Antrum is another entry into that venerable horror subgenre of the “Cursed Film”. Though this one is specifically about the film you’re watching being cursed and doesn’t feature one. A film cursed by Satan.
It’s a funny concept to imagine – Satan sat at the editor’s desk splicing in terrifying images of demons, death, and your parents fucking.
The concept of cursed media works better with books -because they’re much older and therefore more arcane, and don’t require the sort of technical knowledge to write that you’d need to shoot and edit a film.
Antrum is framed as a lost 70’s film capable of causing death and misfortune to those who watch it. The film is presented via a faux documentary which forms the intro and outro to Antrum. Think Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace if it took itself way too seriously.
You know the sort of thing to expect. Someone once saw this film and then died a while later…conveniently ignoring that 100% of those who watch this film will eventually die. A stat also shared by movies such as Babe: Pig in the City (1998).
What also doesn’t make sense is how it is described that the one theatre showing the film burnt down killing all who saw it and has never again received a public screening. Surely a film made by Satan would want as many people to watch it as possible? A real cursed film is more likely to resemble something by Pixar.
The illusion is a little ruined because the first “interviewee” they have is some bloke who’s voice quivers with emotion as he essentially describes how evil some celluloid is. But it’s effectively creepy enough – attempting to artificially recreate a modern urban film legend akin to the production of The Exorcist, or The Omen, or The Poltergeist trilogy.
The idea of a film that can kill you if you simply watch it is creepy. And this one comes with a warning screen, so you’d have no one to blame but yourself if you did end up carking it. But it’s a little too overdone at this point. And hey, I’m not dead…yet.
Antrum proper tells the story of a young woman named Oralee (Nicole Tompkins) and her young brother Nathan (Rowan Smyth), who venture into the woods where the entrance to Hell or “Antrum” is located. Knowing that Antrum means hole to Hell, I will start calling my arse this the morning after eating at Taco Bell.
They plan dig a hole into Hell so they can lay their recently deceased dog (which bit Nathan) to rest. Aiding them is Oralee’s occult grimoire, the quality of which looks more like the sort of edgy sketchings you’d find in the back of a high school shooter’s exercise book than ancient text. Turns out that is sort of true. The whole thing is a ruse by Oralee to try and make her brother feel better…until it turns out to be very real.
The 70s film portion which makes up the bulk of the 94 minutes is very..well, boring. It tells a very basic story during which the two protagonists spend their time largely digging a hole. Initially it’s presented as a sort of dark fairy as rather than teach her brother that “dead is better”, she indulges his desire to help his dog. So she describes the spells they’re using and the effect they’re having – even though nothing seems to be happening. here’s a stop motion squirrel she says is a demon in disguise which they “ward off” with magical sticks.
Things do become scarier as they “descend” through Hell and we see more direct effects of what they are doing. Though the only direct antagonists are a couple of entry level cannibals who are introduced bumming a dead deer. The horror in Antrum comes more from an atmosphere of dread and a whole host of unsettling imagery. Some of which is very well hidden and some less so. It is a film that demands at least two viewings but can be abit of a chore.
The commitment to the 70s aesthetic is admirable and shown in everything from the clothing, the 35mm stock, colour grading, and visual and audio imperfects and limitations. It also makes brilliant use of film and sound corruption – and I am a sucker for those type of techniques.
Ultimately, Antrum is fairly disappointing. The imagery is rarely meaningful utilised and the only demons in the film are relegated to background props and the secret knowledge that you’re wasting your time. I do hate a metaphorical trip through Hell. Give me the smashed up faces of films like Jigoku or countless Slayer album covers.
The documentary portion is far more interesting and sells the film as the “deadliest ever made” rather well. It’s a little cheesy but well done. It has some interesting ideas especially the closing segment – which gives some insight into the power of film.
Antrum is worth a watch now that it’s on Amazon Prime Video, but don’t pay for it otherwise. Plus if you get it from Amazon then you really are getting the film straight from Satan himself.