Thanatomorphose (UK DVD)
Directed by Éric Falardeau
Distributed by Monster Pictures
'Thanatomorphose' – The French physiological term for the decomposition of dead organisms, and a fitting title for Éric Falardeau's grisly debut feature. A brave Kayden Rose takes the lead as a young woman leading a dreary existence in her apartment, punctuated most commonly with visits by her drunken, abusive and sexually forceful boyfriend.
After a particularly rough bout of coitus, the young lady finds that rather than healing over the next few days, her bruising appears to be spreading – before gradually ramping up into weeping sores and signs of rot spreading all across her body. As her personal life also finds itself falling away with the loss of her job and the threat of eviction from her bitchy landlord, Rose's character becomes a recluse, locking herself away from the outside world and both her boyfriend and best friend – who himself seems more interested in being a 'friend with benefits' than anything else.
And so, she rots. And walks around the apartment a bit. And rots. And pulls off a piece of flesh. Oh, and masturbates while staring at a vagina-shaped stretch of damp on her bedroom ceiling – even while blood flows freely from her putrid pleasure centre. Gradually, her mental state collapses as assuredly as her physical, until repercussions befall all who seek to reconnect with her.
Falardeau's Thanatomorphose has unreserved delusions of grandeur, smacking consistently of an artistic self-assuredness that just can't ever seem to make the audience connection that it wishes. Sex and dream sequences awash with visual filters pop up occasionally, while act-splitting title cards remain as perplexingly aloof in their intentions as the rest of the film – and equally as tedious. The point being made at the core of Thanatomorphose is simple and easy to ascertain, but it's also easy to get across in 20 minutes, never mind the thoroughly over-stretched 100 found here.
Falardeau's characters, most critically his lead, are woefully underdeveloped, giving Rose little to do but walk around naked (for quite literally around 90% of the film) and offer the occasional mumblecore-ish line of banal dialogue. So isolation, despair and the lack of personal prospects quite literally see our protagonist rot from the inside out – but why do we care? In Thanatomorphose we simply don't, and it serves to make the experience more of a drag than necessary to endure.
On the positive side of the experience, the visual metamorphosis of the lead's apartment from low-rent living space to red-hued monster dungeon is impressive in its surreptitiousness (though in general the cinematography regularly wallows in its low budget limitations, while offering the occasional piece of surprising perception-meddling), and the special effects are truly something to behold. Courtesy of Canadian effects artist Rémy Couture and his team, the progressive breakdown of our lead's body is frightfully icky and thoroughly convincing. From full-body makeup to gooey lumps of dripping flesh and blood as she bandages and tapes herself together, Thanatomorphose's special effects are the true stomach-churning winner of the day. This is not something that you want to watch with a meal – nor a full stomach for that matter – and ought to challenge even the most robust of gore fans when it comes to some of its nastiest moments.
And so it boils down to little more than a gore-soaked curio. A film that is more likely to find its place at rowdy parties – thrown on to test the mettle of the uninitiated as it's fast-forwarded through each progressive scene of bodily decimation – than it is to court the serious appreciation it so desperately craves elsewhere. It's all grue, little substance.
Monster Pictures' DVD release of Thanatomorphose features two short films from Falardeau – one stop-motion animated and the other live action – that both operate on the same turgid level as his feature: that is, over-long, indulgently self-assured and loaded with extreme gore. A 'behind-the-scenes' featurette runs at a good length and gives a satisfying look at things on-set, including short interview pieces with many involved, and a trailer brings the package to a close.
1 1/2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5