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'Antibirth' Toronto After Dark 2016 Review: The opposite of sex

October 20, 2016Ben MK

The whole premise of Antibirth — about a woman suffering through the effects of a sinister pregnancy — conjures up memories of Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby. That being said, it's safe to assume that Polanski never imagined a climax as dementedly insane as that of writer/director Danny Perez's debut feature, which takes gross-out thrills to an extreme, new level.

The film's narrative plays it fast and loose, centering on the rude and crude Lou (Orange is the New Black's Natasha Lyonne), a woman on a permanent bender. The type of person who lives life recklessly and with little thought of the consequences, Lou spends most nights either partying until dawn or getting completely wasted. However, she's about to find her self-destructive habits catching up with her in the most unexpected of ways.

After blacking out and waking up with no recollection of the previous night, Lou begins to experience symptoms of pregnancy. And if this were a charming, little indie comedy-drama, that might signal the beginnings of her offbeat journey of self-discovery. Antibirth, however, is most definitely not that type of movie; and while Lou's journey from this point in the film onward is certainly offbeat, the path it takes her down is also dark and twisted.

Along that path, Lou and her best friend Sadie (Chloƫ Sevigny) encounter a host of weird and unsavory characters, including Lorna (Meg Tilly), an alien abduction fanatic who has her own views about what may be gestating inside Lou's drug and alcohol-addled womb. But the character who may hold the answer to Lou's predicament is Gabriel (Mark Webber), a drug dealer/pimp who's peddling a new, cheap high, the ingredients of which even he isn't sure of.

Needless to say, Antibirth gets real weird, real quick. And before long, Lou's ever-expanding belly is pulsing and throbbing with veiny discontent, as she stares at herself in the mirror, peeling back a layer of skin from her neck and ridding herself of an unruly tooth that seems to have outlived its purpose, in a scene clearly inspired by the genetic degradation of Jeff Goldblum's character in David Cronenberg's The Fly.

Of course, that's not to say that Perez proves to be as polished a filmmaker as Cronenberg. But while Antibirth sadly loses a bit of its stride during its scattershot second act, it comes back stronger than ever for its gut-busting, splatter-fest finale, which pays off all the build-up that has come thus far in a big, immensely crowd-pleasing way. Suffice to say, you'll never see this ending coming, as it hits you like a big 'ol, gross blast of placenta to the face.

Antibirth is receiving its Toronto premiere at Toronto After Dark 2016. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 34 Mins.

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