Thanatomorphose, Oddtober 2019

Film: Thanatomorphose

Director: Éric Falardeau

Type of Film: Body horror

Availability: Released in 2012, you can get a copy here:

Comments: I’ve shared more than once that I sit on the OCD spectrum.  I specifically struggle with dirt, grime and germs – basic contamination obsessions.  While the obsessive element of contamination fears will likely always be at the back of my head, the compulsive element seems better in check these days.  I can get a little tense if things get dusty or if the cats have been shedding or puking a lot, but I don’t really find myself wanting to crawl into the vents to scrub them with a tooth brush anymore. Over the years I guess age and a good pharmacological combination have helped me tamp down the worst of it but mostly I’m doing pretty good, OCD-wise.

So of course I watched a movie about a woman who, essentially, rots to death. Of course I did. My skin crawled, I felt my scalp prickle, and about half-way in, I began to mindlessly tug on the hem of the t-shirt I was wearing. Luckily the film ended before I began chewing on my hair.  It’s a bad sign when I begin to chew my hair.  It means I will be going to Target to get several bottles of Lysol, sponges with a mesh scrubber on one side, and a new pair of rubber gloves.  What I am trying to convey is that this film ended just in time for me to be able to collect myself and avoid sanitizing everything in the house for the next couple of weeks.

Also, I feel I should mention I will be spoiling the hell out of this film.

Brief synopsis: Thanatomorphose literally means the signs of decomposition the body exhibits after death. This film’s title is what happens in the film. Laura, the heroine, begins to show signs of the sort of decay commonly experienced after death.  Initially, she has a few bruises and her joints are stiff, but once she turns the corner from freshly dead to recently departed, her bodily decay begins in earnest and speeds up.  All of this is normal if one is actually dead, but Laura still breathes, still walks, and still talks, though all of that becomes harder and harder as her body continues to decay. Eventually genuine death catches up to the rot and she finally decomposes past the point of being able to remain mobile and sentient and the film ends.

This is not an allegory.  There is no subtlety.  Laura may be able to breathe, have sex, interact with others, but she’s dead.  She’s an artist  – a sculptor – but she is unable to make any headway into becoming a working artist.  She had just moved into the apartment where the first scene takes place – unpleasant sex with her boorish boyfriend Antoine – and one of the first things she does is uncover a clay sculpture she was working on, an oval, almost egg-like mound of clay, but can find no inspiration.

Antoine steps on a nail after having sex with Laura, and she takes care of his wound with competence but shows little caring.  She’s naked, sponging off the wound, pouring peroxide on Antoine’s instep, and the first signs of rot show on her body.  She has a bruise along her jaw, a large bruise on her upper arm, and one on her ass. The bruises were settled and showing brown or purple – they were not fresh. I believe they were the first signs of Laura’s death.  After Antoine leaves and she gives up on trying to work on her sculpture, she attempts to masturbate but cannot reach orgasm. This implies she probably didn’t have enjoyable sex with Antoine – which seems very likely, actually – and she’s feeling increasingly separate from her own body.

The next morning, she wakes and gets ready for work. While in the shower, she drops the soap and catches her nail on the drain, pulling it off.  The rot is beginning to accelerate.  She goes to work and comes back to a rejection letter from an art co-op. Later her friends come to visit until her landlord throws them out.  One of the friends, Julien, comes on to Laura, annoyed that she seems to prefer the brutish Antoine.  When her friends leave, Antoine again forces himself on Laura, even hitting her at one point.  He comments that her body is very cold, and he means it literally, but she doesn’t seem aware of it.  She taunts him, insinuating that she is cold because he is lousy in bed and more unpleasant sex ensues.  After they go to sleep, she wakes and vomits on him, collapsing several times as she tries to get water or go to the bathroom.

