The Movie Waffler New to Shudder - SHAPELESS | The Movie Waffler

New to Shudder - SHAPELESS

New to Shudder - SHAPELESS
A singer's career is threatened by her eating disorder.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Samantha Aldana

Starring: Kelly Murtagh, Bobby Gilchrist, Jamie Neumann, Marco Dapper, Erika Ashley, Gralen Bryant Banks

shapeless poster

Despite being one of the more fantastical strands of horror, body-horror also tends to be the most relatable. Sure, none of us will ever experience our stomachs turning into VHS players or our bodies transforming into human-fly hybrids, but for most of us, the biggest personal scares we'll receive in our lives will come courtesy of our bodies. It begins when we're infants with our teeth falling out, continues in puberty with hair appearing in strange places and then begins to take on more worrying forms like unexplained lumps and strange rashes. And then there's the constant struggle to keep our bodies within socially prescribed parameters, the never-ending weighing and measuring of flesh. Most of us are concerned with how our bodies look to some degree, but for some it can be an all-consuming obsession.

shapeless review

That's the case with the tortured heroine of director Samantha Aldana's Shapeless. Ivy (Kelly Murtagh, who co-wrote the film with Bryce Parsons-Tweston) is a talented jazz singer, but she's based in New Orleans, which is akin to being an accomplished footballer in Sao Paulo. She's doing better than most though, as she has a steady gig with her quartet in a local bar, albeit she has to supplement her earnings with a day job at a dry cleaners. When she's discovered by the owner of a larger, classier establishment and offered a spot, it seems everything's moving in the right direction for Ivy.

But Ivy suffers from intense self-doubt linked to an eating disorder that sees her binge on food only to subsequently vomit her guts up. Whenever Ivy gets hunger pangs, her body begins to display open sores, and at one point hands even break out of her back as though she's the human embodiment of that wall in Romero's Day of the Dead. It's left ambiguous as to whether this is all being imagined by Ivy or whether her body really is displaying such fantastical anomalies. Either way, it's ruining Ivy's social life, to put it mildly, as she has to keep anyone who displays an interest in her at a distance. One of Ivy's bandmates, nice guy bass player Oscar (Bobby Gilchrist), has romantic intentions towards her, and it seems the feeling is reciprocated. Many viewers will relate to Ivy's fear of getting naked in his presence, which destroys any possibility of intimacy.

shapeless review

Ivy's constant vomiting begins to take a toll on her vocal chords, putting her career in jeopardy, but she continues on, keeping her issues a secret until her bandmates can no longer put up with her unprofessionalism. This aspect of the story makes Shapeless a cousin of sports movies like The Wrestler, The Racer and Jockey, where athletes try to conceal their ailing physical conditions through an unwillingness to walk away from the one thing they excel at. Played with utter sympathy by Murtagh, Ivy is a relatably tragic heroine. Even those of us who don’t suffer from eating disorders may nod knowingly at some of Ivy's idiosyncracies, like how she chops up a breakfast bar into small pieces which she plans to ration, only to end up consuming the whole thing in one sitting.

shapeless review

Shapeless is arguably more mood piece than narrative feature, heavily reliant on the dreamy visuals conjured up by Aldana and cinematographer Natalie Kingston, along with the immersive and nightmarish sound design of Evan M. Flory. Both aspects are used to blend the horror with seductive atmosphere of late night N'Awlins, with its jazz chanteuses floating on clouds of neon and smoke, drifting saxophone chords tangling with the rumbling of Ivy's stomach. Mirrors prove Ivy's enemy, taunting her with distorted images that give her a demonic appearance. At one point Ivy is engulfed by the detritus of her diet as it wraps its tendrils around her like a Transformer made from trash. It all adds up to a visual and aural nightmare that sadly, many viewers will know all too well.

 is on Shudder UK now.