Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 07/08/16 00:56:43

"Some folks really shouldn't get pregnant."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

SCREENED AT THE 18TH ANNUAL BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL: Danny Perez's "Antibirth" is shaggy as all heck, and probably shouldn't really work because of it. And yet, it's a fun, enjoyably slobbish movie that doesn't quite bury a decent horror story underneath a lot of goofy comedy.

It takes place out in rural Michigan, where Lou (Natasha Lyonne) cleans the local motel by day, although it's not exactly clear why anybody would be coming to this area. She doesn't need much - she inherited some land with a trailer from her late dad, and what more than you need than that? Well, drugs, and her best friend Sadie (Chloe Sevigny) is good at scoring that. For as much time as she spends out of it, she can't figure out how she appears to be pregnant, and in her lackadaisical investigation, she crosses paths with a paranoid lady (Meg Tilly) with her own mystery to solve, although it's Lorna who notes that Lou doesn't seem to be having a normal pregnancy.

The fact that Lou doesn't seem particularly interested in what's going on doesn't mean that there isn't a story underneath that holds together, and while Perez knows that the stoner comedy and weird-to-gross interludes is going to get the attention of the audience, he also knows that this stuff works best when it doesn't seem completely random. He's good at drawing lines that hold the story together but don't overwhelm the entertainment with plotting. Perez also does nice work at making this sort of area a part of the story without using a hammer to get his point across; the dialogue hints at a constant cycle of the military being the only way out of this town but also tending to spit them back, damaged and easy pickings for the drug dealers. If you're going to have a conspiracy and secret experiments, this is the sort of place to get it done under the radar.

And there's definitely weird stuff going on, with Lou's apparent pregnancy being the source of a lot of the oddity though not all of it. Perez ramps the weirdness up impressively; the film is by turns lazy, sinister, trippy, and downright gross. The bloody stuff is accomplished mostly with pretty fair practical effects, and Perez has a good sense of how to make something enjoyably disgusting without missing that it's not supposed to be entirely fun, what with the people dying and all.

Being at the center of things, odds are Natasha Lyonne's Lou is going to hold out longer than some of the others, which is just fine. It's weird - despite working pretty much constantly since her teen years, she always seems to be coming back from something, maybe because she's willing to take whatever roles come, even if it's not as high-profile as her last project. She inhabits this crude, lazy person well, doing an excellent job of capturing how she's flawed as hell but still basically pointed in the right direction. Meg Tilly, on the other hand, has been away for a while, but it's fun to see her back, half maternal and half ass-kicker. Chloe Sevigny fits in with Lyonne nicely as well, a bit more together in some ways but still kind of the sidekick.

One might still not be completely clear on what's gone on by the time the movie ends, but that's okay - these folks are not the type to see the whole picture either. It makes "Antibirth" messy in the right ways, both story-wise and in terms of how much gore is on the floor.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.