Feature 87 – Antibirth (2016)
Featuring: Natasha “‘Orange Is the New Black’” Lyonne , Chloë “American Psycho” Sevigny , Meg “Psycho II” Tilly
Director & Writer: Danny “Oddsac” Perez
Origin: Canada | USA
Hey kids. It’s September 30th. Somebody wake up Billy Joe Armstrong, cuz he apparently can’t figure out how to set a fucking alarm clock. Speaking of kids…
Children. Uggh. I’ve never been a fan. My DNA has been requested more than once to contribute to the spawning of an Anubis Junior, but such a nightmare never occurred because I convinced the women in question that not only would having my child be a poor idea (family history of mental illness, alcoholism, diabetes, and general assholeness) , but ANY intentions for reproduction would only lead to a lifetime of regret for all involved. I’ve seen it happen. Too many times. From would-be dads who bail as soon as the first sonogram image proves they were wrong that their lady “just ate too much chili” to mothers on the verge of becoming the next Andrea Yates (one of which I literally had to talk down over the phone while at work, I shit you not), the idea of having children unnerves me. Almost as badly as the idea of a Rush Limbaugh Speedo calendar or Uwe Boll making a movie crapdaptation of Eternal Darkness. In the darkest depths of this hypothetical Hell, it would star Jenny McCarthy as Alexandra, Casper Van Dien as Pious Augustus, and Paulie Shore as the voices of each of the Elder Gods. Uggh, I just gave myself mental indigestion.
As I was saying, I hate the concept of babies and everything to do with them. So much so that I used to wear a t-shirt in high school of a fetus on a coat hanger that said “PRO DEATH” across the chest. Some mistook it as a plea for negative attention, others incorrectly interpreted it as an extremely anti pro-choice statement (it was not), while in the end all it was meant to be was exactly what it looked like: a public illustration of my advocating for the violent physical termination of parasites. Do you know what the difference is between a tapeworm and a fetus? Most people don’t keep the tapeworm after it’s been removed and raise it as their own. Poor tapeworms. Somebody should start a petition to establish a publicly funded tapeworm adoption agency. But not me. I’d rather bisect my own tongue with a piece of notebook paper than try to convince people to sign a petition.
In addition to the whole conception concept, Antibirth also addresses another mostly female-centric nightmare – date rape drugs. No sooner does our feature set sail, then it immediately crashes upon the jagged rocks of discomfort as our intoxicated leading lady Lou (Natasha Lyonne), who’s suddenly having issues maintaining consciousness, is led away from a raucous midnight warehouse barrel fire rave by the living, breathing definition of a “skeezoid” with blatantly bad intentions. Her friend Sadie (Chloë Sevigny) sees this and makes the bare minimum effort to assist her protagonist pal, but is ultimately dissuaded by her presumed beau Gabriel (Mark Webber) to just ignore the implied peril and get back to indulging in their drunken merriment. Ladies, be sure to properly vet your rape prevention buddies before engaging in a public night of mind altering activities, and even then, be sure to travel in a consortium of three or more friends if possible in case of outside interference. Oh, and be sure to pack an Xacto knife or shiv of some kind too. If there’s one thing that terrifies a guy with his dick hanging out, it’s sharp objects!
Antibirth throws us face first into the figurative wall with its tale, so let’s take a quick sidebar and let me introduce you to Lou, based on what we observe throughout the runtime. She wants more out of her aimless life, but due to her downward spiral of self-esteem these moments of clarity are always quickly obscured with another haze of bong exhaust, or drowned in an amber sea of Old Milwaukee and painkillers. As for her personality, the best I can boil her down to on a relatable level is thus: Lou is that “live out loud” tomboy type that has more male friends than female. She prefers to be direct and avoid the false face backstabbery and bullshit of the stereotype woman. It could have something to do with her dad being dead and all.
Lou’s the friend who asks her best male amigo to go get her tampons and offers to suck his dick in payment. As said friend though, you never call her out on cashing it in (despite getting blue balls every time she does it) because you know she was just joking, yet you still buy her the cotton ponies because you knew you were gonna end up doing it either way. She talks about how one night the planets will align and conditions will be just right for the two of you to swap fluids in a tangle of sexual kismet that you’ve been building toward for years. Chances are she’s just stringing you along because she thinks she needs to keep you interested in a self-professed loser like herself, and she feels genuinely bad at times since she knows said metaphorical celestial construct will never come to pass. Lou’s the kind of friend that masochists fall in love with despite knowing they’ll never have her because, well, I guess that’s part of being a masochist, right? She’s a Super Bowl of self-abuse, but you can’t help picking her back up every time she falls on her ass…
Well, if said “you” is me, anyway. Maybe the you “you” reading this hasn’t ever had a friend like that before. Anyway, now’s not the time to delve into the sinkholes of my personal memory lane. We’ve got a movie to review, you Sonoma bitch!
The aforementioned ambassador of the Skeeze Nebula is Warren (Max McCabe-Lokos), whom we later discover to be Gabriel’s henchman. Why would Gabriel need a henchman? Because he’s the local supplier of their small town’s citizens with pay-for-play poontang and illegal pharmaceuticals. He also may be holding a young woman hostage (it’s a shady shade of legal gray) for the purpose of harvesting her urine to sell to job seeking junkies. Even if you excuse his business practices as “providing services for people who are responsible for their poor decision making”, based on his simple merits as a human being, Gabe’s still a diarrhea Slush Puppie. And if you don’t know what a Slush Puppie is, memorial services for your childhood will be Thursday from 4PM to ‘?’.
