ANTRUM: THE DEADLIEST FILM EVER MADE is a truly strange film. Ostensibly it is a documentary about a film that kills you for watching it. Hilariously and passive-aggressively many of its victims are film festival programmers which do make sense, but that amusing fact did not escape my notice. It is strange in a way that Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages and Elias Merhige’s The Begotten are, the most obvious influence being Häxan. ANTRUM also is about the occult, specifically Satan and rituals pertaining to entering Hell. It also stars not one but two kids. Yes, you read that correctly. But there is a deep well of a special kind of weirdness that this movie digs up and feeds on and I found it compelling in its own specific fashion.
It starts as a very solemn documentary telling the stories of the many people who have perished as a consequence of viewing the film and the unpleasant ways that they went out. You are then informed that the producers located one print of the actual film and you are warned that you must leave the theatre unless you wish to take the danger of viewing the movie upon yourself. At the screening that I first saw ANTRUM during the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival in Santa Ana, Miguel Rodriguez, the festival mastermind and raging William Castle fan, had actual waivers printed up for all the attendees of the ANTRUM screening to sign. Waivers always work like a charm and even I was slightly unnerved by the prospect of viewing ANTRUM. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
ANTRUM itself is a very well done seventies-style film starring two very talented child actors, Nicole Tompkins as Oralee and Rowan Smyth as Nathan. These two children witness the euthanasia of a beloved pet and Oralee takes Nathan on a trip to a mysterious forest which seems to be part Pet Sematary and part suicide forest and allover Bad Place for living people to hang out. The film is very dreamlike and gauzy like its cinematography and does start to cast a spell on the viewer pretty quickly. The characters hallucinate and see things that may or may not be there. Oralee has a grimoire filled with the spells and incantations needed to dig their way to Hell, there are descriptions of the levels of Hell and Oralee sets about digging a large hole in the ground meant to achieve this aim and as they dig, things get more and more strange and dangerous. There are scenes of victims in a completely different film spliced in as well as Satanic drawings and random phrases that appear scrawled on the screen at different moments and chanting. I have watched it twice so far and it only got more upsetting the second time I viewed it and I’m a Satanist.
The acting is uniformly good and the actors have gone all in in their roles. Nicole Tompkins and Rowan Smythe are particularly good both in their many scenes of terror and bewilderment and their relationship as a brother and sister. When they scream for help, you believe them. Circus-Szalewski and Dan Istrate play a pair of completely bonkers and frightening occult freaks who manage this feat without ever speaking a word of English. One of them is attired only in a t-shirt and a pair of briefs and I found that to be one of the most disturbing parts of the film. Shu Sakamoto has a small role as a man in the forest, again he makes an impact with no English dialogue. Kristel Elling plays Amber, the mom, as another dreamlike and peculiar character who may or may not be real.
ANTRUM was written and directed by the team of Michael Laicini and David Amito and they have done very well. David Amito is an actor himself and clearly knows how to work with actors and have them deliver from a performance standpoint. As a writing and directing team, they have excelled at making a film both fascinating and deeply odd that crawls under your skin. Maksymilian Milczarczyk the film’s cinematographer who nailed the gauzy Seventies film look and Alicia Fricker is responsible for the film’s unnerving soundtrack.
ANTRUM: THE DEADLIEST FILM EVER MADE is a mind bomb that is precisely calculated to grow on you. It is quite a feat for a film to have its artifice laid bare and still be able to wrap cold fingers around your spine. An antrum is actually a cavity in the body, like the cavity that one would find a heart in. ANTRUM: THE DEADLIEST FILM EVER MADE is now available on Digital and to own.