Monday, April 24, 2017

Always Have a Plan B

A pregnancy horror comedy starring Natasha Lyonne? Why would I NOT stop everything and queue it up?

Quick Plot: Lou (Lyonne) is an aimless young woman who spends most of her time drinking, drugging, or lounging about her isolated home with the occasional company of her BFF Sadie (Chloe Sevigny). After a particularly blurry bender, Lou feels bloated and sick, displaying all the typical signs one has when detecting pregnancy. But despite many a blackout, Lou is convinced she hasn't actually had sex in recent months. 

Could the stomach pains and morning sickness have anything to do with some of the drugs she's been taking from Gabriel, Sadie's bad boy boyfriend (and 13 Sins good guy lead Mark Webber)? Following the playbook of Contracted's skin-shedding protagonist, Lou tries her best to ignore her symptoms, finally accepting some help from passing mysterious lady Lorna (the always eerie Meg Tilly).

Let's start with something that is key to determining your enjoyment of this film: everyone in it is absolutely awful.

For some viewers, this is an (often understandably) automatic turnoff. Others may have the immediate instinct to say, "oh come on, they're not ALL bad" but really, no: they're all awful human beings, and that in part is the very point of Antibirth. With her daily diet of pot, vodka, donuts, and whatever pills are handed to her for free, it's a wonder Lou is still breathing on ANY day, let alone one where she's impregnated with...something. This is a movie filled with characters who throw dead baby jokes around as if they were standard conversation fodder. If that bothers you, do not, and I repeat, do not watch Antibirth.

Those with stronger stomachs/weaker filters will find something somewhat interesting, somewhat infuriating, and mostly one-of-a-kind. Ever since she slummed her way through Beverly Hills (or maybe before, when she popped by Pee-Wee's Playhouse) Natasha Lyonne has been the kind of husky-voiced, big-haired actor who typically served a very particular type in a variety of projects: the sarcastic, smoking, old-for-her-age screwup. She's front and center in that part here, and while I've personally always admired her as a performer, I will say it took me a very long time while watching Antibirth to NOT think "maybe she's better used in supporting roles."

Because like I said: Lou is terrible. She's a slob, an addict, a couch potato, and mostly, not really as fun as the movie thinks she is. I was ready to write off Antibirth in the way that most people (that weren't me) wrote off the similar in tone (and cast) #Horror, but by its end, I was mostly on board with this movie. This primarily hit towards the final act, where Lou outright acknowledges how useless she really is, a key point that makes the idea of others exploiting her finally feel wrong. 

Antibirth is written and directed by Danny Perez, a man who clearly has a very definitive grip on the style and tone of his filmmaking. I don't know that I necessarily liked Antibirth, but once it hit a certain rhythm, I was definitely curious to follow it through, and the bonkers ending definitely left me in a better place. It's not for the squeamish or those with high taste, but I think there's probably a big faction of horror fans looking for something different that might find plenty to enjoy here. 

High Points
You cannot say this is a movie without utter commitment to itself, be that its aforementioned dead baby jokes, stylish framing of the world's ickiest bowling alley, or all-out wacky gross-out monster design in its climax

Low Points
As I said a few weeks ago with my annoyance at Satanic's Coachella-craving 20somethings, sometimes it's just hard to get on board with a film when you find everyone in it so detestable. The fact that these characters are in their mid-30s actually makes it worse

Lessons Learned
Natasha Lyonne may have been born to say the name "Lorna"

On the flip side, Natasha Lyonne's gigantic curly locks were not born to bob around a fire

Meg Tilly is not to be messed with

I can't argue with anyone who hated Antibirth. This is the kind of film that has a character declare "I love pissing!" as if, I don't know, it's a funny character quirk. For a good portion of its running time, I was ready to write off Antibirth as try-hard hipster horror that wasn't nearly as clever as it thought it was. The ending, however, really helped salvage it, at least for me. It's streaming on Netflix, and I guess those interested in pregnancy horror, gross-out horror comedy, or Natasha Lyonne may certainly get something out of it. It's a middling recommend, but I think a certain type of audience may embrace it more enthusiastically. 


  1. Great review!
    I did enjoy this one... It appealed to me in that same part of my brain that likes Frank Henlotter movies and stuff like Street Trash and Driller Killer.
    Growing up on a steady diet of John Water's movies probably helped me find appreciate its wonders as well.

    1. You know, I wish I'd kept a sort of Street Trash reference in the back of my head while watching it! I think it definitely would have helped me settle in to the type of characters I'd be dealing with.