Ginger Nuts of Horror
Welcome back to Film Gutter, and today the waters are even more murky and horrendous than usual. One of the reasons I wanted to start writing Film Gutter is that I was curious where my line was in terms of offence, shock, controversy and so on. I've always liked things that have been edgy – comedy, TV, film, books – and I set about wondering if I could find a point where I'd say 'you know, really, that's just too much.' When I started this series, I was amazed how many of the supposedly controversial films out there I'd already seen and filed away in my brain as not having made much of an impact on me. Maybe Film Gutter at its heart is a test of my own endurance.
Butt never has that been more sorely tested than by today's film, Thanatomorphose.
So, where to begin? I suppose for the first half-hour we have a relatively normal looking human drama, with our unnamed female lead in an uneasy relationship with a dominating boyfriend and also being pursued by one of her more timid friends, who is in a relationship of his own. The characters are a bit broadly drawn on the whole, so to be honest these opening scenes weren't all that striking. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security by this – I decided to watch the last hour of this over dinner, not expecting anything too bad, and boy was that a mistake.
Because it's around this half-hour mark that things really start to go south for our lead, as her body effectively starts to become a corpse. She's still alive, and can feel – this certainly isn't a zombie feature in any conventional sense – but her flesh gradually begins to rot away and decay, she becomes cold to the touch and finds her body simply giving out on her. At first the signs are subtle, but the breakdown is both physical and mental. She shuts herself away from people and becomes almost fascinated with the process that is happening to her. And – even more disgustingly – as her condition worsens, her appetite for sexual contact grows and grows, leading to a couple of genuinely disgusting scenes that I really wish I could bleach out of my mind.
In a nutshell, that's about all there is to it, plot-wise. It's not a film intended to be complicated – it's a genuinely sickening slice of body horror that had me this close to hitting the stop button a number of times, which would have been the first time in my viewing history. The close-ups of the entropy process are almost gleefully presented, and the scenes do feel carefully thought out, despite the lightness of the storyline. The last half-hour in particular is utterly disturbing, and I can only describe it as an absolute ordeal to go through. When the final scene concluded I had my hands on my ears asking myself 'Is it over? Is it over?'. Because I honestly thought I couldn't survive another minute,
The budget for the movie clearly isn't massive – in fact only $40000 Canadian – but the acting from the male characters is serviceable and our lead fills what must have been an uneasy role well. While the plot isn't heavy, I think the message here is that our abused lead feels she's only good for sex, nothing more, nothing less. The rot that sets in might manifest on the outside, but you could say that the process starts on the interior. The fact she wants human contact more than help is a sad testament to that.
The film is an absolute slap in the face, from start to finish. In fact, it's more like being slapped in the face continuously for 95 minutes. The very first scene was an eye-opener, and there are some scenes that are nothing but visual and aural assaults on the senses, quite deliberately presented as so with disorieting camera effects and grating sound. The effects are a bit too good and believable, and obviously had a lot of time and effort spent on them to nauseating effect. I've got to give it a rating, but I cannot legitimately recommend it to anyone unless it's on a dare.
Rating: 7/10. Well, I had to score it something. Absolutely horrible, for the last hour in particular, and a film I rather wish I could go back and unsee. Approach with caution even if you've read this and thought 'wow, that sounds great'. A lot of elements of the film work well – the effects, the performance of the lead actress, the sound – but there's a definite brevity of storyline here that means I can't really award it a corking grade. So it's a pretty passable 7/10 for a film that will stay with me forever.
And not in a way I like...