Evidently Antoine leaves her in this state because when she rises again that morning, it is undeniable what is happening. Laura is dead.  Her body is showing the sort of effects one would see in a corpse dead for around 24 hours in a hot place.  She is unsteady on her feet, and it is here that she gives into the death that she clearly wants.  She accepts no help and asks for no help.  Julien shows up at one point and is appalled by what he sees happening to her but she refuses to leave for the hospital. Instead she gives him a blowjob, and he is both upset but unwilling to make her stop.  She’s already beginning to smell, her head is bleeding from one of the falls and he ends up with her blood on his hands, yet he doesn’t make her stop.  He leaves after ejaculating and she spits it onto the floor that previously she kept spotless.

Antoine comes back and Julien returns a second time, but I won’t reveal exactly what happens to them but it really can’t be called murder because the dead cannot form intent to kill.  Laura descends into a claustrophobic nightmare, wherein she begins to document her decay, using fingers and teeth that fall off in her egg-like sculpture.  She duct tapes her limbs when tendons begin to separate from the bone. She cloaks the windows with sheets or tapes trashbags over them in an attempt to cool her apartment because the summer heat is accelerating her decay.  She puts ice in cold baths, she becomes riddled with maggots, shits out the lining of her intestines, vomits up maggoty bile, and tries to preserve the parts of herself that she cannot tape or sew back on, in jars with some sort of alcohol, taking Polaroids when she can.  At some point she attempts to masturbate again, and this time she is able to climax, thinking about harming Antoine, which may have happened or may not have happened.  I’m not sure.  But only after she accepts her death does her sex drive return.

And she does accept her death.  She’s suffered a metaphorical death in that she hates her relationship, her friends seem like assholes, her new apartment comes with a pushy landlord who considers people listening to music a party, and her art offers her no sense of accomplishment.  She’s already dead but doesn’t lie down yet.  She seems to revel in her decay, the ultimate form of self-harm – rotting to death while photographing the ruin of her body.

However, at the end, just before her body finally falls apart due to the rot, heat and continual submersion in cold water, she accidentally knocks over her sculpture and breaks it. She no longer has the physical capacity to pick it up and make it right again. I initially thought that the pain and misery of dying this way caught up with her because it was here that she showed her first real sign of anguish, screaming in torment.  She has another spell of screaming when she deals with Julien the second time, and she lets out a banshee-like wail just before the remaining components of her body give way to decay.  Her scream ends when her jaw falls off and her skin falls away, her limbs dis-articulating.

She wants this death.  She’s a calm, competent young woman.  There is nothing hysterical or irrational in her behavior. She’s had enough of her life and the world as a whole. But her death takes long enough that she engages in diversions of the sort that give the viewer a belief that perhaps if she manages to create the piece of art that shows her talent and expresses her inner loathing, she may escape this death, maybe it’s a hallucination caused by a breakdown and not really happening.  But it is happening.  And there’s no way out.  This is one of the most complete forms of self-annihilation you’ll ever see in a film, and she embraces it without equivocation.

This sense that she wanted this suffering, this end, is probably what kept me from bathing in bleach the moment the film was over.  She did not feel misery because she was rotting.  She was rotting because she was miserable. The decay was her salvation. In a way that made the film easier to stomach.

This film takes place entirely in Laura’s apartment – a living area with a kitchenette, a bathroom and a bedroom. As her decay progresses, the space seems even smaller as Laura blocks out the windows and makes makeshift dividers between rooms to filter out the light.  It wasn’t an entirely claustrophobic feeling, seeing this play out in a small apartment but it was certainly stifling and limiting, an apt description of Laura’s life.

Additionally, the actress who played Laura, Kayden Rose, was naked throughout most of the film.  Once she took off her clothes after sex with Antoine after the “party,” she never again has on clothing.




Kayden Rose’s body’s decay is hard to watch.

The actress herself is attractive, and she possesses a thin but decidedly “skinny fat” build, with little muscle tone.  Her continual nudity, even before the rot really set in, stopped registering as nudity.  Her body was a repository of death and maggots, and in that state the most beautiful of bodies stops possessing any erotic qualities (unless you have some very specific paraphilias). Her body was a waiting room in the ICU. It was waiting for the end, as well.

