Three young women are accompanying their terminally-ill friend on a ‘bucket list’ return visit to the hospital run by her now-deceased mother when she was growing up. When they arrive at the abandoned, decrepit building in the midst of the woods they encounter Walker, a young man who says he continues to keep a watchful eye over the site where he claims he used to work. Their encounter exposes the previously unknown backstory of the asylum and uncovers the disturbing experiences of both residents and staff.
The promo line for new VOD offering Antihuman, adopted by distributors Wild Eye Releasing, suggests that the movie “knits Orphan Black with the Resident Evil franchise.” It’s hard to imagine a less accurate summary of the film’s substance and ambition. Antihuman is action-light, dialogue-heavy and held together by the most tenuous of storylines. It positions itself about as far from the worlds of sci-fi TV serials and genre film franchises as it’s possible to get.
Instead of plot, it seeks to conjure up an ethereal, experimental atmosphere; presenting characters who seem to be “detached” from normality in some imagined place and time. While some of them are keen to reflect upon the philosophical questions of existence and mortality, their musings leave others in the group ill at ease.
In the role of the empathic and perceptive Peggy, Danielle Arden (a director and film and commercial maker in her own right) outclasses everyone else on screen, delivering a performance that is as natural and realistic as the stilted script allows. As the dying Maggie, Anya Korzun has the toughest job here, trying to present her (frankly unlikable) character’s awkward final journey of self-discovery, and her disrespectful treatment of her friends, in a way that invites sympathy.
Large sections of the film are comprised of lengthy (and static) discussions between two characters. These scenes are cut together from the footage of twin locked-off cameras, leaving the editor few options but to toggle back and forth between close-ups. This dialogue itself is not naturalistic and feels pretentious and self-indulgent more often than it appears insightful.
Intertwined with these intense duologues are some competent location scenes and one extended and inventive fantasy-dream sequence which showcases some convincing budget-CGI. But neither of these features sit comfortably with the film’s main preoccupation: talking.
This is also a movie saturated with a soundtrack so intrusive it demands you take notice of it. The co-directors enjoy playing with the idea of juxtaposition throughout the film and sometimes choose to match an ordinary, everyday scene with an ominous and foreboding musical score. When that scene finishes without so much as a jump-scare payoff, the tone feels completely misplaced; even if this sort of decision fits with the directors’ deliberately oblique style.
There's no question that this is brave filmmaking, determined to offer something different from the derivative and the commonplace. Possessing more than a hint of the cinematography of Derek Jarman, some viewers may find Antihuman’s emotionally-disconnected style to be both immersive and rewarding. But there’s the obvious risk that the film’s languid, dialogue-driven tempo, and the paucity of gore, will disappoint horror fans; while arthouse aficionados will skip the movie because of its fright-flick associations.
ANTIHUMAN / DIRECTOR: LUKE GIETZEN, MARK ROBINS / WRITER: MARK ROBINS / CAST: ANYA KORZUN, DANIELLE ARDEN, KATIE KEIGHT, KATHRYN GOLDSMITH, ANDREW JARDINE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW