Thanatomorphose – a French word meaning ‘an organism's decomposition caused by death’. Yes, it is a real word, however awkward to pronounce. It’s the title of Éric Falardeau’s debut feature gore-fest and it sums up exactly how you’re going to feel while watching it.
After a night of hyper-abstract sex with her cold lover, an unnamed young woman (Kayden Rose) slowly begins decomposing while she’s living in the confines of her apartment. That is it; the movie’s premise is its plot. Aside from a few scenes with her miserable friends and their miserable romances, we’re just watching a naked woman rot away. However, Thanatomorphose isn’t meant to be big on story - this is meant to be an atmospheric film, about building tension and getting under your skin.
It nearly does get the atmosphere right, there were moments where I definitely felt uneasy, but it was never able to sustain the uncomfortable mood it builds up. The movie has a habit of holding on a shot for far too long. While initially you’re squirming in your seat, you eventually find yourself looking at the clock beyond the point of boredom. This happens all too often, time and time again the movie tortures you with its mind crushingly slow pace through the gory scenes and the mundane ones.
I really love low-budget gory films, and after reading this premise I was really excited to see what they would do with a nice simple idea like that. However, I think it’s a bit too simple. It has all the elements you look for in a cheesy B-Movie: awful acting, unnecessary sex scenes, no budget and lots of gore, but this film doesn’t want to be one of those films, Thanatomorphose wants to be an art film. It takes more than a handful of Antichrist’s style, adds in some over the top abstract sequences and barely tells a story, the whole thing just feels very superficial. I wasn’t exactly looking for a deeper message, but because the film took itself so seriously with its symbolism and metaphors I couldn’t care about what was going on.
Everything I’ve mentioned above can all be completely forgiven if the gore works. I didn’t come to this movie for a heart-breaking story or a profound message. I came to be grossed-out by the bloody, Cronenbergian body horror. Disappointingly, I found myself squirming away from the screen only on fleeting occasion. The overall production of the gore isn’t as high as it should be for a movie like this. As she becomes more and more decomposed, it becomes less and less believable. I’m no doctor, so I don’t know exactly how a living, rotting person would look, but I’d expect something a little more visually interesting than what looks like being smothered in black paint.
There are some interesting and effecting moments in this movie; I think if the budget and story were focused into ten minutes, this could have been a successful movie. Then again, I might be coming at this film from the wrong angle. As the movie slowly drags you through its depressing, uncomfortable, unflinching, abstract gore-fest, you’ll feel like you’re rotting away and want it all to be over. So if you want a (possibly clever) movie that really puts you into the mind-set of its protagonist, then give Thanatomorphose a watch.
Thanatomorphose is out now in the UK on DVD and Blu-Ray