antibirth_2Year: 2016
Director(s): Danny Perez
Writer(s): Danny Perez
Region of Origin: Canada

Rating: Unrated
Color, 94 mins

Synopsis: A wild-eyed stoner named Lou wakes up after a wild night of partying with symptoms of a strange illness. (Source)

Antibirth isn’t saying much beneath its aggressively bizarre, drug-addled haze, but it totally works. Danny Perez’s latest is more of an experience than a full-fledged narrative, one that chews us up and spits us out with twisted abandon. On the whole, it’s a shame that the film doesn’t capitalize on the interesting ideas swirling beneath the surface, content with just sketching out ideas of female camaraderie, rape culture, maternal angst and sinister government plots rather than really connecting them into anything too meaningful. Still, as a thinly veiled film which exists just for that whopper of an ending, it’s a must that skirts by on the charisma of star Natasha Lyonne and some truly wild creature effects, which fans of early Cronenberg are sure to love. Playing out like a graphic, perverse children’s show on acid, Perez’s film never misses a moment to make its audience squirm with glee, and its a type of madness we can’t look away from as much as we’d like.

After waking up from a real bender, the perpetually stoned Lou (Natasha Lyonne) finds that she can’t remember the night prior but begins to notice strange, alarming changes to her body. Her best friend Sadie (Chloe Sevigny) is by her side, but the pair are at a loss for what Lou is going through. Strangely, Lou’s symptoms, which include nefarious visions of strange brightly colored humanoid creatures (think evil-looking, furry teletubbies) and invasive medical procedures, coincide with pregnancy-type symptoms and afflictions which grow worse by the minute. As Lou comes closer to finding the truth, her body and state of mind begin to rapidly deteriorate, sending her and the audience on an unforgettable trip through madness and beyond.

Honestly, you gotta just go with this one to get the most out of it. Don’t ask too many questions, enjoy the electric rhythm found within that buzzsaw of a soundtrack, and let the neon-hued phantasmagoria totally wash over you. The plot plays out very much like a hang-out film, with us feeling like a fly on the wall as Lou, Sadie and another character Lorna, deal with the extraordinarily gross changes happening from minute-to-minute. Perez has a real talent for dense atmosphere, with an almost oppressive sense of unease contrasting the garish environments of his characters. Sure, there are some loose plot points about shadowy conspiracies, experimental drugs and some charm from Lyonne’s wild-eyed delivery, but it’s the film’s pervasive WTF-moments that seal the deal here. Horror fans lamenting the use of CGI on most modern films will get a kick out of the icky practical effects – Perez doesn’t flinch when it comes to delivering grotesque deformations, questionable body fluids and creatures that are downright revolting, which obviously, the film relishes in. The less I say, the better, when it comes to the film’s ending, but rest assured, it fully commits to an unhinged assault on the senses.

antibirth_3On the performance end, the film does just fine. Natasha Lyonne helps to immerse us into the insanity with her colorful rendering of Lou. She’s totally endearing, with an unpredictability that keeps us on our toes and a sincerity that helps us want to root for her. To the film’s credit, Lyonne’s Lou is refreshing because she has no filter – she says what she means and isn’t afraid to let loose, making her a headstrong rarity in the genre who feels real, never devolving into an archetype. Chloe Sevigny’s Sadie is a nice contrast to Lou, and bounces off of Lyonne with some great chemistry. A minor quibble about the pair, is that the film could’ve used more of their relationship – every time they’re apart, you wish they were together. Meg Tilly is fine as Lorna, but her character doesn’t have much to do. She’s a late addition in terms of the plot, and for the most part, is more of an expositional tool than anything.

Antibirth stops short of being really great, but it’s still one of the year’s most unique horror films, one that definitely deserves to be seen, showcasing director Danny Perez’s talent for lurid insanity. At it’s best, this is a slacker film by way of Cronenberg, wearing its perversity like a badge of honor in a way that’ll make most horror fans smile with unfettered glee.

SG