Thursday, September 8, 2016

Cosmic Slop: The joy of "Antibirth"

I’ll tell you what I like about “Antibirth”, though I’m under no illusion that you’ll like it for the same reasons, or like it at all. A lot of people seem to really dislike it.  Ah well. You can’t please everyone.

Actually, maybe I’ll tell you what I like about what people don’t like about “Antibirth”. That might be more fun. An unconventional film demands an unconventional approach.

(Oh hey, I’m maybe going to post a big spoiler or here two, just so you know)


I like the fact that there aren’t any likeable characters, as many have been keen to point out. I found both Lou (Natasha Lyonne) and Sadie (Chloe Sevigny) had exactly the same mixture of  the shambolic, the aggravating and the irreverent that some of my real life friends (and, if I’m honest, a former girlfriend or two) have oozed with over the years. They’re an acquired taste, a kind of lovable awfulness exudes from them both. 

 “I love pissing” announces Lou as she shuffles out of the bathroom of the exploded jumble sale she lives in, before joining Sadie in some uninhibited shimmying to Suicide’s “Touch Me”. Neither seem to be without a cigarette or some form of liquid or chemical stimulant at any point in the film. Lou eats pizza she finds dumped in the corner of the shitty motel room she’s half-heartedly cleaning. Sadie wants her drug dealing boyfriend to pimp her out. They’re two real life Garbage Pail Kids that have been on a bender for the last 20 years. Lorna (Meg Tilly) is annoying and unlikeable in another kind of way with her paranoid tin foil hat rambling. But goddamn, how are people not talking about how Tilly nails the mania without overplaying it? She’s utterly believable as a conspiracy theorist/damaged sociopath with a heart of gold. She might just steal the whole shebang from under Lyonne’s snotty nose.


No one in this film appears to have any morals. The film has no morals. I’m absolutely fine with all of this. These people live in a shitty, nothing town in the middle of nowhere so it’s utterly fitting that they’re constantly fucked up in order to combat the soul destroying boredom. They’ve taken that ridiculous level of self annihilation through stimulant consumption to new levels, whereby no one gives a fuck what happens to one another or themselves (when asked when she last had her period early in the film, the perpetually apathetic Lou shoots back with a giggle inducing “recently”). This allows the admittedly implausible plot that leads to Lou’s supposed immaculate conception with an alien baby to happen … because really, there’s not any real reason for it not to happen. It’s easy to believe that the citizens in this dump are being used as guinea pigs by some sketchy psyops mob because they're disposable, and when it’s revealed that the reason Lou has been chosen to incubate an alien life form is because, well, she’s done so much damage to herself through years of drink and drugs that her body would be used to the equally toxic atmosphere of her infant’s home planet, it’s a hilariously warped logic.



I like the fact it doesn’t feel like something I’ve already seen, even though the references and influences are very clearly worn on its’ grubby little sleeves. Everything steals from everything else in the horror genre at this point, and that’s fine, but this film seems to be taking up from the likes of Frank Henenlotter’s “Brain Dead”, Brian Yuzna’s “Society” or “From Beyond”, the dayglo body horror atrocities of “Slime City” and “Street Trash”, hell, even the fever dream insanity of Frank Grow’s little seen but wonderful “Love God” (note to self: post something else about “Love God” soon). There’s  quite a few recent body horror and psychedelic influenced low budget horror movies out there, but none of them seem to have the absurdist humor “Antibirth” has. Similarly the pop culture references are crammed thick and fast down your throat to the extent you’ll maybe feel nauseous depending on your tolerance for media blitz. From the opening punk party segment’s hinting at the video for “Smells like Teen Spirit”, through to the flyers for the likes of Black Dice on walls, to the soundtrack crammed with the likes of Dead Moon, Suicide, Black Lips, etc..director Danny Perez’s time in the rock n’roll underground is writ large.



The big hint as to the influence on the aesthetic on “Antibirth” though seems to come from the seemingly constant stream of bizarre cable access shows  and infomercials about psychics, surgery and the like that are on TV in the background in Lou’s trailer. Those, perhaps, though I only experienced them second hand here in Ireland through the likes of Channel 4’s “TV Pizza” , seemed to be the most fascinating aspect of US television in the 90s – the place where the seeds sown by trash icons like John Waters or Elvira really seemed to take root. The compelling ugliness of some of those strange transmissions seems to have seeped into this film. Take Lou’s hallucination while pregnant with its’ green screen booth graphics, inspirational speech and alien probing; or the scene where Lou and Lorna arrive at a kids’ play centre to confront scumbag Warren only to be met with dancers in grotesque fur costumes that looked like the progeny of the Teletubbies had they been impregnated by the cast of Planet of the Apes. These are things that seem to have tumbled off the set of a late night New York public access television station where people on acid had been given free reign to produce a tv show.





Most of all, I loved the fact that having thought it through for a couple of days now, “Antibirth” makes absolutely no fucking sense. The monster movies I watched as a kid and most of the slasher and splatter flicks I watched growing up made no sense. That never impaired my enjoyment of them. So the silliness and inconsistency of the film is utterly joyous. Why are people flocking in droves to have sex with a deformed prostitute whose facial scarring makes her hideous to look at? How and why did Lorna come to know Lou was being roped into the bizarre plot? WHO CARES?! We are in an age where seemingly everything now has to make sense, have a hidden meaning that can be discussed, a secret metaphor for oppression or racism or some sort of implied morality buried underneath the blood and guts veneer. Nothing that operates within the darker realms of art and culture can seemingly just be gross out escapism anymore.

“Antibirth”, unless I’m missing something, has none of that bullshit though, and strives to just be the piece of bad drug celluloid fantasy you hope it will be once you've seen that trailer.

I can see how you could argue the feminist angle for sure, though it’s not a difficult argument to make (It’s a horror film with mainly female characters, which there still aren’t a whole lot of, and all those female characters are more memorable than any of the male ones). I could possibly see how you could argue how it’s about the invasion of the female body by government forces too if you wanted to tie that flag to the mast. But if those were the intentions, the film has done itself a degree of disservice, because frankly were that the approach it’s so unsubtle as to have backfired. They were crammed up there like too much stuffing rammed into a turkey’s corpse on Christmas, filling that might be in there but isn’t the real reason you’re eating.


No, “Antibirth” just seems to be a weird, funny, kind of disgusting little film for the sake of being weird, funny and kind of disgusting. Don’t mistake purposeful gaucheness for shock value, what’s going on here is a surrealist portrait of weird goings on in a smalltown that has been coloured in with neon markers. It’s a glorious reminder that sometimes things can just be bizarre for the sake of it. Lowbrow culture through a kaleidoscopic lens. This is the X-Files as scripted by GG Allin , or “Slacker”  filmed by a young David Cronenberg. What more do you want like? Mutant cinema at a recent best.




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