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An impressively executed exploration of abuse and suffering, “Thanatomorphose” is sure to leave you feeling rotten to your core.

Thanatomorphose

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Sadly, many people seem to overlook the Canadian body horror film Thanatomorphose, directed by Eric Falardeau in his directorial debut, when compiling their “50 Most Disturbing Movies of All Time” lists online.

Sure, A Serbian Film packs a guttural punch, and the Human Centipede trilogy remains a cult staple. However, what I feel that these films lack is a sense of muted realism.

Thanatomorphose is shot almost like a documentary, lending a hyper-realistic air, and Kayden Rose’s unflinching (mostly) nude performance makes it feel as though you are witnessing both a Performative art piece and a Snuff film.

The Hellenic word ‘Thanatomorphose’ roughly translates as ‘’visible signs of death via decomposition.’’

The film is exactly that.

We are invited to witness a vulnerable woman literally decompose while still living; this is a direct euphemism for a person who simply exists as opposed to living life.

Life flurries and fluxes around Laura while she remains stagnant. She is trapped inside the prison of her own traumatized body and mind, rotting away as life passes her by, like many of us who have ever felt trapped by our traumas or by our own failing bodies.

The film stars Kayden Rose as Laura, a depressed, introverted woman who lives alone in her small apartment, to which much of the film’s runtime is confined. Laura’s very existence is one of downtrodden misery; she is abused and taken advantage of by every man in her life. She is even physically and sexually abused by her boyfriend, Antoine.

As the audience, Laura’s suffering is palpable to us, and it is an extremely uncomfortable position we find ourselves in as inactive voyeurs.

We are invited to partake in Laura’s suffering alongside the repulsive, predatory men who indulge in her spiraling and disturbing mental health.

When Laura is woken by a sickness ravaging her body following another aggressive sexual assault from Antoine, things become strange.

It begins with unexplained bruising appearing across Laura’s body, along with heightened nightmares where she dreams of corpses that are in advanced states of decomposition.

I won’t spoil the depths of depravity that detail Laura’s crumbling body state; however, be warned that the Body Horror showcased here is utterly vile.

Bits are rotting off Laura as she nonchalantly collects her own discarded bodily pieces and stores them in jars — calling to mind Seth Brundle in Cronenberg’s The Fly or Betty in Nekromantik.

Outside the impressively realistic practical gore FX provided by Canuck FX controversialist Remy Couture, Kayden Rose is very much the centerpiece of Thanatomorphose. She is nude for much of the film’s screen time; her intense eye contact, coupled with her rigid bodily movements, results in an unflinching performance.

This lends itself to the morally corrupt, Snuff-like feel of the film.

Despite the nudity and sexual content, there is NOTHING remotely sexy about Thanatomorphose, nor did Falardeau ever intend there to be.

In 2014, Falardeau stated that he developed the concept for the film when discussing the notion of someone rotting from the inside to his then-girlfriend. Around this time, he was writing his Master’s thesis, which focused on ‘’bodily fluids in Gore and Porn films,’’ and thus, the marriage of these notions resulted in him writing his debut film.

The Foley work, the camera work, and the minimalist OST add to the overall nightmarish feel of Thanatomorphose.

This is not an easy film to digest. However, it does have something strong to say.

The film focuses on the struggles of the downtrodden, of the abused women who simply exist within their cocoons of depression, violence, and sexual trauma.

Laura may choose to merely accept her lot in life, but that does not detract from her overall resilience. She keeps fighting despite her horrifying physical symptoms, and she keeps living despite the Hell in which she finds herself suffering at the hands of abusive men.

Thanatomorphose gives the outsider a tiny flavor of what it means to truly exist in Purgatory. That may not make for comfortable viewing, but it does make for impactful viewing.

Like Laura, you may find yourself transformed once the film’s 100 minutes are complete.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3.5

Thanatomorphose is available to stream via Prime Video and Apple TV, or it is available to buy as a physical release from Tetrovideo and Unearthed Films.

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