REVIEW: THANATOMORPHOSE (2012, TetroVideo)

Thanatomorphose is a Canadian body-horror film directed by Eric Falardeau, originally released in 2012, and now finally being released on bluray for the first time ever curtesy of TetroVideo.

A sexually active young woman wakes up to find her body has been infected by a disease and her flesh is slowly rotting away. Laura (Kayden Rose) is a quiet but outgoing socialite who enjoys the company of her friends but nothing can prepare her for the virus which will take control of her body and change her life forever…

We know very little of the virus which will take over Laura’s body and there is an element of mystery around what is happening to her and where it will lead. It is implied that it may be a sexually transmitted disease due to the fact she wakes up after sexual intercourse to find bruising and other marks which get worse through time,however it isn’t as clear-cut as you may think. Laura’s sexual partners are not carrying the same symptoms despite having close relations with her. Thanatomorphose focuses on showing the stages of decomposition gradually through its chapters; watching a healthy woman develop an illness which rots away at her body is shocking and hard to watch.

For a body-horror film, Thanatomorphose never loses its focus. The spread of the virus on Laura’s body is shown graphically and we are shown everything (even real maggots). The film uses impressive practical effects and make-up to show the changes the virus has on Laura’s skin and the realism is breathtaking. There are several times where you will feel physically sick by the skin crawling visuals and gore which are accelerated in line with Laura’s horrific transformation into a walking carcass.

The sound design of the film creates a tense, knife-edge atmosphere which drags and pulls at your nervous system. Subtle, soothing violin music corresses the screenplay while harsh, distorted, noise grinds during art-house segments. The film is unpredictable and unrelentless, it doesn’t want you to have an easy ride. The lighting is another strong point for the film as each scene is perfectly lit using vibrant, neon colours which vary and are very much ‘alive’ like the virus taking over Laura’s body…

Thanatomorphose is layered with social commentary and hard hitting messages. Laura tries to repair herself as her body withers away but never thinks about giving up or accepting her fate. She tries to repair her body while sculpting a clay head. It is almost as if she is wanting to exist, without beauty but by being someone else. There is also a strong message around how men treat women. Men only visit Laura for one thing; sex. When her appearance changes, they gradually lose their sexual desires to be around her then lose interest in her wellbeing altogether. There is so much going on from a visual and psychological aspect that the film really struck a chord with me and I felt more and more empathy towards a helpless woman trying to do all she can to survive.

The film uses very little dialogue but it manages to achieve strong character development towards the lead actress through its solid storytelling. The acting is sublime and we build a vested interest in Laura as she fights to save her body from falling apart, certainly more than the other men shown on-screen. There is plenty of gore on display but the film still carries a somber tone regardless and we can’t escape the nihilism as the film drives towards its climax.

Falardeau manages to deliver a body-horror masterpiece on his first outing as a director which pushes the boundaries of the genre like never before. Thanatomorphose has been released several times before by other distribution labels but this is the best it has ever looked. The film deserves to be on a bluray disc and it deserves to be in your collection.

Score: 5/5

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