Review: Antibirth (2017)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #737

Number of Views: One
Release Date: January 25, 2016 (Sundance)
Sub-Genre: Sci-Fi/Body Horror
Country of Origin: United States, Canada
Running Time: 94 minutes
Director: Danny Perez
Producers: Cole Payne, Natasha Lyonne, Roger M. Mayer, David Anselmo, Justin Kelly
Screenplay: Danny Perez
Special Effects: David Scott
Cinematography: Rudolf Blahacek
Score: Eric Copeland, Jonathan J.K. Kanakis
Editing: Aden Bahadori
Studios: Traverse Media, Hideaway Pictures, WeatherVane Productions
Distributor: IFC Midnight
Stars: Natasha Lyonne, Chloë Sevigny, Meg Tilly, Mark Allen Webber, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, Emmanuel Kabongo, Neville Edwards, Morgan Bedard, Corey Pascall, Lili Francks, Marie-Josee Dionne, Jessica Greco

Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫

[1] Your Favorite Martian “Tig Ol’ Bitties”

[2] Eric Copeland “U.F.O.’s Over Vampire City”

[3] Suicide “Touch Me”

[4] The Gories “Feral”

[5] Dead Moon “Dead Moon Night”

[6] TonettaDruggie & A Bitch”

Looking back on it, I would have liked a pair of breasts you know. You can keep your womb; that I could do without. But breasts I reckon I could live with. Naturally they’d need to be discreet as dressing up in women’s clothing is an act I only would entertain behind closed doors or under the lens of a camera. To be fair, I could probably pull it off in public, provided my arrangement skills were adequate and I’d choose a nice lemon blouse and accompanying wrist bangles, perhaps a nice knee-length polyester skirt and some sheer tights to hug my calves. But a womb? What would I do with a womb? I’ve seen Ridley Scott’s Alien and, though this is admittedly childbirth at its most miscalculated, it’s all a bit too much push and pull for me. And that’s not to mention the swollen ankles.

Of course, should you be one of the lucky few selected for podding by an unseen extraterrestrial for hybrid procreation, then an entirely different set of rules apply. For starters, the term can be a great deal shorter, and your infant a great deal longer. Scans would likely wind up inconclusive as the gestation sac would no doubt be stonewalled by impenetrable green crud and good luck with determining the sex too so that’s baby colors right out the window.

Then there’s morning sickness and, given that term is accelerated, it will see no harm or foul in showing up again at lunchtime, dinner, supper and dusk. I’ve suffered from reflux for over a decade now and, while undoubtedly astringent, I could be talked around to sipping from a stem of my own upchuck, with appropriate alkaline mixer to take the edge off. But interstellar puke is such an unknown quantity, even more dicey when projectile and omitted nasally. I reckon we need a second opinion you know. What do you reckon Lou? How are things shaping up in your neck of the woods?

Been better but thanks for asking man. For a while at least, I think I’ll act like the pregnancy test strip I just stuck up my minge piped up inconclusive and carry on with my life, like there isn’t something growing inside me this very moment. Maybe I could call my close friend Sadie over for a smoke and a chat; that’d be an idea. Nothing too mental, just a few bongs, smattering of light audio refreshment, and a dash of “what does it all mean” just to stop both parties zoning out into the customary stoned catharsis.

My associate would be blissfully unaware of my being in the family way as the baby bump comes further down the line, while I’d disguise my chubby ankles with some comfy woolen socks and gulp back any trespassing vomit with ideas above my oesophagus. It could still be a night to remember as long as I’ve selected the correct companion; one for whom exhibition trumps inhibition once the buzz kicks in and fellow freebird Sadie happens to fit the bill rather snugly.

Would it be considered obscene for me to bust out a few moves also? Nothing extravagant, just a harmless slide or two for the purpose of both exercise and enlightenment. I hear that music is pivotal to your unborn child’s development and my bundle of joy will be finely tuned to whatever audio reverberations inspire its host to give those tail feathers a polite wiggle. Fuck it, just because I’m about to become a parent, doesn’t mean I have to crave praline-coated gherkins and sit around all broody and sombre. Besides, I’m kind of digging the vibe right now man.

One thing not being dug is the manner in which my body appears to be processing this fresh data. Sore nipples are one thing but the whole sclerosis deal isn’t well enough illustrated in any parental handbook I’ve ever skim-read. While I can live with blotchy skin, gradually decomposing throat tissue is something I’m not altogether comfortable with. I’d swear it’s spreading and should really book myself in with a physician before I’m forced to walk around in a paisley neck scarf. All that weed may be making me paranoid, but you tell me, does this legion appear vaguely post-apocalyptic to you?

This is where the mind starts playing its most callous tricks. You see, judging by the epidermic corrosion, I think it’s high I time I entertain the distinct possibility that this isn’t actually a pregnancy I’m dealing with here. Could I be parasitic? Will all this wear and tear result in a living, breathing life that I can cradle to my bosom or something only fit for a fortified titanium incubator in some government-run lab beneath the Arizona sands? Will we even be supplied time to bond?

There are too many questions and not nearly enough answers for my liking and, with all this procrastination, an elephant appears to have skulked into the room. Here, take a peek at my brand new overhang and please tell me it’s nothing a good long dump wouldn’t rectify as my emotions are all out of whack and all I’m seeing right now are bummers man.

