experience.

⭐⭐⭐

Ygraine Hackett-Cantabrana

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