Subtly Off The Rails: Our Review of ‘Antibirth’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - December 04, 2016

Audiences interpret drug use as its own self-contained caveat as Danny Perez’ Antibirth shows. Here he chooses Natasha Lyonne for his leading character Lou. The character’s drug use is not the only factor to make some audience members refuse to sympathize with her. But fortunately, he adds complexity into his body horror film. He doesn’t really condemn her antisocial activities – he doesn’t blame Lou for her tribulations. If anything, he indicts the people taking advantage of her, calling out society for doing similar things.

Perez makes aesthetic and technical decisions that don’t fit within this fictional world. But the cast’s presence makes the movie worth watching. Lou is a soldier’s daughter. Lou spends long nights partying in places like abandoned buildings, just like she does the first time we see her. She also drinks and smokes at home, a trailer in the middle of nowhere that she lives in for free. She works at a motel cleaning rooms. But we only see her do that once so it’s questionable as to how she pays for everything.

During one night, Lou and her best friend Sadie (Chloe Sevigny) separate from each other. Lou doesn’t remember much of that night, the film showing us a haze of a male acquaintance dragging her away. She and Sadie visit a vet but they all assume that a pregnancy is causing her pains. She refuses to see a doctor, which a lot of us are guilty of when we’re experiencing abnormalities. Sadie tells her more than once to start eating healthier but they’re not each other’s best influences.


Sadie’s boyfriend Gabriel (Mark Webber) keeps hinting at his friend about being directly a part of whatever’s happening to Lou. These hints are borderline obtuse, just like the ones the film leaves when it introduces a new character. This new character, a wounded woman named Lorna, is played by Meg Tilly of all people. It’s a delight seeing her. And her presence made me wish that the movie’s momentum doesn’t stall like it’s been doing. There are three strong women in the film and it shouldn’t waste them.

While watching the film I was praying for it to get itself together. Let’s return to what I said about the film’s clashing choices, the most obvious one is its pace. The only silver lining in the visuals is its turquoise psychedelia, softening the blow on Lou’s freak outs. There’s also the hipster music, an element better incorporated in other Michigan Gothic films but not here. Even the lyrics are too in the nose, a man singing about a ‘druggie and a bitch’.

The film sometimes subverts its good message by undermining its protagonist. But Lyonne is watchable in everything, taking advantage of the raspy character within her voice. I can see her doing street smart yet tolerant matriarch roles when she gets older. She belongs to a wave of 90s ingenues who are recently getting chances to evolve their skill sets with age. Her co-star Sevigny also belongs to that wave. Sevigny gets as gritty as her co-star, their chemistry in the film as natural as it is in real life.

This is a gnarly subject matter helmed by an uneven writer director but again Lyonne makes it work. She even adds her comic stylings to portraying Lou, capitalizing on her character’s ever changing body. And like every great female character in a horror film, she doesn’t box herself into pure victimization. She doesn’t rush into piecing her memories back. Lou even tries hard to have fun like she normally does.antibirth5

Lyonne validly reacts like a person who has experienced trauma. Sevigny, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily drop the affectations of her regular personality to play Sadie. There’s also a change of character motivation that she can neither navigate or transition properly. Tilly sometimes appears in Lou’s freak outs, showing versatility as another frightful face or a helping hand. As the later she unfolds subtly, an approach that the film needs.

  • Release Date: 12/2/2016
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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