The Coroner's Camera


Documentary (US); 1999; Not Rated; 90 Minutes

A documentary featuring genuine footage from actual Cadavers, as they are brought in to the Coroner's lab (Volume 1)

Produced by Damon Fox and Jim Meyers; Directed and screenwritten by Damon Fox

Note: "The Coroner's Camera" is not rated, but contains material that most would find suitable for an NC-17. Since the MPAA's judgment between violence and sexuality is incredibly inaccurate, however, they would probably warrant an R

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Written by DAVID KEYES

There is nothing more repulsive than the sight of a rotting corpse. Some people argue otherwise, indeed, especially when those corpses died at the cause of a malicious action brought on by another human being. The fact that a human could brutally torture a person to death is horrifying, yes, but is it really more disturbing than the actual carcass, which carries the everlasting evidence of merciless crimes being committed? Hardly.

"The Coroner's Camera," a new release from that ever-notorious video division Sub Rosa Studios (formerly Salt City Home Video), explores that tidbit with unthinkable detail. It is a demanding, hard, disturbing object of filmmaking, so much so that I have extensive difficulty in finding the words to write about it. All this might be easier if the footage were not authentic, because visual effects and makeup like to exaggerate the obvious. But this is genuine stuff down to the core; what you see being brought in on the stretchers is the real thing, whether or not you wish to believe so. Cadavers are carried out in their most mutilated forms--rape victims with severed heads, murder casualties sliced from head to toe, and corpses from airplane crashes with their skin completely separated from their bodies. Now the task falls upon me as a critic to review this footage, and judge its merit. It can be done, but not that easily.

Without ever actually telling a story, this production (notice that I do not actually call this a "movie") details some of the most disturbing cases of human death in a matter of 90 minutes. The cases are varied in length, as well as in detail. A rape victim tortured for days arrives with her head severed, for example. Another is the sight of a body with its head completely flattened, and the skin completely split from the skull (it looks like latex, but the thought of it being real makes us horrified nonetheless). Other causes: animal attacks, suicides, car crashes, torture, cannibalism, and fatal beatings. Perhaps none of these victims' death displays, though, are worse than one incident of satanic ritual, in which a boy is kidnapped, the skin from his feet ripped off, and his genitalia sliced with some kind of sharp object (reportedly, all of this took place while he was alive). The thought is unnerving enough; the site may cause spontaneous vomit from viewers with weak stomachs.

What we are dealing with here is not so much an actual movie as it is an actual series of events. By using the footage from actual Coroner reports, the director Damon Fox has mapped out a rare, shocking but determined glimpse into a world where severed body parts are not considered too adult-oriented for society's eyes to see. The camera knows what to examine and when to examine this stuff, but sometimes its tone is undetermined--are the filmmakers exploiting death, or are they peering into private areas in which the human body is coldly sliced up to reveal the horror? The uncertainty lies in the narration; when the person is telling the audience of the grizzly consequences, it sounds as if he is getting off at the sight of the decapitation.

Most genuinely gross footage in movies tends to go for a laugh, but, to its respect, "The Coroner's Camera" does not try to look at this stuff from an angle of comedy. Rather, it is a sharp, biting retrospect of the conditions a pathologist must endure when examining the remains brought on in to him. The footage will appeal to those with an interest in coroners and human anatomy, and as such, I am recommending it to individuals who posses intrigue over the topic of carcasses.

Some people have to prepare for seeing the remains of a human being in the most dismembered forms. I am not one of those people.

Special Note: I cannot give a star rating to "The Coroner's Camera," simply because the stars are irrelevant here. This is something that should not be approached as a movie.

1999, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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