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  Antibirth Smoke Out The Baby
Year: 2016
Director: Danny Perez
Stars: Natasha Lyonne, Chloë Sevigny, Meg Tilly, Mark Webber, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, Emmanuel Kabongo, Neville Edwards, Morgan Bedard, Corey Pascall, Lilly Francks, Marie-Josee Dionne, Jessica Greco, Kevin Hoffman, Chad Gibbons, Spider Allen
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lou (Natasha Lyonne) doesn't mess about when it comes to getting high, she is an enthusiastic indulger in narcotic substances as well as the usual drinking of alcohol, but what if this got her into real trouble? It seems like an inevitability, but the actual form that trouble will take is something hardly anyone could have predicted, as in this out of the way, rural location where she lives in a trailer, nothing all that unusual happens, unless you consider mammoth amounts of drugs unusual. But one day when she is with her friend Sadie (Chloë Sevigny) she starts wondering what happened to her recently, she has been definitely feeling less well than she used to, and she has to consider the possibility she is pregnant...

But pregnant with what, you may enquire after watching the first feature proper from Danny Perez, a director who had made his debut with an extended promo for the band Animal Collective that saw the inside of a few cinemas. There was a narrative to this effort, which could best be described as a counterculture Rosemary's Baby, and if it was predictable in one way - you knew whatever was on its way out of Lou's womb was not going to be good - Perez dressed proceedings in a heavy atmosphere of weirdness that lay like a blanket of doom over the characters, some of whom knew more about what was happening than they were willing to let on, to the heroine at least, who is, shall we say, in a state of confusion.

There was a distinct straight to video nineties horror extravaganza tone to Antibirth, to its storyline anyway, with its reliance on top secret experiments conducted by shady authorities to keep the film in motion, but the manner in which it was served up was far more experimental, in a filmmaking sense, than the somewhat straightforward events they depicted, albeit those events were outlandish. Perhaps it was the rise of the internet lending conspiracy theories more credence to the idler browser on the more out there websites, but if this wasn't exactly cosy, it was building on the paranoia that had erupted in the nineties and influenced the mainstream, and that would often include goopy special effects.

The transformation Lou's body suffers was in the best body horror mode as pioneered by David Cronenberg in thirty or forty years before this was made, yet there was a strong dose of the Frank Henenlotter oeuvre as well, thanks to those physical, rubbery and slimy effects and a sympathy for the underdogs in life, of which Lou is assuredly one. You could argue she has placed herself in that position thanks to her dedication to hedonism and getting off her face on whatever drug was to hand (she even needs cocaine to get through her motel room cleaning job), but she was not untypical of what could best be described as an underclass that Perez was keen to set out front for his horror. Often when they were characters in genre movies they were figures of fun, but as an alternative he evidently sympathised to an extent.

Lou represented all those folks like her who have not simply reached a dead end in life, they were born into it, just as their kids will be, and with no prospects they dwindle in a twilight world of substance abuse, junk food and entertainment, and relationships that can be on the unsteady side, to say the least. The exploiters here appear to be led by Gabriel (Mark Webber, a man no stranger to life at the lowest rung of the ladder, though he managed to claw his way up and become an advocate for the disadvantaged when he was not acting and making his own movies), who have impregnated Lou with... something, but we learn he is simply one dodgy cog in a machine that cares little for the worth of those like her, and merely wish to use them as best they can. Now, the reasons for that are cartoonish when it gets to the final sequence, but before then Perez had conjured up a woozy, often trippy air to his female lead's deterioration, helped by the latter half's introduction of Meg Tilly, one of the spaciest actresses out there, who feeds Lou with conspiracies that wake her up to her state. If it was too beholden to what had gone before in the low budget horror realm, it did enjoy an interesting milieu and a dedicated Lyonne was perfectly cast. Music by John Kanakis.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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