Thanatomorphose is most definitely the most disturbing title for a horror movie since Anthropophagus. You can’t hear titles like this without wondering “What the hell am I getting myself in to?”
This movie could easily get compared to the film Contracted because of the “body horror” angle. However, Thanatomorphose is no cautionary tale meant to spook our dirty little minds. What happens doesn’t appear to be the consequence of any bad choices, which actually makes the randomness of it that much more terrifying. The basic premise—a woman whose flesh is slowly rotting away—is the perfect nightmare. Knowing you’re going to sit through almost two hours watching her disintegrate bit by bit leaves you with a total sense of dread.
The movie definitely delivers relentless grotesquery. It’s also an “art” piece; it’s a smart film with deeper meaning. I need stupid when watching horror; I prefer my intelligence be insulted, not wowed by the thought-provoking meaning behind it. Too much smart for too long can numb my mind, no matter how bloody or how much nudity.
For sure, Thanatomorphose is unapologetic in its close-ups of male and female genitals. But it’s never sexy considering the whole rotting woman thing. And it definitely delivers on the gross. After watching an hour of time lapses of this woman just doing her daily routine so we sense her isolation in her apartment, we watch her rot, puke, puke on her lover, shit and piss uncontrollably, pluck maggots out of her flesh, masturbate her rotting flesh into liquid, blow a guy then spit out his cum in vivid detail (why he lets a rotting woman blow him is a whole different issue), and sew and tape her body parts back on as they fall off.
It’s a total gorefest—that is totally dragged along by its depth. Yeah, I get it. She’s rotting on the inside and outside, physically and emotionally. See, she lives alone, has an abusive boyfriend, and can’t even have friends over for a party because her landlord is a dick. She’s a horror metaphor for miserable, lonely, unhappy people who push the world away because they are so unpleasant to be around. They’re also hard to feel bad for in a horror movie!
At first, she acts completely indifferent to the fact that she’s rotting. She refuses to let anyone help her and has no interest in going for help herself. She’s the poster child for those who can’t be helped unless they are willing to admit there’s a problem and help themselves. She wallows in her own worthlessness. As a viewer, you sort of throw your hands up in the air and say, “Oh well, there’s nothing to do for her so just let her rot.” Which I guess is exactly the point.
Yeah, it is pretty brilliant. And it’s a total downer. It doesn’t scare, just grosses you out. Cabin Fever was a “horror” approach to flesh-eating disease as the monster. Thanatomorphose is a psychological character study disguised as a horror film.
There’s a veering towards an outward horror element near the end when her decay gets so bad she has to infect others with it (that’s what they get for inviting her negativity into their lives), but again, it’s more about showing the tragedy of this character than delivering horror thrills.
Once you’ve seen Thanatomorphose, it’s not like you ever need to see it again unless you can totally relate. If you’re into the whole “misery loves company” thing, she’s your girl!
But seriously, director Eric Falardeau is one sick puppy and could make a truly terrifying horror film if he wasn’t so keen on exploring the inner turmoil of the mind. The visuals are stunningly heinous and the film begins with over two minutes of trippy ominous music and cryptic creepy visuals that bring to mind the styling of the most disturbing and gritty movies of the 1970s. It set my mind up for a terrifying experience, but I didn’t get the heart-stopping roller coaster ride I anticipated.
Even the three short films included on the DVD demonstrate Falardeau’s twisted brilliance:
Coming Home has very little dialogue and leaves it up to us to conclude why one man takes another man out to a snowy field, ties him down, and cuts off his eyelids. OMG that scene was brutal to watch.
La Petite Mort, not even three minutes long, is the melding of sex and violence. A man pins a woman up to a wall in what looks like a sexual act but is instead him penetrating her with a knife with steady, rhythmic thrusts. Fucked up (literally)!
Purgatory again leaves us to draw our own conclusions. A man is trapped in a basement where he’s harassed and haunted by a mysterious woman who seems to trigger his regular acts of self-mutilation.
Director Eric Falardeau takes on some serious issues—sex, violence, abuse, self-loathing, self-punishment—and dresses them up in blood and gore. It’s almost doing his work a disservice to label it as horror. But who else is going to watch a chick rot for and hour and forty minutes, no matter how smart and artsy they fancy themselves?