After surviving the First World War, Tomás (Viktor Klem) becomes a post mortem photographer. While taking photos of the dead, he encounters young girl Anna (Fruzsina Hais) who tells him that her town is full of unburied dead people and asks him to visit. Not long after arriving, Tomás starts to notice dark shadows in the photos he’s taking and a series of supernatural events convince him to leave. Eventually though, Tomás joins forces with Anna to investigate what is going on in a bid to stop the spirits that are tormenting the people.
‘Post Mortem’ is billed as the first horror film to come from Hungary and it’s an effective, if slightly over long, effort from director Péter Bergendy. Featuring stunning cinematography and special effects that are far better than you might expect from a low budget film, ‘Post Mortem’ is a slow-burn ghost story that increases in intensity and ups the scares as it progresses. The film is also in no rush to explain what’s going on so you really do have to be patient but if you stick with the film, you’ll be rewarded.
Tomás, played by a very charismatic Viktor Klem, is the heart of the film and his relationship with Anna is the hook here. You wouldn’t necessarily put the two characters together but they quickly form a familial bond, united in their desire to uncover what’s plaguing the town and how it can be stopped. Anna lives with her (terrifying) ailing Auntie (Andrea Ladányi) and she welcomes the opportunity to work with Tomás proving to be much wiser than her young years would let you believe.
It’s true to say that ‘Post Mortem’ ticks off a fair number of ghost story tropes. There are strange noises, creepy ghosts and adrenaline-pumping scares, but that doesn’t lessen the impact of the film. In fact that familiarity is what will ensure you’re caught off guard on more than one occasion. You may think you know exactly where the film is going but writer Piros Zánkay keeps you on your toes. Zánkay also spends time really building the characters of Tomás and Anna, far beyond what the majority of horror films manage to do. That gives the film a very human heart even when the supernatural is everywhere to be found.
Where ‘Post Mortem’ is most effective is in the way it uses its central premise. You don’t feel like you’re being hit over the head with endless scares, instead Bergendy slowly increases the tension as Tomás and Anna begin to unravel the mystery. There are scenes of people being dragged away by unseen forces and pinned against walls, and they’re actually pretty scary. Credit should go to the make-up and special effects departments too because they pull of a stunning job here.
‘Post Mortem’ may build into a furious finale but it’s a rare horror that actually gives its characters room and time to breathe. The chemistry between Klem and Hais is superb, and you care for both characters deeply by the end of the film. Ghost stories may be nothing new but when they look like this with performances this strong, you can’t help but be drawn in. ‘Post Mortem’ is a fantastic film and it’s made me want to look more closely at the cinema coming out of Hungary.
Cast: Viktor Klem, Fruzsina Hais, Judit Schnell, Andrea Ladányi Director: Péter Bergendy Writers: Piros Zánkay (screenplay), Gábor Hellebrandt & Péter Bergendy (Story) Certificate: 18 Duration: 115 mins Released by: Szupermodern Stúdió