Danny Perez’s colourful stoner horror Antibirth is the kind of post 9/11 Rosemary’s Baby update a lot of people will really enjoy. With a cast of cult regulars like Natasha Lyonne, Chloe Sevigny, Meg Tilly, and Marc Webber Antibirth is packed with charismatic, dedicated performances that charm from start to finish.
Perez’ first film Oddsac proved the director has a keen eye for odd projects and camp imagery, fusing music film with experimental arthouse imagery. Antibirth is Perez’s first attempt at a more accessible project complete with a full plot and a collection of living breathing, lovable characters. Perez deserves credit first and foremost for Lou, the pill-popping stoner party girl lead who is never treated like some kind of undesirable, never really pulled up for her choice of life-style. Much of that falls down to Lyonne who remains adorable throughout, proving a far more lovable character than first might be expected from a reckless grouch who’s just found out she’s pregnant.
Antibirth delivers a collection of young characters but never feels like its exploiting any of them. If anything the film draws attention to the fringes of American society, to the “slackers”, addicts, and ex-soldiers: the people suffering most at the hands of a failed war on drugs, non-existent healthcare system, and still-felt fallout from the Iraq war. Though it might not have anything firm to say, Perez’s film benefits from a well-painted social environment in which our characters manoeuvre.
The odder parts of the film deserve privacy since they’re best enjoyed as surprises amidst a film you think you’ve dealt with before. Antibirth takes sex as the literal source of its horror then sends its heroines on an investigation, conjuring elements of It Follows whilst maintaining the buddy vibe of Juno. It’s a hard task, to create believable and lovably honest characters alongside mystery and horror, but it works. Chloe Sevigny doesn’t quite get the screen-time she deserves but her turn as Sadie really bounces well with Lyonne.
Antibirth isn’t trying to turn pregnancy into horror, instead, like Rosemary’s Baby, it wants to talk about the idea of consent, and control, using one night of drug-fuelled mayhem as the kicking off point for a sketchy chat on a myriad of US socio-political problems. In the end, Perez knows he owes the audience something special for all this zany mystery. And he delivers. A mad Day-Glo creature-feature finale ties up all the loosey-goosey points about conspiracy and government in five preposterous minutes. It’s a total doozey and something that will have you laughing and applauding or watching mouth agape. Unfortunately, the finale proves the film isn’t quite as fun or scary as it could have been, instead showing up large portions of the film where the story doesn’t quite know where to take us next.
Whichever way you look at it, Danny Perez is an interesting filmmaker and someone to keep an eye out for. Antibirth is a bizarre, colourful, hazy kind of drug-fuelled horror you should probably check out.
Dir. Danny Perez
Stars: Natasha Lyonne, Chloe Sevigny, Marc Webber, Meg Tilly