Hungary, in the aftermath of the First World War. Travelling photographer Tomas (Victor Klem), is drawn into a frightening supernatural mystery, occurring in a remote peasant village. Armed with his trusty camera and primitive recording equipment, the former soldier goes hunting for ghosts.
After the first globalised conflict killed millions, there came in its terrible wake an influenza pandemic, which killed millions more. Post Mortem might appear to be riding the Covid-sploitation wave, but it was filmed at the end of 2018 and early 2019, director Peter Bergendy had no way of knowing what was coming around the bend. The centenary of the Spanish Flu was intended to be its backdrop, not a pandemic in 2020-21. We all know what Alanis Morissette would have to say on the matter.
Tomas, having survived a mortar shell explosion on the battlefield (he’s spotted, unconscious and seemingly dead, by an eagle-eyed comrade and plucked from a mass grave), and revived mysteriously by a vision, earns a crust as a photographer specialising in post mortem photos. For a few quid, families of the recently deceased can pose with their departed, who have been redressed in their Sunday best, posed in chairs, a little rouge applied to their faces, giving them a hint of living colour. One day, a young, orphaned girl, Anna (Fruzsina Hais), the same girl from his vision, turns up and begins to talk about ghosts plaguing her small village in the countryside. Everybody is scared. Frazzled by the effects of the war and then the Spanish Flu pandemic, the villagers cower in fear and alarm. So, off Tomas goes, intrigued enough by the story and by the uncanny weirdness of Anna walking into his life.
Post Mortem is an atmospheric ghost story, of the variety that a lot of filmmakers seem to have forgotten how to make. A satisfying, spooky frightener, the painterly compositions recall the dreamy but natural landscapes of German Romanticist Caspar David Friedrich, and its Eastern European superstitions meets the technological modern world echoes Bram Stoker’s Dracula. If Bergendy isn’t above throwing in the odd cheap jump scare, the film’s best moments rely more on phantasmagorical imagery and unsettling, surrealistic sequences.
Arrow Video FrightFest runs from Thurs 26th August to Monday 30th at the Cineworld Empire, Leicester Square. The digital event, Best of the Fest, runs from 1st to 5th September. For tickets, digital event and Covid 19 health policy information, click here.
Martyn Conterio | @martynconterio