The spirit of David Cronenberg is evident in this profoundly
disquieting French-Canadian art-horror film about a young woman’s body
decaying from the inside out.
As of late 2013 the Quebec-made THANATOMORPHOSE (2012),
the first feature by writer/producer/director Eric Falardeau, has played
several major film festivals and won quite a few prestigious awards.
Naturally it has yet to reach the US, although a DVD release is
scheduled for 2014 from Unearthed Films.
The young sculptor Laura finds herself at a crossroads
in life, feeling empty and unfulfilled--sentiments mirrored in the
nondescript furnishings of her apartment. Laura has a fight with her
asshole boyfriend one night, after which she finds strange bruises
appearing on her skin. The following day her fingernails begin falling
out. She throws a party in her apartment, during which she meets Julian,
a nice guy who takes a definite interest in her. But as with everything
else in her life, Laura finds herself losing interest in sex.
Laura suffers horrific nightmares, and over the
following days more bruises appear on her skin, as well as a nasty wound
on her head. Vomiting and incontinence follow, along with further
wounds. Her skin turns a vile purplish color and maggots begin nesting
in it. None of her attempts at alleviating the decay, be they medical or
cosmetic, do much to decelerate the process.
Inevitably Laura’s BF turns up at the apartment, and,
as you might guess, is decidedly nonplussed by what he sees. She
impulsively kills him, an act that reawakens her dormant libido. Laura
calls up Julian for more carnality, and winds up killing him as well. By
this point, alas, Laura’s physical deterioration has reached the point
where her bones are literally breaking off and her skin and organs
melting into a mass of gelatinous goo.
First, the problems: the film isn’t terribly original,
containing elements lifted from David Cronenberg’s THE FLY (the rotting
fingernails and falling-off body parts) and 2003’s
IN MY SKIN (in
a scene where a piece of skin is preserved in formaldehyde). There’s
also the problem of pretension, which is inevitable given
writer-producer-director Eric Falardeau’s art film treatment; Falardeau
seems to feel he’s hit upon some kind of metaphor for female
exploitation, evident in the film’s silliest scene, a dream sequence in
which pieces of the heroine’s body are cut off and devoured by
The film works best at its simplest, as a surreal
depiction of encroaching madness and decay. As such it has an impact
comparable to classic art-horror freak-outs like
IN A GLASS CAGE. As with those films,
this one shuns cheap exploitation in favor of a more artful and
elemental horror; it aims to disturb, and for the most part
succeeds. Also like SALO and IN A GLASS CAGE, THANATOMORPHOSE could
never have been made in the U.S. For that matter, in its audacious
juxtaposition of sex and physical decomposition it goes places even
Cronenberg has never dared venture.
It’s marked by subtly off-kilter visuals that more
often than not present us with portions rather than the entirety of a
shot, and focus that tends to (intentionally) waver in and out. The
effect is one of artful disorientation, enhanced by jarring and
discordant sound design. Also contributing to the effect are the
near-flawless special effects of David Scherer and Remy Couture, which
achieve Cronenberg-worthy sights on a budget that was reportedly quite
There there’s the amazing lead performance of Kayden
Rose, which can be used as an object lesson in how to impart complex
emotions without dialogue. Furthermore, Ms. Rose’s work in this film
all-but redefines daring.
Director/Producer/Screenwriter: Eric Falardeau
Cinematography: Benoit Lemire
Editing: Benoit Lemire, Frederick Maheux
Cast: Kayden Rose, Davyd Tousignant, Emile Beaudry, Karine Picard, Roch-Denis
Gagnon, Eryka L. Cantieri, Pat Lemaire, Simon Laperriere