23rd Sep2013

GrimmFest 2013 Review: ‘Thanatomorphose’

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Kayden Rose, Émile Beaudry, Eryka Cantieri, Roch-Denis Gagnon, Simon Laperrière, Pat Lemaire, Karine Picard, David Tousignant | Written and Directed by Éric Falardeau

Thanatomorphose: “visible signs of an organism’s decomposition caused by death”

Thanatomorphose-image

Thanatomorphose is, to put it bluntly, a startling and horrifying first feature from writer/director Éric Falardeau. On the surface the film has a pretty simple plot: discovering several bruises on her body after a night of rough sex, a young woman is shocked as, rather than heal itself, her body begins rotting from the inside out, her putrifying body literally falling off the bone.

However dig a little deeper and you soon realise Falardeau’s film, however shocking, is actually a metaphor for societies ills – touching on ideas of loneliness, hopelessness, bad body-image and self-loathing. You could say the film is a wake-up call for all those young “sexualised” girls the media are forever warning us about. After all, our central character is seemingly subservient to men – she suffers at the hands of a boyfriend who uses and abuses her, their relationship is not built on love he is merely using her as his sexual relief; and when one of her male friends offers help she repays him with oral sex. It’s not until her body image is broken down she finds an inner strength. OK, so that strength turns her into a raving psychopath, killing those men that have, in her eyes, wronged her – but it’s strength nonetheless…

It’s hard to even empathise with Falardeau’s protagonist as, right from the get-go, it’s as if the character has given up on life, such is the extent of her abuse – she just doesn’t care about anything, passively letting everything happen to her and even when she starts to decompose she doesn’t fight back, instead she documents her decomposition, as if she has no other choice but to let it happen.

Of course you can’t have a body horror without the gore and director Éric Falardeau lathers it on thick (and gooey). From the early stages of decomposition – nails falling off, festering wounds; to the latter portion of the film as our protagonist is cover head-to-toe in make-up, duct tape and maggots – there is gore and grue by the bucketload. And all roads lead to the Evil Dead like stop-motion finale as the flesh literally falls from our “heroine’s” body and she crumbles to the floor, nothing more than blood and bone…

It’s not all about the gore though. Falardeau also knows how to unsettle… He throws in some strange “arthouse” style cutaways that leave you questioning what you have seen, the kind of disjointed and disorientating imagery that will literally put you on edge. Falardeau is also not averse to playing with his directorial style either, mixing lens’, focus, switching from static shots to handheld, all of which is used to great effect to disturb the audience. Add in the fantastic violin-led score by Rohan Kriwaczek and you have a film that is physically as unsettling as it is thematically.

Thanatomorphose clearly wears its influenced on its sleeve – it is a strange and claustrophobic tale of sexuality, horror and bodily fluids that recalls the best of David Cronenberg (Rabid, Shivers, The Fly) and Jorg Buttgereit (Nekromantik), with echoes of Roman Polanski’s Repulsion in the isolated madness of Falardeau’s protagonist, all the while harkening back to the sex and death body horror of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser.

This is not a film for everyone that’s for sure, but for those looking for something more intelligent, whilst at that same time a little more extreme, Thanatomorphose is hard to beat. Haunting, disturbing and stunning, the film shows at GrimmFest on October 6th before being released on DVD by Monster Pictures on November 25th.

***** 5/5

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