Somewhere on this page, probably right at the bottom, you’ll find a star rating, probably out of 5.

Disregard whatever it says.

Eric Faladeau’s body horror Thanatomorphose just isn’t quantifiable in that way.  I’ve watched it twice now and I have absolutely no clue what the hell I think of the film or whether I like it.  I just know I’m not watching it a third time.

On the one hand it’s a nasty, repellent, stomach churning, bucket of gore that’s to be endured rather than enjoyed.  On the other it’s a brutally stark, shocking portrayal of one lonely, depressed young woman’s mental and physical deterioration as she’s metaphorically and literally consumed by her demons.  Or perhaps it’s simply a critique of modern life; a study in alienation.  Maybe it’s all of these but one thing is certain; don’t eat anything, you’ll definitely want to view Thanatomorphose on an empty stomach.

After a bout of rough unfulfilling sex, a young woman (Kayden Rose) finds a large, vivid bruise on her shoulder.  An artist, she’s dissatisfied with her life, her work and her boorish boyfriend (David Tousignant).  As time passes, she becomes increasingly insular, reclusive, isolating herself in her tiny apartment, joylessly masturbating beneath a large vaginal-looking patch of damp that seems to be spreading across her bedroom ceiling.  The bruise on her shoulder spreads as well, is joined by others.  She loses hair, fingernails, her body becoming a patchwork of discoloured flesh and raw, weeping sores as she physically and mentally disintegrates, rotting before our eyes.

Apparently a Hellenic word derived from Thanatos (meaning to die and the Greek personification of Death) and morphosis (meaning to form), Thanatomorphose is a physiological term for the visible signs of decomposition in a dead organism.  In this case it’s also the vilest gross-out film of the year, an uncompromising vision that only the most devoted gore hound could possibly stomach as its beautiful protagonist falls apart for our delectation.  Drawing as much on the likes of Repulsion, Naboer and the brilliant, but little seen, Canadian psychological horror Comforting Skin, as much as it does splatterpunk or the body horror of Cronenberg, Faladeau’s Thanatomorphose is perhaps closest to the work of controversial German director Jörg Buttgereit (Nekromantik, Schramm, Der Todesking).  It’s an intense, claustrophobic, palpably menacing piece of work that eschews anything so mundane as incident or conventional narrative in favour of a relentless, gut-wrenching depiction of physical decay and corruption.

Lead actress Kayden Rose delivers a committed, courageous performance, shorthand for she’s totally bare-ass naked for much of the film, but there’s little here in the way of titillation.  The sex scenes are graphic but perfunctory and brutal, there’s little to take pleasure from and they serve to illustrate Rose’s character’s commodification as much as anything else; she’s a vessel to be used by the unlovely men in her life, her only value in her corrupt sexuality, she’s consumed by them as much by the disease that’s eating her alive, a concept underlined by a particularly nasty dream sequence that sees her suitors, naked and bestial, fight over scraps of her rotting meat which they wolf down.  Her body is the canvas on which Faladeau’s film unfolds and without her there simply is no film.  And Rose is fearless, giving a performance free of ego that sees her spend most of the film nude, her skin increasingly rent, riven by sores and rot, blood, shit, and flesh dripping, flowing, from her body as her mental breakdown manifests itself physically and she’s reduced to meat.

A profoundly depressing, disgusting film that at 100 minutes is actually about 40 minutes too long and may have worked just as well as a 20 minute short, Thanatomorphose has an undeniable power to unsettle and fascinate, leaving you feeling hollow, grubby and devastatingly alone.  But then again, I did it watch it twice.  You have been warned!

EXTRAS: Making of Thanatomorphose and Faladeau’s short films Crepuscle and Purgatory

VERDICT: [rating=3]


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2 Responses

  1. TeamEdwardJace

    I just viewed this movie today upon seeing the trailer a week ago and then renting out of morbid curiosity. I’m into some dark things (not in a bad sense) but this film was indescribable. It was definitely depraved and gross and it made me cringe in parts. Yet it was oddly compelling and while I did not understand in parts, I was able to follow most of the film. Your review assisted me in understanding it better and now u was able to see the themes you outlined.(I knew she was going insane though too) the actress put on a great performance. I don’t thinking I’ll be watching this film again though lol

  2. Dan Yukio Mishima Cooper

    Superb review. You seem to be one of the few reviewers of this movie who has a grasp of it’s intended genre. I’m definitely checking this out.