Director: David Amito, Michael Laicini
Starring: Nicole Tompkins, Rowan Smyth. Canada. 1h 35m
I have to admit that before seeing Antrim I had no idea what the word actually meant so I did have to Google it. Turns out that it means, “A nearly closed cavity or chamber…” Well ok, How does one make a movie about a nearly closed cavity? Somehow directors, David Amito and Michael Laicini managed to turn this notion into a retro cursed movie project and argue that the film is (loosely) based on a movie by David B. Earle titled Dining Room or There is Nothing. Believe it or not if you have ever seen any of the creepy movie compilations on YouTube then you probably have seen this short but were unaware of its title, and here is the movie in all of its esoteric glory.
And here is some info from the directors website about the project http://davidbearle.com/nothing.html
So what is Antrum actually about? Taking things to a different level, the movie in the broader strokes, is about a brother and sister who are attempting to bring back their deceased dog, the young boy misses his pooch and his older sister has a method of digging a hole in a haunted forests, but each foot under the earth takes them closer to hell in an attempt to rescue the family dog, Initially this doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with Antrum or Earles however what the cleaver duo of directors have done, is taken all of the influences of creepy cursed movies and the idea of being trapped in an unwanted place, and combined them into something aimed to get under your skin and stay there.
Opening with a documentary about Antrim itself, the found footage style introduction, helps explain how Antrum was made, by whom and it’s dark history and the first lives with it took, in a tragic cinema fire. then the movie goes on to explain that it’s now about to show you the cursed movie and that you have been forewarned.
As the film opens the title card reads in Russian and then English, and we are introduced to the young boy and his slightly pushy and whimsical sister who are travelling home after the passing of their family pet. The film has this strange snowiness about it which seems more like an Instagram filter than a more authentic looking retro film vibe which was the first of a few disappointments.
After Oralee ( Tompkins ) tried to explain to her younger brother what happens after death, the boy, Nathan (Smyth) is insistent that he just wants his dog back so they grab their camping equipment and their “guide” which is more of a handwritten Grimoire, and head out into a cursed forest to find there way to the Devil’s door. We know this is a cursed forest as the first person they run into is a lonely Japanese salaryman trying to commit suicide, however it’s very clear that we’re not actually in the Japanese suicide forest but the film works more on visuals keys and symbology.
After the duo unpack their camping gear and begin digging, the meat and bones of the movie are finally unfolded, Things finally start to get unsettling and scary. It’s explained, by the convincing experts in the intro, that not only was the filming of the movie errantly cursed, there were events that happened in the post production but also added to the films chilling side effects. Much like a Occult Angel (2018), the notion that mysticism is infused into the very film itself is what what increases its effects on its audience, How very Kenneth Anger! This just results in random occult sigils being flashed through the movie at certain points and black and white clips of tortured and screaming people have been spliced into the quiet moments.
“One by one we pray to thee, protect us from all we’ll see. From all we’ll hear, and touch, and smell. From all the unknown dark in Hell.” -Oralee
Overall it’s quite a mix of harrowing experiences and chilling in counters but strangely mixed with some almost comedy psychotropic elements, the first demon that the pair meet is a a badly made squirrel “toy/puppet” it’s hard to describe it’s very obviously not a real animal and it’s filmed in stop motion. however as each new foot is achieved there’s a a chapter for that level of hell, and the new demonic mythology that will be encountered and it makes its presence known on it’s chapter page.
There is also a cult operating in the same forest, and this obviously is some kind of satanic play park, but nobody wants to play nicely but everyone does seem highly intent on raising Devil in some shape or form, be it digging a hole, or a hillbilly version of the Wicker Man, which in the case of Antrum is a a metal effigy of Baphomet.
With it’s bittersweet and ever so chilling story, the helpless but willing victims, the constant barrage of strange occult symbolism, and the fact that the movie is always on the verge of a dark unknown, that keeps asking difficult questions about life and the afterlife. There’s so much that is going to unsettle a number of audiences. But is it just too late to try and suggest that cursed movies, in this sense, exist?
Personally I would think that all stops would have to be pulled out to make this fully successful, having a dedicated team controlling the look and feel of movie rather than a filter would have paid off. With so many Giallo vans and old school horror fanatics out there, we do know how retro films look, feel and sound like. If that was fully replicated and maybe with a few lost footage movies appearing some kind, and a mythology built-up before hand, a few internet rumours and even a few fake clipping in some old horror movie magazines or just something like The Blair Witch hype, then this may have been pulled off a little bit better.
There are definitely elements which still sit in the corner of the mind creepy demons reaching out to play so to speak, and it’s definitely worth watching the film again to try and put together some of their little film mysteries. It will be easily re watched and is definitely a harrowing story, you do really feel that you have been through the same fires that these young siblings. Overall it’s outstanding effort that could have just gone a little bit further but I can’t wait to see what these two come up with next.