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Monday, September 21, 2020

‘The Empire of Corpses’ Is Built on Gothic Chills and Historical Thrills [Anime Horrors]

“This is a story about corpses” is among one of the first lines uttered in The Empire of Corpses, an anime film released back in October 2015. It is part of a series of films based off novels written by Project Itoh (Satoshi Itō). I have been aware of The Empire of Corpses since its release and just recently watched it –wow is it good. 

There are several anime that utilize gothic story elements (e.g. Vampire Hunter D), as well as approach history with fantastical spins (e.g. Vinland Empire). The Empire of Corpses does both in stunning fashion, transporting the audience to an 18th century world where Victor Frankenstein’s technology went mainstream. With the film’s anniversary on the horizon, this is a fun flick to check out during the Halloween season. Minor spoilers ahead.

Upon creating his iconic monster, in this world known as The One, Frankenstein’s technology spreads around the globe. This corpse technology becomes known as Necroware, providing one the ability to reanimate the dead. Unlike Frankenstein’s creation however, who is able to feel and think for himself, these reanimated corpses function like zombies, performing actions as ordered. The film follows John Watson, a corpse engineer who successfully reanimates his deceased friend. Watson is found out by the British Secret Service, who offer him the chance to work for them or to go to prison (since Watson created illegal Necroware). Watson joins, heading out on a journey to search for a Russian corpse engineer who has stolen Frankenstein’s notes.

From there, his journey is riddled with twists and existential discoveries.  

Watson’s drive entices the audience to follow along, excited to learn what he will discover and how far he is willing to go in this taboo science. The cast that surrounds him is somewhat of a mixed bag – some characters are interesting and some just push the plot forward. That said, the appeal behind certain characters is how they contribute to the film’s philosophical musings. Though not as intense as Mary Shelley’s brilliant novel, The Empire of Corpses does ponder what it means to be alive; questions of the soul, what makes us who we are and humanity’s direction towards destruction weave in and out of the narrative. The film isn’t all philosophical pondering however, for it also contains a decent amount of action. Coming into The Empire of Corpses, I assumed that the story would more than likely involve gothic horror, but I didn’t expect the amount of fighting and intensity I saw. 

Though the world embraces many aspects of steampunk aesthetic, it also dips its toes into the magical. The science that goes into reanimating corpses is incredible to witness; the way plugs and drills go into bodies, or how mechanisms function to fuel energy, is equally as thrilling as it is chilling. Because even though The Empire of Corpses doesn’t lean hard into scary territory, it does pack some decent bits of gruesome imagery.

But even though the dead walk among the living, The Empire of Corpses takes place in our world. Watson’s story starts in England, taking him to India and eventually to America. In this revisionist approach to history, it’s surreal to think of technology that could bring the dead back to life and how that would alter our world. However, while this is certainly thought-provoking, it is how the film plays with historical and literary individuals that is more intriguing. For example, much of the science behind the corpse technology is thanks to an Analytical Engine called “Charles Babbage” – think I may have sensed the ears of history buffs perk up. For those unaware, Charles Babbage was a very real and prominent mathematician who originated the idea of the computer. On the literary side, the film includes several characters from famous novels, one example being Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov from the Russian novel The Brothers Karamazov. These characters only make up for a small taste of the fun Easter eggs one will find.

The film’s use of history, action and philosophy effectively work throughout; the pacing allows for the audience to get a good dose of one, to then transition and provide another layer of storytelling to keep them engaged. Its consistent sci-fi horror edge allows for an atmosphere pumping with tension and suspense, keeping one excited for each new discovery.

Not only does The Empire of Corpses make for an incredible story on its own, but it also makes for an excellent extension to the Frankenstein cannon. For those who may not have read Frankenstein yet, the film makes for an awesome entry point, providing enough philosophical fascination to potentially excite the viewer to seek more. 

With plenty of gruesome moments and gloomy ambiance, the film exudes awesome gothic style. The overall narrative, along with Watson’s drive, offer an awesome adventure where audiences can expect plenty of rush and intellectual intrigue. At the time of this writing, you can rent the film on Vudu for roughly three dollars. If you are like me and enjoy interesting takes on history and gothic horror, you will absolutely want to check out The Empire of Corpses



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3632624/empire-corpses-built-gothic-chills-historical-thrills-anime-horrors/

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