"Taxidermia" sets a benchmark for body horror in the cinema. Helmer Gyorgy Palfi's follow-up to the startlingly original "Hukkle," this widescreen exercise in the confrontational continues his fascination with the mysteries of nature but substitutes an oddly skewed sense of wonder with a full-frontal sensory assault.

“Taxidermia” sets a benchmark for body horror in the cinema. Helmer Gyorgy Palfi’s follow-up to the startlingly original “Hukkle,” this widescreen exercise in the confrontational continues his fascination with the mysteries of nature but substitutes an oddly skewed sense of wonder with a full-frontal sensory assault. Story of a series of Magyar men who carry a ghastly gene or eight across three generations is fascinated with the logistics of biology and mortality but has little to say beyond its jaw-dropping special effects. Stomach-churner is a natural for midnight fest slots but much more problematic for theatrical distribution.

In a lonely outpost, scrawny, hair-lipped orderly Vendel (Csaba Czene) responds to the constant browbeating of his superior, Hadnagy (Istvan Gyuricza), by spying on people and masturbating.

Following a bout of grotesque sex with Hadnagy’s corpulent wife (Piroska Molnar) — which includes at least one explicit shot of coupled genitalia — Vendel’s head is blown off by the enraged cuckold. In due course, a baby is born that appears perfect, save a squiggly tail which is promptly snipped off.

Fast forward to the product of this unholy union, champion Olympic speed-eater Kalman Balatony (Gergo Trocsanyi). First seen competing at a ’50s-style Soviet event, he is smitten with the equally hefty Gizi (Adel Stanczel, made up to look like John Waters’ late muse, Divine).

At about the hour mark, the story leaps ahead again to their now-grown child, gaunt taxidermist Lajos (Marc Bischoff). who spends most of his time caring for his now-massive father (Gabor Mate, swaddled in a fat suit). Lajos is raising three abnormally large housecats in a large cage. When one mutant feline mauls Kalman offscreen, Lajos lovingly practices his profession.

In broad terms, part one is an explicit exercise in Central European ultra-miserabilism, middle seg is ghastly funny on par with anything the Monty Pythons dreamed up, and the climax one-ups David Cronenberg’s worst nightmare. Yet the total is much less than the sum of its, uh, parts. Rather, the pic is more like a bigscreen equivalent of children pulling wings off live flies.

Tech credits are impressive on what looks to have been an expansive budget. Script won a screenwriting prize at the Sundance lab.

Taxidermia

Hungary - Austria - France

Production

A Eurofilm Studio (Hungary)/Amour Fou (Austria)/Memento Films, La Cinefacture, Arte France Cinema (France) production. Produced by Peter Miskolczi, Gabor Varadi, Gabriele Kranzelbinder, Alexander Dumreicher-Ivanceanu, Emilie Georges, Alexandre Mallet-Guy. Directed by Gyorgy Palfi. Screenplay, Zsofia Ruttkay, Palfi, from the novels by Lajos Nagy Parti.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Gergely Poharnok; editor, Reka Lemhenyi; music, Amon Tobin; production designer, Adrien Asztalos; costume designer, Julia Patkos; sound (stereo), Tamas Zanyi. Reviewed at Hungarian Film Week (competing), Budapest, Feb. 4, 2006. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Csaba Czene, Gergo Trocsanyi, Marc Bishoff, Istvan Gyuricza, Piroska Molnar, Gabor Mate, Geza D. Hegedus, Istvan Hunyadkurti, Zoltan Koppany, Adel Stanczel, Istvan Znamenak, Peter Blasko. (Hungarian, Russian, English dialogue)

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