Kayden Rose also has a capacity to look gawky when her hair is swept off her forehead and she is wearing glasses, to looking beautiful when her hair is loose and wearing makeup.  Sometimes just a change in lighting could cause her to look angelic one moment and distressingly plain the next. Similarly, her naked body could in some scenes look like an Hellenic marble statue with hipster tattoos or could look strangely flabby and unkempt.

The ability to offer such differing views of her body in a film wherein her body was rotting away, is an interesting talent.  Kayden Rose carried this odd, upsetting film all on her shoulders, and to be able to change how the viewer perceives her form is remarkable.  I looked her up after the film ended but she’s only been in three other films, two short films and one segment of a larger film.  Finding out she has not done more since this film was akin to watching Morten Klode in a death metal video and finding out he’s never starred in a leading role in a film.

I guess sometimes you have to take what you are given. But it’s a shame she’s not in more recent films.

Though it really did make me physically and psychologically uncomfortable, I’m glad I watched this film.  I found it on Amazon as I was searching for a copy of yesterday’s film, Where the Dead Go to Die. I deliberately try not to know too much about a film before I watch it, but by the title I more or less knew what I was walking into. But the film was simultaneously far more disturbing and much more appealing than I anticipated.  Bodily rot will always be disturbing but for me there is something very compelling about a heroine who has just had enough and embraces her end, however slow it comes.  This film is a slow suicide with no redemption but in the end Laura had more control than she ever had before in her life and once you get past all the “suicide is bad mmmmkay?” bullshit, this is a compelling, weirdly comforting film.

How to Eat Fried Furries by Nicole Cushing

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: How to Eat Fried Furries

Author: Nicole Cushing

Type of Book: Fiction, bizarro, short story collection

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Well, it begins with a team of humanoid ferrets trying to save the world from a literal shit storm. It gets odder from there.

Availability: Part of the Eraserhead Press New Bizarro Authors Series, it was published in 2010. You can and should get a copy here:


I am going to review one bizarro book a day this week. Why? Because I love bizarro literature. I also had five bizarro books to review and figured, “Why not.” If people like Bizarro Week, it may become a regular feature so if you are digging it, comment and let me know.

Also, if you leave me a comment in this entry today before 7:00 pm PST, you’ll be in the running to win a free copy of How to Eat Fried Furries. If you retweet any of my Twitter posts with the hashtag bizarroweek, that will also throw your name in the hat to win a copy of the book. That’s right, folks. I’m giving away two free copies and yes, you can both leave a comment here AND retweet in order to improve your chances of winning. I will choose one random commenter and one random retweeter after 7:00 pm PST. You definitely want a copy of this book. So get to it!

Okay, all my business out of the way, I need to say that this was a great book to start off Bizarro Week. A fucking wonderful book. A themed short story collection wherein all the stories have a link to one another, no matter how small, this book is subversive, sickening, funny, eerie and, dare I say it, entertaining. It is random, topical and creepy as all hell. One chapter raised the hair on the back of my neck, it was so creepy. These are stories for people who like being disgusted, for whom a book cannot be too disturbing, and who don’t mind the nasty being quite funny.

I think I knew this book was going to be utterly wonderful during the prologue.

Who hasn’t, in some moment of midnight genius, concocted a plan to murder Santa Claus? I know I have.

I have, too.

But killing Santa is only part of this book. And while the title refers to furries, they are not those kinds of furries, the kind mocked on CSI. They are humans forced to wear animal suits so people will feel more comfortable with cannibalism. A recurring theme in these stories is that of humans assuming the roles of animals, either as an attempt to survive during a squirrel invasion or by force in a grim dystopia, or animals becoming human hybrids, as happened with the grotesque Ferret Force Five, who try to save the Earth from space invasion as well as stop a massive shit storm that is covering the planet in hot, steaming poo.

And then there are the people who decide to lose their skins as a means of rebellion. Ugh.

