Horror feature Antrum makes its way to UK release this month, after appearances at genre festivals across the globe. The film from writer-directors David Amito and Michael Laicini is an intriguing beast with a somewhat unique concept as it opens as a documentary discussing a previously lost cursed film from the 1970s in its opening act, the film then plays the said cursed film to the audience.
Beginning as a faux-documentary, Antrum opens in pristine digital with various filmy-types interviewed about a cursed film from the seventies – noting that all that witnessed it perished in extreme circumstances near immediately after. We’re told about how the one audience that viewed it, collectively lost their minds with chaos ensuing in the the theatre. Amito and Laicini then play the film for us, with the visual style shifting to a gritty seventies 35 millimetre effect and titles for the film within the film Antrum beginning. The film follows two siblings who take a trip through the woods with a grimoire guiding them through a supernatural minefield to rescue the soul of their recently euthanised dog.
There’s a William Castle like giddiness in the initial horror hype established in the first act of Antrum – building the sense that Antrum truly is a cursed project with an impressive conviction. With a plethora of convincing actors helping ensure that the film does have quite a distinctive documentary feel as they recount the hellish, disturbing events connected with the project with a macabre excitement. David Amito and Michael Laicini set the bar high for the horror that is about to unfold within the film within the film, something enhanced by a warning that appears on screen and countdown before Antrum – the cursed film – begins.
David Amito and Michael Laicini fill the titular film with a seventies cult feel – with grainy, film print effects rippling throughout the film as well as a faux sound crackle, stylistically Antrum feels like it may be worthy of the hype built around it. Russian-language titles add a hint of strange, otherness to the project – despite the fact they do not massively make sense as the film itself feels very American. These attributes, as well as some trippy, hallucinogenic visual sequences, help Antrum’s film within the film, feel unsettling and spooky from the onset.
Whilst eighty minutes of surreal imagery and satanic visuals may not produce the most enticing horror experience for the contemporary viewer, it may have fit the narrative of a cursed film slightly better. Instead the film within the film, falls more into a conventional B-horror narrative becoming a somewhat traditional tale of young siblings being lost in a strange forest. Veering into more conventional narrative territory takes us out of the fantasy that this is a lost, cursed film – instead the film feeling like a somewhat familiar horror tale – not one worthy of the reputation of a piece of cursed cinema.
That is certainly not to say that the faux-narrative tale that the ‘documentary’ Antrum introduces is not entertaining. It is. There is a strange spookiness to this familiar tale with a refreshing amount of surreal imagery thrown in to keep viewers engaged and quietly unsettled. Antrum excels when it veers a little more arthouse with its scares – lingering figures behind trees (never quite explained), dark shapes in the background, scratches of satanic symbols on the print, and overbearing shots of smiling demons, help the over familiar ‘lost in the woods’ horror of Antrum, feel slightly more unique, original and deserving of the grandiose hype built up in the film’s opening.
Whilst not quite delivering on its own hype of providing a terrifying horror experience through its film within a film, Antrum is nonetheless a mostly-satisfying and quietly unsettling watch. A giddy conviction in the documentary section, paired with a stylistically interesting narrative section featuring some surreal nastiness produces quite an enjoyable ride.
Available in UK Cinemas from 23rd October & DVD & Digital from 26th October