The horror genre can be very repetitive. It is constantly going through cycles, making the same stories over and over again. We are subjected to years of slasher movies with little creativity, then years of post-modern slashers mocking them. Possession films have been spat out for so many years that surely everyone must be bored of them by now? Found footage has had its day, at least this time round, as has the haunted house movie. A film about ouija boards is a box office smash and a year later the shelves are full of Ouija rip offs. If you look at the horror genre as just this cycle of repetition then it would be easy to dismiss it as a beast always eating its own tail.
However the horror genre is also the ground for some of the most experimental and unique movies out there. Maybe it is because of the low risk nature of the budgets, or perhaps because experiments in art often result in nightmarish imagery, but the genre is packed with all kinds of weird, off kilter and demented projects. Its not a coincidence that a number of Any Warhol’s films were horror ones. Horror is the place where Cronenberg can explore his obsession with the alien nature of the human body, and where David Lynch can study the fractured state of reality. Horror may be sometimes a cheesy yarn about teenagers being chopped up in a woods, but every now and then it can achieve something much darker, stranger and better.
This is where films like Antibirth exist. It is clear that director Danny Perez’s approach to narrative structure is secondary to weird imagery from the opening scene where we follow our heroine Lou, played by Natasha Lyonne, through a fragmented, drug fueled night of partying which barely makes any sense. The rest of the film is about Lou’s attempt to piece together what happened that night when she finds out that she is pregnant. Whilst initially hard to follow what has happened and indeed what is happening, that is a really the point. We are following Lou’s point of view, and being a drug addict and alcoholic her point of view is as incoherent as her daily life. It’s not like Lou even tries to straighten herself up, either because she has potentially been sexually assaulted or because she is carrying a new life inside her. In fact she seems to go the opposite way and drink more, smoke more and intake more pills. Of course if you have seen Orange Is The New Black then you know this isn’t exactly a stretch for Lyonne. However it is really worth checking interviews to see Lyonne isn’t just being herself on screen, she’s just really good at playing a waster.
Lyonne is ably helped by Chloe Sevengy playing her best friend Sadie. The two of them are like low rent versions of Eddie and Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous– whenever the shit hits the fan, or even if they just have a bit of spare time, their approach is just to pop back to Lou’s horrible prefab home (that seems to being the middle of a dump site) and get off their tits.
All this self abuse leads increasingly to Lou having weird flashbacks and hallucinations which, surprisingly, drive the narrative forward as she is able to see clues as to how she ended up pregnant in the first place. What is most surprising abour all of this is that all this destructive madness makes sense at the end with a gloopy and gory climax for which the word “bonkers” was invented.
The film is designed with primary colours which swwwmed to have been left to mix up together too much in a paint pot so instead of bright and cheerful it’s repellently gross. This is no more vividly expressed than when we meet what seem like bad trip versions of the Teletubbies.
Antibirth probably isn’t for everyone: it’s incredibly cheap and sleazy, and the lead character works hard to get your disrespect and is barely able to stand for most of the time. However if you like to watch some freakish and experimental fun with a brilliant central performance from an actor honing a particular type then you will be laughing. And then there’s that ending which is either hilarious too of revolting, depending how you look at it…