So what makes this collection of stories about shit storms and Squirrel Jesus and deformed ferrets and cannibalism so special? Well, first, the book is culturally cunning without sliding into insufferable hipster territory. The nods to 90’s brother band Nelson and Pulp Fiction amused me but aren’t invasive. She blends little dots of pop culture references into her narrative in a manner that ensures that if you get the reference, you’ll grin a bit but if it all means nothing to you, you won’t sense that there is an inside joke that does not include you.

Second, Cushing’s narrative styles are also a thing of beauty. She uses a pastiche of different narrative types to tell the stories of worlds gone mad. Recipes, scripts for long-forgotten television shows, first person journalism accounts – the way she uses varied methods to tell these stories with a common theme make this collection seem active, engaging and sharp.

Third, she is a fine storyteller. I am walking a fine line here because I want to share some of the best parts of these tales but at the same time I do not want to give too much away. So to a degree, you may have to take my word for it that this is one clever, interesting, disgusting, foul, hilarious, over-the-top yet subtle short story collection. Some of the text will just make you uneasy, like the description of Ferret Force Five in the first chapter, “Ferret Force Five, Episode VII: Hirrelter Squirrelter! A Media Tie-In for the Ages!” The description of the hot, steaming shit storm in the same chapter is both disgusting and quite funny, especially the “science” that explains the phenomenon.

“Squirrelmagedon: 2012” is bleak, dystopic and horribly funny. The Angel Uriel sends survivors rhyming messages from a bi-plane and the remaining humans do their best to appear as squirrel-like as possible. Yet as bizarre(o) as it all seems, the characters still manage to pigeon-hole their experiences into the world view they had before they experienced such calamity.

Crossan couldn’t stand to hear her talk this way. Hadn’t she listened to enough of his sermons to know that the Book of Revelations predicted a cleansing, purifying bloodbath at the end? Didn’t she know Jesus would win? Admittedly St. John had left out the part about three decades of hiding from a squirrel army. But other than that it was all working out according to plan.

The best story in the collection is “A Citizen’s History of the Pseudo-Amish Anschluss.” This story, more restrained than the poop-filled, gross, outrageous plots of the other stories, was easily one of the creepiest, eeriest things I have read this year. I don’t want to discuss it in depth because frankly this is one of those stories I consider “worth the price of admission.” It’s a story most readers will come back to in moments of mental silence, remembering the absolute but understated horror of the piece. But let me share one passage from this story, and even with zero context, I think the power of Cushing’s prose will be clear:

I heard the Black Suit Ladies knocking gently–ever so gently–against the basement windows, the front door, the back door, the downstairs windows, the upstairs windows. Their tiny wrists tapped their elegant nails against each window, sending each pane of glass a-titter. “Bossie, time for milkin’!” they all called out in unison.

I didn’t answer.

I knew I had time.


I will surrender to the Black Suit Ladies. Not yet, but soon.

If you are reading this now, you must be one of them.

When a bunch of women, who reminded me of Mrs. Danvers, are gently insistent that a woman become a cow, we are dealing with a palpable level of creepiness.

One of the reasons I started off with this book for Bizarro Week is because I can’t remember the last time I read a first effort that was this damn good. I am a reader who appreciates many genres and this book covered horror, humor, the grotesque, the foul, the insane and the unthinkable in a way that even satisfied the part of me that still has the stink of an English Lit grad student. Cushing got this book published in the Bizarro New Author series but in order to hear her voice again in another book, we readers have to buy this book. This series really does permit us to vote with our dollars. So if you read here often and I’ve steered you right before, consider buying this book. I highly recommend it and spending money on Cushing’s book will ensure we have more books from her in the future.

And because I liked it this much, I bought two copies to share, and again, you can win a copy if you comment to this review or if you retweet any of my tweets with the tag #bizarroweek. Contest ends Monday, November 8 at 7:00 pm PST.

ETA: nmallen won the Twitter retweet giveaway and Dan won the copy for comments in this entry. Thanks to everyone who commented to win – keep an eye on the site as I will be hosting another book giveaway on Thursday for another New Bizarro Author!