Make no mistake about it, Antibirth is a horror film. There is a science fiction element to the story, but it’s distinctly a horror film. The film is a fever dream with qualities not too dissimilar from Jacob’s Ladder. Writer/Director Danny Perez’s first feature is the illicit lovechild of David Cronenberg and Hunter S. Thompson, a drug addled body horror film that will make you squirm from the grotesque moments and trip over the psychedelic flashes of disjointed scenes and colors. Antibirth is the stuff of nightmares.
Man Underground, on the other hand, is decidedly less dark and has far less delirium where that is what Antibirth is built upon. The only thread that truly connects the films, other than both appearing at the 20th anniversary of Fantasia Fest, is that both have connections to alien beings. Antibirth‘s climax involves an alien being entering the film in a graphic and disturbing fashion. Man Underground, more comedic in it’s overall tone, is built around the stories of a man who claims to have encountered aliens and vows to spread awareness. Both are strong and unique entries into this year’s festival.
Antibirth focuses on Lou (Natosha Lyonne), a woman who makes up for lack of direction with excessive drinking and drugging. The film opens with Lou and friends partying hard before Lou blacks out; during her blackout, something happens, but neither she nor we, as viewers, know what that something is. Before long, her body is transforming and she appears pregnant, despite not having sex in about six months. What happens from there is a blur of drug induced haze, psychedelic flashbacks, and the deterioration of Lou’s health.
Lyonne is joined by Chloë Sevigny, Mark Webber, and Meg Tilley, among other great supporting members, to create a strong cast where no one proves to be a weak point. All of the players are on point in creating their piece of the fucked up puzzle that is Antibirth. A personal favorite young actor, Mark Webber, has seemed to make quite good in the genre this year, with Green Room and now Antibirth. I couldn’t be more excited for what is coming next for Sex Bob-Omb’s frontman.
Man Underground, the debut feature for the team of Michael Borowiec and Sam Marine, is also a thriller of sorts, but a vastly different film. Retired geologist and conspiracy theorist, Willem (George Basil) hires a crew to make a film documenting his experiences encountering aliens in his geology career. He casts reenactments of his experiences with the help of local waitress Flossie (Pamela Fila) and amateur filmmaker Todd (Andy Rocco). Paranoia begins to set in as Willem remembers his experiences. Soon, Willem begins to unravel, taking his cast and crew along for the ride.
The two films are far different in tone. They are far different in many more ways than they are similar, as noted above. However, they share the common threads that something otherworldly may or may not be at play throughout the film and the audience is left to decide exactly what is going on. In some cases these questions of what is going on at different points get answered and in other cases they are left wide open, but we are left to decipher much of that for ourselves. And, while being a horror fan means I prefer the dark and twisted Antibirth, many audience members would likely gravitate towards Man Underground‘s quirky paranoia instead.
When deciding how to spend your time at Fantasia this year, you could do far worse than catching one or both of these two vastly different films. The films demonstrate just a little bit of the diversity exhibited at Fantasia this year. Morever, both are strong entries into the pantheon of modern indie genre films and are well worth the price of admission.