Lou wakes up the next morning with no memory of what happened after Warren made off with her, but over the course of the following days one thing’s made very certain – she’s pregnant! She’s in denial about it for a while, but once her midsection starts to inflate like a meat balloon it’s clearly more than a heavy case of constipation. Given the rapid progression of said impregnation, there’s something way more complicated than the simple fetal fallout of a date rape at work in this lady’s womb. The question now isn’t just how that something got there, but who put it there, what it has to do with a strange woman (Meg Tilly) that’s seemingly stalking Lou, what its connection is to a ramshackle Chuck E. Cheese rip-off restaurant, and what exactly said something IS. The answer may surprise you!
Or maybe it won’t. If you’re into Area 51 “X-Files” type shit, I’m gonna guess it probably won’t.
Much like my last episode, The Neon Demon, there isn’t a lot in the way of horror going on in Antibirth. The dread comes from the discomforting voice in the back of your head that keeps telling you this is all leading to some nightmarish payoff, but the cause isn’t made clear until the finale, when the whole thing get thrown in our faces like a water balloon full of amniotic fluid. Unlike The Neon Demon though, Antibirth doesn’t give us the courtesy of some beautiful visuals and brain altering background tracks to keep us neck deep in the experience while we wait for the eventual menace to surface and resolve. Of the pair, oddly enough, it’s the one with a hardcore drug abuser as its main character that involves the less psychedelia. Yep. Despite Lou’s frequent pot smoking, booze drinking, and pill popping, there’s not a lot for the audience’s sensory apparati to indulge in outside of a little acid rock, a brief time lapse scene and some minor flashbacks to the night of her womb squatter’s immaculate conception.
The trippiest shit we get actually comes from whatever bizarro TV channel it is that Lou keeps her boob tube tuned to. Must be one of those weird ass “channels between the channels” digital air wave stations too, cuz our pregged-up protagonista’s trailer abode is so far out in the middle of nowhere that there’s no way a cable company is coming all the way out there to install service for her box! Though, I would gladly drive such a distance to service Natasha Lyonne’s box. There’s just something about her that makes my protruding Pineal stalk stand at attention. Not that I owe anyone an explanation as to whom or what pitches a tent in my celestial loincloth. If you’ve got a problem with it, you can blister your biscuits for all I care.
All in all, the movie’s cast is pretty good. Lyonne makes Lou oddly affable (and f-able) despite her flaws, but that may just be me hooking my wagon of personal life experiences to her hitch. Sevigny (who’s been superseded as the go-to Chloë by both Chloë Grace Moretz and Khloé Kardashian) make Sadie moderately interesting as both Lou’s co-conspirator and Gabe’s girlfriend, seeming genuinely ignorant that she’s using him for the free drugs. It keeps with the movie’s underlying message that everyone uses everyone else for their personal gains. That may make me a pessimist, if you must insist, but I tend to live in a sugar-free reality. My logic diabetes makes me allergic to naivety. And despite my cripplingly low self-esteem, I can’t seem to stop making this review about me. Let me go look in a mirror and remind myself why I’m not to be a topic of praise.
That’s better. Where was I? Oh yeah, the cast. Meg Tilly’s Lorna is motherly and warm, while also tin foil hat paranoid and always ready to cut a bitch. She’s like Kitty Forman with shellshock, thus making her my favorite character. Webber and Lokos are what you’d expect out of a small town wanna-be crime lord and his bruised second banana. Neither one is especially dynamic, but these aren’t exactly career making roles. I will give it to Webber though, he almost makes you feel bad for Gabriel when the guy points out to Sadie that she’s using him for drugs and he begrudgingly accepts it. One of those “I’m just a means to an end for you, but I’m a user too so fuck it, we’re good” exchanges. Kudos.
Though it’s become far more commercial in recent years than the Independent Film Channel it was created to be, IFC’s movie unit lives up to the “independent” part with Antibirth‘s super low budget feel, especially its limited number of scene locales. It’s sold as a horror movie, but looks and feels like a slice of life slacker picture. Downtrodden, lower class twenty-to-thirtysomethings just getting by and living lives without real purpose, just kinda dickin’ around until it’s their turn to feed the worms. Minuscule on production value, but in no need of a big price tag to warrant its existence. Take out the Mulder and Scully stuff and you’d be left with a Juno + Suburbia hybrid flick.
All in all, it’s an okay movie. Better remembered for its ending (which I’m not at liberty to divulge, given its infancy) and a scene that will make podophobics curl their toes in revulsion (trigger warning!), Antibirth is a fair feature to take in if you’re feeling nostalgic for the ’90s nihilistic punk pics sub-sub-genre, but still like a side of mild body horror and the unknown with your meal. It doesn’t make me chomp at the bit for another Danny Perez feature, but I may check one out if I get the odd pregnancy craving somewhere down the line.
Oh, and bonus points for the scene where Lou expounds the finer points of “Manimal” to Sadie! When’s that remake coming, NBC?!
With the sun setting on “Ladies Night!”, what will the striking of midnight and the dawning of the devil’s month have in store for The Tomb? Take my hand and let’s find out together…that’s not my hand…okay, you should just stop that now. I’m just not into you like that. You’ve made it awkward. I’m going to go now. Bye.
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Anubis will return next time in
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