TAXIDERMIA // BEN MCGINNIS

Taxidermia is an independent Hungarian film written and directed György Pálfi and released in 2006. I was turned on to the film in 2008 while renting a copy of Chan-wook Park's psychological horror film, Oldboy. I asked the video store clerk for something disturbed and obscene to watch, and he suggested Taxidermia to me based on my other selection. He said that when it premiered at Cannes, people ran out of theater vomiting. I was immediately intrigued and took the film home to screen. I watched it by myself and sat there with my mouth agape for the entire run time. I have now seen the film five or so times, and it has since become a talking point in many conversations that I have about film.

Pálfi's film is a surrealist horror show and an experiment in storytelling. It tells the story of three generations of men: a soldier, a competitive speed eater, and a taxidermist. The film has three spoken languages; a small amount of English is spoken at the beginning and the end, which provides a nice bookend to the overall feeling. The rest of the film is a mix of Hungarian and Russian. The words are as poetic as the visuals are beautifully disturbing. Some of the images are genuinely shocking. I had never seen a fire shooting penis, an enormous human who had undergone taxidermy, and a super-stylized suicide machine. Those are just a few of the best moments, but there are many, many more. A lot of nudity, sex, violence and vomiting punctuate this film filled with strange and beautiful images and stories.

The acting is fairly good overall and seems to get better with each generation of the family. The overall style and feeling of the film is achieved through a mix of disgusting imagery filmed ever so beautifully in environments and set pieces that barely feel real. Pálfi's vision comes across brilliantly and clearly; however, the dark subject matter can be at times quite funny in a sick way. The comedy comes from the way that each of the protagonists interact with the people around them. Characters' interactions are laughable and absurd throughout. Every action affects the next generation and this is one of the main themes of the film. The passage of consequences and actions through time, especially through parenting, are details to pay attention to.

Overall, it is a fantastic film not to be watched by the fainthearted or those that are easily confused. Taxidermia is a good time. The ninety-one minutes is worth the time to watch a fantastic art project of the film school rebel generation. The film is in the tradition of Tarantino with elements of Dali's artwork and the purely disgusting elements of a snuff film. It borrows the ideals of body horror and torture porn films much like Darren Lynn Bousman's Saw and Eli Roth's Hostel. Those films have much more bloody violence whereas Taxidermia borrows some of the violence but truly takes a hint from Michael Haneke's Funny Games. They are both psychological torture porn. Taxidermia just has the surrealist artist's brushstroke. One of the best sequences involves the story turning into a pop-up book. It's a visually stunning scene full of color, life and a well-designed set, but it involves pedophilia (although not graphically). Taxidermia takes your brain to places that you never wanted it to go. The pure psychological horror of the film pervades, unlike the shock moments in Saw and Hostel where they are just grotesquely disturbed.

Full disclosure: not everyone will enjoy this film. Even if you don't like it, it's worth the time as a bar- stool conversation piece. The other reason to watch it is as an art project. Any person that sees the film will walk away talking about it for the rest of their lives. It's unforgettable; the indie art school version of torture porn films that have become the norm in horror since Saw was realized. Taxidermia outdoes nearly every body-horror film ever made by blending genres and themes in the filmmaker's vision. The product is an exceptional piece of artwork and a great conversation starter.


View Taxidermia Trailer




Ben McGinnis is a senior English major at CABRINI UNIVERSITY concentrating in Film and Media Studies. He's a nocturnal, film-obsessed gentleman feminist who has seen well over a thousand films.