||“Pathology” opens with the text of the Hippocratic Oath, saying that the first requirement is to do no harm, and then goes on to insult our intelligence for ninety minutes. Certainly that constitutes a violation. This is an inordinately sleazy medical thriller operating on the erroneous belief that the combination of hot sex and cold corpses constitutes a real turn-on.
The script, by the team calling itself merely Neveldine and Taylor, is an obvious homage to “Flatliners” in which a newcomer to an advanced program in forensics at a prestigious university joins a game that already includes five of the current residents—three guys and two girls—that involves their taking turns killing people in highly imaginative ways and then challenging the others to discover the cause of death. Milo Ventimiglia, of “Heroes,” plays Ted Gray, the newbie; Michael Weston plays (or rather overplays) Jake Gallo, the arrogant nutbag who runs the group; and Lauren Lee Smith is Juliette, the nymphomaniac who’s Jake’s squeeze but snuggles up to Catherine (Mei Melancon), the other gal in the bunch, while also seducing Ted. The remaining members are Johnny Whitworth as the nasty guy and Buddy Lewis as the completely nondescript one. John de Lancie, who was Q on “Star Trek The Next Generation,” is the doctor who oversees the staff—obviously very badly—and Alyssa Milano has a relatively minor part as Ted’s fiancée, a law student from a very wealthy family.
There are a number of obvious points to make about “Pathology.” The first is that it makes absolutely no sense. Motivation is completely lacking in the characters, leaving one to imagine that great chunks of expository footage was left on the cutting room floor (no complaint here, of course; in fact, editor Todd E. Miller might be congratulated). Even a simple matter like their ability to dispose of body after body without a drop of telltale blood remaining on them leaves the whole thing as implausible as those serial killer flicks in which bodies magically disappear while the murderer goes on to his next victim. And it ends with a final twist that isn’t merely ludicrous, involving the survival of a character who could not possibly be alive, but that nobody watching could fail to predict.
The second is that it’s a dark movie, and not simply because all the characters are not only unlikable but positively despicable. (That includes Gray, who’s initially presented as a golden boy but quickly shows himself to be as big a slimeball as the uber-obnoxious Gallo, and a put-upon fellow called Stravinsky, played by Keir O’Donnell, who seems pleasant enough until…well, I won’t say.). It’s also dark visually, with some scenes looking so dank that it’s almost as if cinematographer Ekkehart Pollack had forgotten to take the cover off the lens. Of course, the relentlessly explicit sequences of corpses being cut open and organs being extracted might make you wish he’d gone all the way with it and just left things in blackness.
And it’s badly acted throughout. Ventimiglia is embarrassing, but he can at least thank the movie gods that he plays most of his scenes against Weston, whose turn as the unstable Jake is so broad that it invites laughter rather than any feeling of dread. As for Smith, she sucks her thumb and desperately tries to look sultry, but would be more at home in a grade-Z porno flick.
About the only viewers that this movie should appeal to are folks who have been waiting for years to see Alyssa Milano get disemboweled. I may be mistaken, but that should make for a pretty small audience.