Pamela De Graff (LittleMissBloodAndGuts)Burbank
Pamela's Recent Reviews
THANATOMORPHOSE (2012) independent
WRITTEN BY AND DIRECTED BY: Éric Falardeau
FEATURING: Émile Beaudry, Eryka Cantieri, Roch-Denis Gagnon, Simon Laperričre, Pat Lemaire, Karine Picard, Kayden Rose, David Tousignant
TAGS: body metamorphosis, sodomy
RATING: 6 PINTS OF BLOOD
PLOT: In this low-key, avante-garde shocker, a young woman struggles to cope with a hemorrhagic flux which turns her into a living corpse.
COMMENTS: Wow! so disgusting! Thanatomorphose takes its title from a French word for visible post-mortem decay. In the film, Laura (Kayden Rose) is a slacker, wannabe artist who lives an otherwise quiet existence, accented by a few parties with her 20-something acquaintances, and rough sex with her misogynist boyfriend.
With no clear cause, Laura slowly succumbs to some dreadful, Ebola-like condition which begins with mysterious bruises. Before long, her fingernails come off, her teeth loosen, and she's upchucking and urinating blood. Inexplicably, (though perhaps a degree of mental derangement is a symptom of her mysterious malady) she resists seeking medical treatment.
Instead, Laura prefers to isolate herself in her tiny apartment as the disease runs it course. She's subject to frightful nightmares, visual disturbances and hallucinations. Laura's boyfriend and another suitor don't seem particularly alarmed by her transformation, choosing instead to take advantage of her as a sexual receptacle instead of rushing her to the emergency room.
Thanatomorphose's plot is nearly non-existent; we follow the course of Laura's collapse and her transformation into a living, rotting corpse. Laura bounces and jiggles about her apartment, usually full-frontally nude.
Laura makes eggs and bacon, Laura goes uses the toilet. Laura masturbates, even as her body is literally falling apart. Despite a storyline that is linear in the extreme, Thanatomorphose is captivating. The utterly bizarre nature of Laura's ordeal is so puzzling and out of this world that her metamorphosis into a still-animated cadaver, complete with squirming maggots, is somehow engrossing. Perhaps it's the film's direct, almost quietly pensive presentation. While much of what we see suggests ideas about our intimate relationships with our own bodies, those ideas must come from inside us, as the film makes little philosophical headway on these themes.
Thanatomorphose is reminiscent of efforts such as The Fly (1986), Contracted (2013, reviewed here several weeks ago) in which a woman is similarly devoured by a rotting disease. Thanatomorphose's morbid physiological theme also brings to mind to the artful French body disassociation film, Dans ma peau (aka In My Skin, 2002), in which a woman hallucinates disembodiment of her limbs as she slowly consumes herself, and to the necrophilia shocker, Deadgirl (2008) in which two teens discover an undead mental patient strapped to a gurney, and use her as a sex slave.
Thanatamorphose takes the horror of David Cronenberg style, gruesome body metamorphosis, isolates it, and distills it into the focal point of an entire film. Well executed claustrophobic cinematography, and the cloistered, dark interiors of Laura's tiny flat intimately draw us into her decadent odyssey. There's no humor, no camp, and no comic relief. While odd and experimental, Thanatamorphose more or less holds together and sustains itself. The filmmakers pull off their bare-bones premise with macabre style, good timing and editing, and some spectacularly gruesome makeup effects. The Ick! factor is through the roof on this one!
MY LITTLE EYE (2012) UK/ independent
WRITTEN BY: David Hilton and James Watkins
DIRECTED BY: Marc Evans
FEATURING: Sean Cw Johnson, Kris Lemche, Stephen O'Reilly, Laura Regan, Jennifer Sky, Bradley Cooper, Nick Mennell
TAGS: thriller, mystery, horror
RATING: 7 PINTS OF BLOOD
PLOT: Five contestants live on a reality webcast in a remote mansion, but when everything starts to go horribly wrong, is it by accident or design?
