Sundance Review: ANTIBIRTH


What happens when a tripped out music video director befriends Natasha Lyonne and Chloe Sevigny and wants to make a movie? And what further happens when you add 80s body horror, conspiracy theories, class politics and some seriously weird costume design? Well. If it gives any indication, the resulting film is called ANTIBIRTH.


Lyonne plays the hell out of Lou, a hard partier who blacks out one night – not an uncommon occurrence, but this time, she displays symptoms of pregnancy. Thing is, she hasn’t had sex in weeks. As she continues to hide behind drugs and alcohol, her symptoms get worse, and the mystery deepens – something that revolves a close-by military base, a prostitution ring, and an experimental drug. All of this comes into focus when a homeless woman – played beautifully by Meg Tilly – tells her of an alien conspiracy involving her body. Lou’s belly is growing fast, and she doesn’t have much time before this thing pops out.


It’s no surprise that Danny Perez’s debut is visually fascinating. Transitioning from a successful music video career, Perez uses his camera and colors vividly, creating an entrancing aesthetic. The editing and soundtrack boost the visuals and cement the film’s unique style. While the plot gets muddled at times, the filmmaking is always crystal clear, rooting us in Lou’s psyche more closely than we’d like. And it gets visceral. Perez does not shy away from excretions, peelings, poppings, and more.

But he also pays attention to his characters. By setting this tale in the wasteland of Michigan, the intensity rises – no one will listen to an impoverished woman, even if something truly is going on. Lou and her comrades, through their desperate living situations, bring a new layer to a familiar body horror plot. Class issues are rarely touched in horror films, but here we see them on full display. Perez doesn’t judge Lou, either. She is our hero, flaws and all, and I for one cared about her.


Like I said, the plot gets muddled, but it still satisfies. The culmination of spurtings and hallucinations is just what horror fans want. Perez doesn’t go gross just for the sake of shock, but he doesn’t skimp, either. The audience went wild during the climax – I will NOT spoil it, but let’s just say it’s one of the weirdest endings I’ve seen in horror lately.

It’s fair to acknowledge, too, that this film polarized the audience at the premiere. Half of the people I came with hated it, several viewers left (mainly during a scene involving neck skin); but Perez, along with Lyonne and Chloe Sevigny, showed so much passion about the film. It was a struggle to get made – not hard to imagine, considering the ending – and they saw that struggle through. Perez also knows horror. I certainly hope he continues as a director. We need more bold and wacked-out voices in this genre.


Stay away from ANTIBIRTH if goo, aliens, wombs, blisters, and creepy monkey suits aren’t to your tastes. But if those things strike a cord, this film is a godsend. Harkening back to 80’s psychedelic horror and getting political to boot, here we have a wild, gross, and beautiful gift to genre fans.


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