Thanatomorphose is the film you send to your buddy who has just been told they have genital warts as a reminder things could be much, much worse. Writer/director Éric Falardeau’s tale of an STD from hell still hasn’t lost its power to shock and disgust in the nine years since it was filmed. And it did shock the hell out of me when I first saw it and I knew what I was getting into. I can only imagine the reactions of those viewers who picked it up at Walmart with a DVD case painting it as just another zombie film.
I suppose Thanatomorphose could technically be called a zombie film. The word means “a set of morphological alterations determined by death”. But this is a million miles removed from all of the Dawn of the Walking Dead in Z Nation films out there. This is a film that is as disturbing mentally as it is visually.
The film begins with some highly stylized footage of what we eventually can tell are Laura (Kayden Rose) and Antoine (Davyd Tousignant, Discopathe) having sex. Shortly after she notices some bruises on her body but doesn’t pay them much attention. She has the same lack of reaction to a fingernail falling off the next morning.
The rest of her life isn’t much better. She’s a sculptor who is on the verge of giving up on her art. Her relationship with Antoine is toxic and abusive. Her involvement with Julian (Émile Beaudry, District 31) isn’t much better. Worst of all she lacks the self esteem to try to change her life. And now her body seems to be as dead as her soul.
Thanatomorphose signals where it’s going early in the film. Shortly after sex Antoine comes into the kitchen and takes a drink of milk which turns out to have gone bad. Then shortly after, he steps on a nail sticking out of the floor. Blood and the rotting of something, in this case a life, that has already passed its expiration date.
The entire film takes place in Laura’s dingy and dimly lit apartment which cinematographer Benoît Lemire gives an incredibly claustrophobic feel to. That feeling just reinforces the film’s atmosphere of despair and misery. While it’s best known for its visuals, Thanatomorphose is a mentally and emotionally brutal film as well.
Bleak and nihilistic, you know there’s no way this can have a happy ending, the film traps in in the protagonist’s dead end life. Then it drags you down into her mental and physical decay. There are moments when the script almost falls into pretentiousness, but manages to stay involving up until the end. As much as you might want to, you can’t look away.
As I mentioned earlier, Thanatomorphose is, depending on your point of view, famous or infamous for its visuals. David Scherer (Blood Machines, The Black Gate) does an incredible job of depicting Laura’s decomposition as well as the violence that results from it. It’s fairly obvious that both Scherer and Falardeau studied David Cronenberg’s version of The Fly when designing the look and feel of Laura’s transformation.
It’s a masterpiece of blood, bodily fluids and maggots that leads to a literally jaw dropping ending. Contracted coincidentally covered some of the same ground in 2013. And you can see the film’s influence on Bite, which allegedly caused audience members at Fantasia to be sick, in 2015.
But neither come close to Thanatomorphose in depicting what happens. Indeed, despite the advances in technology since it was filmed, few films have managed to rival its effects. And despite all I’ve seen since I first saw it, it still grossed me out watching it now. CGI, needless to say, will never match this.
TetroVideo are releasing Thanatomorphose in a regular Blu Ray and limited edition. You can check their website and Facebook page for prices and ordering details. Just don’t eat before watching it, and always use protection.