COMMENTS: Wait! I know what you're thinking! This movie is actually quite good! It's not a stupid teen slasher or a reality show! OK, actually it's about a reality show -like the TV game show, Big Brother, in which contestants are confined to a specially designed house, cut off from the outside world as in Bio-Dome. In My Little Eye however, the house is a decrepit, Gothic country estate, and it's really way the hell out in the snow-bound middle of nowhere.
My Little Eye was shot way back in 2002, but it never made it to US screens. Viewer feedback indicates that Big Brother fans don't like this film. It doesn't depict a reality with which they're comfortable.
It does however, make for a pretty good horror movie. The appeal to My Little Eye is in our trying to guess a step ahead of the action. As in similar films which begin with the same basic premise - a group of people brought together by an outside entity for an unknown purpose -Cube (1998), Saw (2004), The Killing Room (2009), Exam (2010), Open Grave (2014 -reviewed last month) -tension builds as ensuing plot points suggest and then eliminate numerous macabre possibilities.
In My Little Eye, the obligatory five stereotypical characters enter a contest. The players are credible at least; and not too unlikable. They're the ditsy, Generation X types you expect. The contest? Spend 6 months together isolated in a country manor for 1 million dollars. If anyone gives up and leaves, nobody collects.
What are the odds that they will win?
(Turning down lights, holding flashlight under chin.) What are the odds that the producers are up to something?
The later proposition might indeed be correct, or at least, that's what we start to wonder. The film's effective, brief intro bypasses corny exposition, and after the first three minutes, the film picks up the story a couple of weeks from the show's conclusion. The contestants are now jaded, bored, and planning how to spend the money.
Then the heat goes out and the food deliveries cease. A saferoom which is supposed to be camera-free turns out to be fully wired for sight and sound. The weekly supply drop-off consists of booze and a loaded handgun. What could go wrong with that idea? We're about to find out as a cloud of suspicion and paranoia descends upon the group like a Baby Ruth candy bar sinking to the bottom of a punch bowl.
Who is watching this reality show? If we knew, we might be able to discern answers. In the meantime, the voyeuristic camera angles make us feel complicit. There's something sinister about these cameras which seem almost to stalk the inhabitants, capturing their most intimate moments in both light and dark, even in the bathrooms.
My Little Eye isn't one of those pieces which is presented on surveillance cam as a cheap gimmick. The film looks and flows like any good movie. The camera work is skillful, with creative use of fixed positions to suggest that what we see is only that which the web cameras see. This is enhanced by actual surveillance camera computer screens with green time stamps, zooming in, employing night vision, etc. Minimal use of these shots creates atmosphere without being distracting.
Due to the filmmakers' good sense of style, the effect is eerie rather than annoying. The feeling is that we witness what we would see if we were peeping in windows -which in effect we are, because we've become the audience of the broadcast. Or have we?
We behold a rapid breakdown of the show's arrangement into a treacherous bog of hostility with fatal undertones. There's no control or supervision from the outside world. The players are given no guidance for handling troubling developments.
To the contrary, the stage is set to encourage a total loss of the social contract. My Little Eye's suspense is centered in the fact that neither we nor the participants can glean where all this is going. What are the true intentions of the show's producers? Is there someone else on the property? Is the house haunted? There is something more going on than just the contest. The producers read our thoughts, acknowledging and dismissing each possibility in turn. What the devil then, is the point of all this?
If the reality show concept is familiar, then My Little Eye's story takes a novel twist. The devil is in the details. If the contestants are willing to be stripped of all privacy -essentially dehumanized and probed, in an increasingly threatening situation, then what kind of people are watching?
Pamela's Favorite Movies
A moody, brooding horror piece about a mental patient, the ghost of a vampire, and a creepy old country house with an unsavory history.
Sometimes history repeats itself. Again and again and ...