By Patrick King.
Written and directed by Danny Perez and starring Natasha Lyonne (American Pie, Orange is the New Black) and Chloë Sevigny (Kids, Boys Don’t Cry), Antibirth is a strange, more or less experimental, very gory horror flick. It’s as if a Cronenberg body horror film and one of David Lynch’s more subtly weird flicks had a baby and viola! Let the arthouse weirdness commence!
Party girls Lou (Lyonne) and Sadie (Sevigny) find themselves in the middle of a strange adventure when Lou, who hasn’t had sex in months, suddenly finds out she’s pregnant. But how? Yeah, something is definitely wrong here, especially when her stomach doubles and then triples in size over the course of a few days. Whatever’s inside her definitely isn’t human, but what the hell is it?
Lou and Sadie are in their late thirties to early forties. They’re getting a little long in the tooth for the drug scene they’re still involved in. Their conversations are empty and their lives are vacuous. The only things that matter to them are drugs and parties, something they probably should have moved on from by now. All this in a small middle-of-nowhere town in Michigan that’s as desolate as their souls. It’s a cold town for cold people, a boring place where there’s not a lot to do except party in abandoned warehouses and hang out at the bowling alley. No wonder these women pushing forty are stuck in arrested development. Oh yeah, and there’s an Army base nearby that might or might not be conducting secret experiments involving extraterrestrials.
Solid acting all around in this one. I’ve never seen Sevigny do anything less than a good job, so, yeah, she was awesome. Lyonne really inhabits the role of a spaced-out and wholly ambivalent burnout with a (sort of) heart. Also, a tip of the hat to Meg Tilly, who plays a woman who might or might not have been experimented on. She plays a very cool wide-eyed paranoid type which perfectly pairs with her signature soft voice.
The effects are over the top and gory, but they’re almost all practical, and they’re quite convincing. We get a taste of things to come early in the movie, when we see a woman whose upper lip has rotted almost completely off. It looks as though it has been eaten away by acid. A lot of work went into that effect, and it’s pretty convincing. As Lou’s pregnancy progresses, her stomach protrudes unnaturally, and it becomes doughy and veiny. Six people are credited with the prosthetic work, so a lot of care went into giving the viewer a very visceral experience. The movie lulls us into a feeling of security and then smashes us in the face with some quick, graphic violent imagery. And, well, mission accomplished. A lot of work was put into making these things look as detailed and realistic as possible, providing maximum shock value. We see a sugary sort of puss flow from a foot, an almost too real-looking miscarried fetus in a toilet, and when we finally see Lou give birth to the creature she’s been impregnated with…well, save the best for last, I suppose.
The only point where the effects aren’t that great are when CGI is used. There’s a few scenes where things blow up and the computer-generated smoke that results is a bit too cartoonish and is apt to take a viewer out of the movie. However, there’s some demonic-looking red smoke that looks a bit better.
As interesting as the concept is, there’s something inherently reactionary about it, as if it’s either a comment on or throwback to the conservative morality of 80’s horror flicks. There’s a scene in the film where it’s explained that Lou’s constant drinking and drug use made her a perfect vessel for the creature she has inside her. There’s definitely a sense that Lou is being punished for her sinful lifestyle.
It’s hard to tell, though. The ending is a bit silly in a lot of ways, but that’s not a huge deal. Antibirth will satisfy gorehounds and fans of weird flicks alike.
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