That noticeable huh? Who am I kidding, I resemble a bowling ball with tits and I damn well know it. Nice try on cheering me up but I can see it in your eyes; I’m now officially repulsive and will remain this way until the dreaded baby brain pays me uninvited visitation. Let’s just get this over and done with shall we?

Pray tell, do you have any idea who the on-duty midwife will be for this twisted nativity? I’m expecting the very best in one-to-one patient care, given that there’s a realistic chance I’ll be birthing Starman here. Good bedside manner is imperative as I could do without all that prodding and poking if I’m honest and there are certain objects I’m not particularly at ease with having inserted into my clunge. That could really murder my buzz man.

Lube or no lube, I reckon I’ll pass thanks. Besides, I’ve already secured myself a midwife and she’s more than willing to donate her services as my own personal handmaiden. Moreover, Lorna appears to have a fair idea how my condition came about and, while not what I’d call music to my ears, forewarned is forearmed and all that baloney. She reckons herself some kind of clairvoyant and, while I’m in not in a position to either confirm or refute such intelligence, I’m not about to decline her kind offer.

This nice lady genuinely seems to care about my wellbeing and also about getting to the bottom of how I wound up knocked up in the first place so I have precious little to lose in trusting her. Apparently she has inside information that points the wagging finger of shame curiously back to the Military. According to her, they were testing out some kind of experimental drug and it all got a little out of hand when she enrolled and threatened to blow the lid on the whole shady operation.

However, while quickly discharged, she has continued to keep tabs on their activities. Word on the street has it that some of this gear fell into the wrong hands and ended up with a street price attached to it. I wonder if anyone else has unwittingly taken some. Perhaps the side-effects vary from person to person, there’s a thought.

Poor girl doesn’t appear to have fared too well. I’d recommend a teeth whitening kit but I reckon that’d only draw more attention to the nasty looking cleft she’s sporting. Sadie’s fella Gabriel, who also happens to be my dealer, keeps her locked up in his apartment like some dirty little secret and I’m starting to think he might have slipped something into my drink when we were partying a few days back.

Not being funny but I think I’d have noticed being impregnated, regardless of how wasted I was that night. Oh my God! It is a parasite isn’t it? Fuck man, I’ve got to find a way to get this thing out of me and fast. With a bit of luck, Lorna will know how to perform a cesarean section. At any rate, that’s quite enough of me bleating on about my woes. Wrap this shit up will you? Quick, before my water breaks.

Thanks Lou and have a few tokes on the gas and air for me girl. I guess it’s my job to mop up this mess and anoint the baby’s head so to speak so, without further ado, let’s get down to some nitty-gritty shall we? One word that sums Antibirth up in a nutshell is peculiar and that’s funny in a good way, in case you were wondering.

Danny Perez wrote and directed this quirky little oddity and, for the most part, his feature film debut eschews cliché and walks its own odd little path for 94 knowingly random minutes whilst keeping its audience guessing over where it’s headed and what the point of its entire exercise actually is. I don’t know about you, but I’m rather partial to being left in the dark, provided the company is right of course.

Casting Chloë Sevigny is a huge tick in my book as there’s subtext in every last one of her gazes, although she’s not the real rabbit in headlights here and Natasha Lyonne grabs her rare opportunity to lead like a pothead does munchies. Vulgar, sarcastic, boozing, pill-guzzling, coke huffing, unmotivated, work-shy, irresponsible, slothful – just some of the qualities that Lorna has at her disposal and Lyonne owns every one in turn, while still remaining likeable at all times.

She carries her bulge like a pensioner would a bag of grocery, her luck tends to travel in zigzags from bad to worse on its default setting, and this particular role is custom-built to her strengths. Think The Dude by way of The Brood and you’re in the right stirrups. Meanwhile, if Lyonne’s inclusion is common sense, then Meg Tilly’s is more a case of uncommon valor and she rewards Perez for taking a punt on her after such an extended cinematic hiatus with a wonderfully maternal turn that provides the true attachment here.

Antibirth is a strange little movie with an unusual vibe not necessarily accessible for all-comers. Some will despise it and I can dig that, but there’s far more than Kwik-E-Mart charm in its favor. While Rudolf Blahacek’s photography reveals Nowheresville, Michigan as a cold and uninviting place, he uses color to create the necessary warmth – notably purples and blues – and this softens what could easily have been too abrasive.

Regularly confrontational, sporadically surreal, and never anything less than intriguing, it’s the motion picture equivalent of Marmite and its pungent aftertaste may well offend more refined palates. Fuck it, I dig what Perez did here, ectopic or not. Now how about passing that gas and air Lou? On second thoughts, you look like you may be needing it more than me.

Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10

Grue Factor: 2/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers: Fuck splatter, how about those fleecy Teletubbies? Tell me that wasn’t an acid flashback. In the interest of not letting the cat out of the bag here, the less said about the gloopy stuff the better as, should you not have impregnated your player with Antibirth yet, then the last thing you need is me revealing its birth plan. Well okay then, I guess just one baby photo couldn’t hurt none.

Read Thanatomorphose Appraisal
Read The Brood Appraisal
Read The Fly (1986) Appraisal
Read Smiley Face Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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