I love Natasha Lyonne. I have loved her ever since I first saw her in THE SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS. I don’t know if it’s the wild, untamable mane, the New York accent that even the finest elocution lessons couldn’t curb, or her seemingly “Fuck you, I do what I want” attitude. I’m thinking it’s the whole package, wrapped in day-glo paper and hastily tied with a barbed wire bow. When I found out she was starring in a new independent body horror film I was all over it. I mean, they had me at “Natasha” but I stayed for the “body horror”.
ANTIBIRTH, is written and directed by first-timer Danny Perez, known for his collaborations with Animal Collective and Panda Bear. It stars Natasha Lyonne (AMERICAN PIE, BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER) as perpetual party-girl Lou. Also features in the film are 90’s art house it-girl Chloë Sevigny (KIDS, “American Horror Story”) as Lou’s friend and fellow party-girl Sadie and Oscar-nominated Meg Tilly (THE BIG CHILL, PSYCHO II) as an ex-Marine who is lead to Lou by unusual reasons.
ANTIBIRTH centers on Lou who blacks out one night at a shindig in an abandoned warehouse and wakes up “pregnant”. She may have had a sexual encounter with her friend Warren (Maxwell McCabe-Lokos) who gave her some new illegal drugs to try from local dealer Gabriel (Mark Webber). This encounter would be the only possible reason for the immaculate conception. Either way, she’s in total denial and continues to party on and on and on.
Lou’s immaculate conception is growing inside of her, and growing at an exponential rate. What starts out as a small bump the next day soon becomes a bulbous watermelon-like protrusion. It’s not clear how many days, or weeks, have progressed but it’s safe to assume that it hasn’t been a lot. Besides the discomfort of the parasite she’s unwittingly carrying, Lou’s body begins to change. Her skin peels, her feet blister and yet none of this stops her from hitting the bong over and over and over again.
The film is unsettling. It is raunchy and filthy. The characters live in squalor and are always on something or looking to be on something. Lou actually has a job as a maid at a motel but must first get high to endure her shift. She is constantly wasted and consistently complains that she feels like shit. It’s no wonder that she was more than willing to try this new drug regardless of the consequences. I’m not certain that any of the characters in the film even know the definition of the world “consequence” or have been responsible for more than nurturing the following day’s hangover.
Where the film falters is in the lack of horror and underwhelming gore. If you claim to be a body horror film then brother, you need more body horror. More blood, more goo, more gristle. Have an ear fall off. Maybe a clump of scalp with some hair attached. I’m talking about fingernails being peeled back and necrotic skin sliding off. Give me some Brundle-fly from Cronenberg’s body horror masterpiece, is what I’m saying. This film has some of these elements but they are few and far between.
The music, composed by Eric Copeland and John Kanakis, is otherworldly and sometimes in your face. There are many scenes where drug use leads to hallucinatory imagery that’s bizarre, creepy and dreamlike. It’s colorful, uncomfortable and just plain weird at times. Glimpses of television shows and music videos in the background are reminiscent of something you may see on “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” Overall, a pretty good package for fans of the unusual, unconventional or abnormal.
ANTIBIRTH will be available in select theaters, on VOD and via digital platforms on September 2nd from IFC Midnight.