Review Index



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.

The Package
     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 Story
     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.

The Direction
     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 chained-up men.
     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 SALO and 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 scant.
     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.

Vital Statistics


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