Germany 1939. The farmer Jonathan Friedberg with the Nazis tried to make a pact to see his family again deported. 75 years later. Jennifer is a young psychology student, and is in a wheelchair because she had an accident years ago. She is working on a study for the university and asked about this in a village at random people on the street. She encounters a strange story, which concerns an old, abandoned house since WW2. Jennifer is very curious and looking at the house despite all the warnings. She gets caught in an incredible situation. It is a puzzle to solve, which is directly related to her. Moreover, they fall into the hands of criminals who buy their neither the story, nor are willing to let them free. The situation escalated unexpectedly. The horror is falling!
Out of all of the Andreas Bethmann movies I have watched and reviewed for this site, and there have been a good handful, I think his most recent movie, 2013’s Help Me I Am Dead (Die Geschichte der Anderen) not only has the most straight-forward and follow-able story, but probably the best acting as well. Unfortunately, it also seems to be the most tame of his films, or at least of those I’ve seen. Is the trade off of hardcore sex and gore for plot and story worth it? It’s tough to say.
After opening with a flashback to some Nazis harassing and killing some citizens out in the country, we jump to 75 years later (so says the words on the screen), and Jennifer (Margarethe von Stern), a young student confined to a wheelchair. She is collecting data for some research she’s doing on the difference between city and country life, interviewing random people on the streets. One of her interviewees tells her of a house a little ways up that has a lot of stories. In fact, some people have reportedly died there. So, of course, she goes to check it out, and realizes that within a certain perimeter, she can somehow suddenly walk. She looks around the house and decides to go back home, grab some supplies, and come back to spend the night.
We see that something is amiss, as during a quick and awkward sex scene (it’s the first time she can feel her legs in forever, of course she wants to call her boyfriend (played by Bethmann, of course) and, um, feel more things), the house becomes alive. The stove turns on by itself. A radio turns on and plays some Nazi propaganda. And by the time she falls asleep, there are other noises as well. Eventually she figures out there is a ghost there, and through dreams sees what happened and why the ghost remains.
Here’s one of the problems with Help Me I Am Dead. Yes, it is a sort of haunted house/ghost story, and so mood must be set. But it moves so slowly. In traditional Bethmann style, this movie is just short of two hours long, and it feels like even if a full thirty minutes had been edited out, it still might be too long. But it would be better. At one point, Jennifer hears noises upstairs, and so we go back and forth with her looking up there, then coming back down, then setting up a camera, then coming back down, then checking the camera, then being scared and coming back down. Back and forth, with one quick jump scare, but no tension built, and nothing especially interesting happening.
There is not a lot of gore in this movie, a drastic departure from other Bethmann movies, but what is in there is well done thanks to effects master Olaf Ittenbach. We see the backstory of what happened to the people who once lived in the house, and it is there we get most of the gore as well as the interesting part of the movie. Eventually, some criminals (played by Carsten Frank (‘The Man’ from Dora’s Cannibal) and veteran Spanish actor Antonio Mayans (Zombie Lake, The Treasure of the Living Dead, etc) come across the house and decide to make it a temporary hideout, not knowing that Jennifer is there. They, too, provide a bit of action as well as a bit more gore once the ghost gets irritated with their actions.
Help Me I Am Dead is not a bad movie, but one that goes on too long. There is no hardcore sex, and the gore is minimal; two things that might sway fans of this director’s movies away but at the same time attract a new audience. The overall story is interesting, and edited down could even make it scarier. The movie is by no means comparable to The Conjuring or The Amityville Horror, but it tells a decent story and tosses in a few scares with a much smaller budget than those other Hollywood hits. Andreas Bethmann looks to have a new movie coming out later this year (Terror Creek), and it would be interesting to see if he continues in this direction or goes back to his old, familiar ways.