The delightfully psychedelic and grotesque trailer for Antibirth dropped recently and Danny Perez's breakout debut is set to grab the attention of horror fans everywhere.
Featuring Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black) as Lou and Chloe Sevigny as Sadie, her best friend, Antibirth follows two stalwarts of the pill-popping trailer punk scene. However, after Lou wakes up after a night of black-out partying with a bizarre infection and discovers it somehow has made her pregnant with some ominous life form, both are clueless. Perez made a name for himself with his striking music videos and the trailer suggest a hyperactive, delirious aesthetic with an equally demented soundtrack from Animal Collective's Avey Tare. The press release suggests were in for a stomach-tossing ride:
“Spiked with blasts of hallucinatory color, surreal shocks, and subversive comedy, the audacious feature debut from Danny Perez is a no-holds-barred descent into delirium. Who – or what – is growing inside her?
We're going to take a look at some of the films and TV shows that may have influenced Antibirth or explored the same gruesome themes. Needless to say most of the videos and content in this article are most definitely NSFW.
1. David Cronenberg's The Brood
You can't dive into the realm of body horror without kissing the ring of the Godfather and crediting David Cronenberg for his seminal work in the field during the 80s. The Brood stands out as he sets the bar high for absurd gore and grotesque practical effect horror. The story follows a young institutionalized women as she is used as a guinea pig by her psychologist husband. Her inner psychological instability creates a legion of mutant offspring that set off on a murderous rampage. Cronenberg's team of propmasters and practical effects wizards masterfully create a terrifying look for the swarm of repulsive, oozing walking-fetuses that are let loose.
2. Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby
Polanski demanded attention with his US breakthrough film, Rosemary's Baby, which depicts the harrowing story of the title character (Mia Farrow) as is confronted with a Satanic cult who believe the baby she is carrying has special properties. The film expertly projects Rosemary's anxieties of becoming a mother onto her world view as she becomes more and more unstable so too does the world around her. Still shocking today, Polanski pulls no punches when it comes to blurring the lines between reality and Rosemary's twisted delirium with uncanny dream sequences and an unhinged performance from Farrow.
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3. Charles Burns' Black Hole comic series
Burns' unique U-V like style of drawing renders the disturbing story of a town of teenagers subject to an STD that causes hellish mutations even more berserk. Like the rest of this list suggests, body horror attempts to illustrates our discomfort with issues such as sexual health, hygiene, procreation and our inability to resist these animal urges. The characters in this small, sleepy town in America try and abstain but are ultimately incapable of denying their physical urges even though they risk being totally consumed by them.
4. David Lynch's Eraserhead
Much like Burns, David Lynch managed to create psychedelic visions without relying on a crazy color palette, restricting himself to black and white instead. The minimal cast exist in an industrial wasteland. As Antibirth's trailer suggests, the action takes place on the outskirts of an unnamed city where the ostracized live in the underbelly. The protagonist of Eraserhead is confronted with his new born child that resembles a Kafka-esque alien, constantly screaming and wailing. Only, the father can witness its disgusting, unlovable form. The grating soundtrack combined with the nausea-inducing look and sound of the 'infant' keep the audience on a constant edge.
5. Bettinelli-Olpen and Gillett's Devil's Due
The examples so far have demonstrated how to navigate a fine line between genuinely chilling body horror and gratuitous, senseless gore. The characters have been complex and we are placed in their point of view as their mental state deteriorates giving the horror and gore real gravity. The found footage horror, Devil's Due fails to hit that mark by a long shot as we see the most obvious references and gore for gore's sake desperately trying to keep the viewer entertained. Antibirth certainly looks like it will appeal to the trash film crowd with its surreal sense of humor but at least audiences won't be laughing at the dialogue and CGI as they did with Devil's Due. The stellar cast will surely bring the horror to life without simply ticking every cliche box in the book.
The trick to body horror lies in obviously being explicit when it comes to melting faces and deformed bodies but also being implicit. In order for the audience to be pulled into the action, they need to be put in the POV of an unstable character to garner an emotional reaction. Without that you have spent your entire budget on over-the-top CGI or gallons of fake blood to make a pointless festival of gore. With the great cast and beautifully twisted look, Antibirth is looking to be more fully fleshed out than your average gore film.
What are your favorite examples of body horror in pop culture?