As you can guess from its extended and bold title, Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made is something you don’t come across every day. In some ways, this is a very special film.
The gimmick, here, is that of a story-within-a-story mockumentary. Created by David Amito and Michael Laicini, Antrum is comprised of a pseudo-documentary that bookends a movie that, allegedly, caused people who watched it back in the 80s to die under mysterious circumstances. The filmmakers try their hardest to give legitimacy to this dark story, by adding disclaimers (picture below), interviews with experts and scientific evidence on the authenticity of Antrum (click here for the trailer)
In the midst of the documentary-esque prologue and epilogue, we get to watch the real Antrum, which is about a brother and sister, played by Rowan Smyth and Nicole Tompkins, who perform a dangerous occult ritual to rescue their dog from hell (a la Pet Sematary, but darker).
Continue reading and discover the truth behind Antrum below…
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With Amito and Laicini claiming they went through a lot of trouble to recover Antrum, which was allegedly lost for many years, and genre magazines like Rue Morgue backing up these statements, it’s really easy to believe Antrum is genuinely a cursed film with a high body count. But it is not.
The real story of Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made
Before reviewing the movie, I think it’s fair to clarify why Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made is nothing more than a clever gimmick combined with an effective marketing campaign and a good dose of crafty filmmaking. During the pseudo-documentary bits, the filmmakers state that:
A screening of the film caused “a violent and blood-drenched San Francisco riot followed a mid-’90s revival effort”, which resulted in the death of a woman
“A theatre in Budapest screened it in 1988 and burned to the ground; several film festival programmers attempted to play it before mysteriously dying”
All of these events sound horrifying and they’re presented to the viewer in a matter-of-fact way, which makes them even more confronting to think about. However, there is no real-life evidence that any of the aforementioned tragedies actually occurred. Because they didn’t. The film wasn’t even shot in the 1970s. It’s a modern movie that relies on online viral marketing strategies similar to other mockumentaries like The Blair Witch Project and The Fourth Kind. Every person who’s dubious of the authenticity of Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made can quickly research on the internet and verify for themselves.
Antrum – movie review
Once you know the truth behind Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made, it’s quite easy to accuse this movie of being nothing more than a marketing gimmick to make money. However, I personally think this kind of marketing campaigns can add to the charm of the film, as long as people are aware what they’re watching is real and as long as the movie does its best to earn its claimed authenticity. And Antrum pulls it off, for the most part.
Distributed by Uncork’d (which usually make unwatchable horror flicks) and now available on Amazon and iTunes, the best aspects of Antrum are its visual presentation and its creepy undertones. Say what you want about marketing campaigns and deceitful interviews, but Antrum truly looks and feels like it was made in the late 70s. Shot on 35mm film and covered with a grainy filter in every sequence, this movie perfectly captures the look of those 70s indie and exploitation flicks that looked very raw and genuine. The soundtrack is, also, very nightmarish and reminiscent of some nunsploitation flicks from that era: it’s subtle, eerie and unforgettable all at once.
Another important aspect nailed by Antrum is the atmosphere. Even without director and producers constantly reminding us of the “legitimacy” of this picture, the movie features quite a few scenes that feel extremely unnerving and spooky. Antrum is able to establish a dreadful atmosphere, filled with goosebumps-inducing moments and disturbing concepts, that truly makes the movie stand out. The main storyline about brother and sister is, also, intertwined with unrelated shots that show some very disturbing and off-putting imagery. This can be dismissed as unnecessary shock value in most movies that do it, but it works and fits the tone and lore within the confines of Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made.
That said, the movie suffers from three major issues that both take away from the “realism” and negatively affect the viewing experience. The first one is the sound-design: while visuals and soundtrack can be passed off as genuinely 70s-like, the way voices and background noises sound is way too polished and edited in post-production for a movie from that era. Every sound-designer and every person who knows how films are made would notice that and immediately realise Antrum is a fake – a well-made one, but still a fake.
In terms of enjoyment, both main performances (by Rowan Smyth and Nicole Tompkins) are unforgivably awful. Some of the line delivery feels so stilted it made me laugh out loud and, as a consequence, took me out of the experience in a rather annoying way.
Finally, the scenes that come from the mockumentary are very poorly executed: lighting, camera-work and sound-design are very amateur and just ugly to look at. So, even if we assume Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made is real, the documentary-bits would still be poorly made and bad.
Obviously, there are a few minor issues as well – for instance, there’s a possessed squirrel (no, I’m not joking) that looks laughable to say the least. However, Antrum is a very effective, sometimes spooky and quite original horror flick. The movie itself is well-made and scary for the most part, whereas the genius marketing and committed mockumentary parts are commendable onto their own. As long as you don’t fall for this gimmick, I would highly recommend Antrum: I watched and I’m still alive… but will you survive the deadliest film ever made?
*I might change it to 7/10 later, on my second watch. It’s definitely not a bad movie anyway!
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