Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #162
Number of Views: One
Release Date: 21 January 2014 (USA)
Sub-Genre: Body Horror
Country of Origin: Canada
Budget: CAD 40,000
Running Time: 100 minutes
Director: Éric Falardeau
Producer: Éric Falardeau
Screenplay: Éric Falardeau
Special Effects: David Scherer
Visual Effects: Syl Disjonk
Cinematography: Benoît Lemire
Score: Rohan Kriwaczek
Editing: Benoît Lemire
Studio: Black Flag Pictures, Thanato Films
Distributor: Monster Pictures, Unearthed Films
Stars: Kayden Rose, Émile Beaudry, Eryka Cantieri, Roch-Denis Gagnon, Simon Laperrière, Pat Lemaire, Karine Picard, David Tousignant
Suggested Audio Bile
Rohan Kriwaczek “The Sultry Dance of Death”
As Keeper of The Crimson Quill it is my duty to report to you fine people about many different kinds of movies which fall under the horror umbrella. Much of the time the works I analyze are conventional pieces widely in the public domain but every now and then a feature comes along that defies classification. Thanatomorphose is one such movie.
This is not and I repeat NOT one for the masses, if your pre-requisite is for entertainment then you will be found wanting after 100 minutes with Éric Falardeau’s twisted tale. Fortunately I am not averse to art-house flicks which take place entirely in one location so I gladly took one for the team and entered the fray. Now I get the exclusive pleasure of relaying it back to you fine people but I fully intend to have lost half of you by around the midway point.
Thanatomorphose is a word conjured up by our French friends and means alteration through death. First time Canadian director Falardeau’s indie oddity charts the steady decomposition of an ill-fated young Fräulein whose name is never revealed and whom spends at least half the running time entirely nude. There is no rhyme or reason to her accelerating decay and instead the full duration is spent watching her decline, both physically and mentally as she endures a rather disparaging case of the Seth Brundles.
The film was shot on a shoestring and it shows. However, Falardeau does rather well considering the meager kitty at his disposal and it is clear that he has potential. I would imagine he did his thesis on fellow Canadian David Cronenberg as the master’s influence is here for all to see and it recalls such seventies body horror classics such as Shivers and Rabid. Like Cronenberg he also makes it abundantly clear that the naked form is nothing to hide away and, admittedly, Kayden Rose’s fine performance is quite probably aided by the fact that it allows her to act without inhibition.
There are very few bystanders here, a handful of drinking buddies are tertiary to events and two potential suitors come and go seemingly at will. For the lion’s share of her screen time she is alone thus dialogue is therefore at an absolute premium. This is a shrewd decision on Falardeau’s part as, truth be known, the characters and their actions are pretty hateful. Through keeping it zipped, it becomes easier to empathize with the hapless lead as it’s hard not feeling just a dash of pity for anyone whose ear drops off in their lap.
That’s not the half of it. If at all squeamish then I suggest you give this movie a very wide berth indeed. Nothing is kept from us, whether that be oozing pustules, glugging bile, regurgitated semen or full bowel and bladder excavations. It’s all here and that makes Thanatomorphose a fairly lousy date movie by all accounts. A wrought-iron gut would be advised as it’s like a crash course in Biology.
The film is split into three acts and, as we navigate between them, her mental decline is mirrored by her ever more besmirched apartment. The joint already looks as though decorated by Abel Ferrara but, as she begins to rot, so the mold begins to spread. This is especially potent in a scene where she masturbates whilst bleeding profusely from her haunch, and fixates on a widening spot of damp above her bedstead. Meanwhile the almost constant lack of personnel means that we become increasingly stifled with our protagonist as the walls begin to close in.
Rohan Kriwaczek ‘s somber score incorporates morose violins with stabbing electronic sound bytes and this lends itself to the grim mood, without ever becoming intrusive. It’s the only thing about Thanatomorphose that isn’t, from the first frame we are afforded fly on the wall insight to every bodily function and all is fair game so ultimately the connection forged is that much more intimate. It is entirely deliberate and, the fact that it reaches into our gut and twists, says much for the Canadian upstart. He explores the inherent fallibility of our shells with harrowing results.
By the time her appendages begin to simply drop off, she’s almost nonchalant to it and the loss of a fingernail here and a digit there aptly showcases her growing psychological disconnect. This is taken to extremes in the final act when she loses all grip on reality and spreads the dirty love with both her partner and hopeful plaything. Indeed, you have to feel for the guys as she begins to look a lot less attractive once blackened and spoiling. It doesn’t stop suitor #2 taking an oral flossing from her but you can see he is having to fight hard to maintain his erection as her chapped lips slide up and down his member. Meanwhile, pus is spilling from a gaping maw on the back of her cranium. Poor douche looks like a rabbit in headlights.
So then… down to the bottom line. Is Thanatomorphose worth a punt in the dark? Well, should you still be with us, then I would say that it is. It’s unique, features a brave central performance from Rose and will have you scratching like a flea-bitten mutt come its nauseating finale. Not a masterpiece by any means and, I can’t be any clearer on this, it is not for the faint of heart. If Jörg Buttgereit’s Nekromantik films didn’t cause you to hurl up your stomach lining then it is more than worthy of your time. Just don’t expect to feel good about yourself afterwards.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Enter with an empty stomach. Thanatomorphose isn’t overtly gory or, at least, not until its conclusion. Instead it focuses on being downright vile, showing decomposition up close and personal and with sickening consistency throughout.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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