I watched this Shudder exclusive to the end, just to make sure there wasn’t something right at the very end, but The Corpse of Anna Fritz had no profound commentary or biting satire on its premise: three men discover the body of a famous actress in a morgue and decide to have sex with it.
[SPOILERS AFTER THE LEAP]
There is no explanation for why Anna’s body comes back to life (perhaps she was never really dead at all). She is raped by two out of three men: the first occurs partially obscured by a door; the second, seemingly revelling in close-ups of one-sided foreplay and sex-moan-faces, is when she wakes up, in horror, knowing she is being raped. It’s deliberately uncomfortable viewing, and all the more effective for it.
Many people with a story of sexual assault will tell you that they were unable or afraid to fight off their attacker, especially as gendered violence escalates from flirting to violence.
A tiny example off the top of my head: I was in Prague for my birthday, alone, in the main square. It was somewhat busy, and I was looking at my phone for directions to my hotel [it was my first night there]. Out of nowhere, a drunk tourist tried to sweet-talk me as I was walking by him. I hadn’t even made eye contact. I told him where to go and he yelled, “I don’t want you anyway, you filthy junkie whore!”. I didn’t reply and kept walking, but he FOLLOWED ME. I kept walking, but then he BEGAN RUNNING AFTER ME, screaming “filthy junkie whore!” and then I got lost. I ran into the nearest cab, terrified, and told him to take me to my hotel, safe in the knowledge that I was neither filthy, nor a junkie, nor a whore. It was December and I was in a big coat, I hadn’t spoken to anyone, and the only thing I’d had to drink was a hot chocolate from a street vendor.
Back to the movie, and the rape-as-wake-up. It’s a shocking scene, and a promise that something interesting might happen, and that Anna would contribute some depth to the plot. But instead, she’s just a prop; we don’t get any sense of her character, any backstory. She exists as a device for some cat-and-mouse tension – which is well-executed – but when this movie depicts necrophilic rape, it would make more sense to have just left her dead, comatose, quadriplegic, or a ghost, or with locked-in syndrome. Any of those would have yelled a powerful statement about men’s objectification and dehumanisation of women, and erasure of their agency. Having her wake up adds no dimension to the story.
Focussing on the three friends, and their fast-crumbling bond in the wake of their crimes, would have been much more compelling. But even that is predictably executed: the mega-extreme alpha, ready and raping to go, doesn’t think twice to murder to cover his crimes, intimidate his friends etc etc.; then the moderate who participates but changes his mind; and the non=rapist who still copped a titty feel. It’s hard to give a shit about any of these clichéd characters when it inevitably starts ticking the boxes of going downhill and fracturing their circle of trust.
Its initial premise is enough to make it watchable, for curiosity’s sake. But, given that we get neither an explanation nor exploration of Anna’s predicament, the ending just feels hollow, and left me wishing this had been directed by someone who had something more substantial to say about entitlement to women’s bodies. Or celebrities of any gender.