Still days after screening Antibirth at this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TADFF) , I still don’t know what to make of it.
Written and directed by Danny Perez (doesn’t it seem as if every film has one name for both directing and writing credits lately?), Antibirth stars Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black) as Lou, a drug addicted party-going gal who in one of her all night binges might have gotten pregnant. Lou is hardly the ‘motherly’ type. Even with the possibility of another life inside her, Lou is defiant in changing her ways. She still smokes, does cocaine and drinks excessively.
Throughout the pregnancy, Lou begins to go through a change in both her appearance and with the recurring visions that are as confusing as they are strange. Lou begins to get large blisters on her feet and her skin begins to peel on her neck as if she’s turning into a Brundlefly. Her visions are less disgusting and more on the WTF side of the plot ledger.
Yet, through it all, Lou doesn’t seem to change as a character. In conversations with her best friend Sadie (Chloe Sevigny), Lou can’t recall exactly how she became pregnant, but she doesn’t seem overly concerned about it either. That is, until the introduction of Lorna (Meg Tilly), a bit of a nutbag that shows up out of nowhere with conspiracy theories as to what happened to poor Lou. Lorna plants seeds of treachery in regards to Lou’s conception night and the two of them set out on a mini-investigation in an attempt to make the pieces to the plot puzzle fit.
All this leads to the final chapter. There was no doubt as the film was progressing that we would eventually get to Lou giving birth. But to exactly what she is giving birth remained in our imagination. That is until Danny Perez goes for broke and gives us so many closing moments on which to ponder, absorb and attempt to
The whole Antibirth experience was much like Lou’s everyday life. It was as if I saw everything threw a drug induced state. At times, the movie became interesting (Lyonne gives a wonderful performance) and the film was akin to It’s Alive if mixed with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. But by the time ending was revealed, we were left with a feeling of emptiness. As if the journey wasn’t worth the reward. Yes – the birthing scene and what happens next didn’t shy away from the kitchen sink. But the scene just took the movie somewhere less interesting.
Antibirth became a movie looking for shock value or maybe in search of creating a legacy that will continue through sequels. But for us, the jump off the cliff turned a rather well acted thriller into a Troma film. And not one that we aspire to have on our blu-ray shelf either.