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“Antrum” may have gained fame by cleverly courting controversy, but the film’s arresting style and emotional core keep it relevant.

Antrum

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Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made crept up on the Indie Horror community in autumn of 2019.

News of an (allegedly) newly uncovered copy of the original 35mm print of Antrum hit social media hard, building an overnight cult following amongst Gorehounds and Arthouse aficionados alike.

Much like the early hysteria surrounding Ruggero Dedodato’s Cannibal Holocaust in 1980, Horror movie fans in 2019 were convinced that Antrum’s content was real, and rumors began circulating online about how to obtain this evil analog film.

Antrum is a cleverly crafted film, and its appeal lies in its ability to plant a seed of doubt in the viewer’s mind: what if this film really is cursed?

Antrum‘s reputation manipulates our deep yearning to witness something deemed forbidden. It successfully reinvents the Satanic Panic sub-genre of Horror, popularised in the 1970s and 1980s.

At the height of the Satanic Panic in the 80s, Cancel Culture translated into law, resulting in the banning and halted distribution of numerous films deemed unfit for consumption according to ideas about “decency” and morality. It even resulted in Horror movie fans facing fines and time in prison if they were caught with a banned title — aka, a Video Nasty — tape in their possession.

The first fifteen minutes of Antrum is styled as a film within a film.

It opens with a faux documentary detailing the film’s many health warnings while film critics discuss the tragedies that befell audiences attending screenings across the globe.

The tragedies and unexplained deaths following the release of Antrum in theatres are detailed in the following quote:

”Shot in 1979, the experimental drama was submitted to seven film festivals in 1983. All seven events rejected the movie. Bizarrely, several festival programmers still experienced fatal incidents following their private screenings of the film. One woman died of a seizure 24 hours after viewing the film. One man was mysteriously electrocuted. Another suffered a sting from a venomous fish. In 1988, 56 people died in Budapest when a small theatre burned to the ground during an Antrum screening. Arson investigators concluded that the fire didn’t start in the projection booth as they had first suspected. Suspicious combustions spontaneously started from multiple sources in the audience.’’

Spoiler alert: these reported incidents are all fake.

Not since The Blair Witch Project has a genre film duped audiences quite so deliciously.

Writers-directors David Amito and Michael Laicini pulled off a creepy trick, convincing audiences they witnessed an actual abominable ritual while risking their very souls in the process.

John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns serves as a clear inspiration.

Cigarette Burns is a ‘Masters Of Horror’ tale (currently free on Tubi) where a man hunts for a copy of a cursed film rumored to send its audience into a frenzied panic before combusting into flames.

Stylistically, Antrum is rich with visual storytelling. Saturated images of tire swings dance in golden sunlight, and the rituals of secret games and hidden messages play out between the young characters in analog.

The film’s shot-on-video quality lends it the added unsettling feeling that you are witnessing actual documentation of a nightmare.

The story centers on two siblings, Oralee and her younger brother Nathan, who leave home on a quest to retrieve the soul of their recently deceased dog, Maxine. Nathan is distraught, perhaps even traumatized, following the death of his beloved Maxine, and he suffers recurring nightmares of her soul being condemned to Hell.

Concerned for the emotional well-being of her young brother, Oralee convinces Nathan that she knows the location of the entrance to Hell, the exact spot where Lucifer fell to Earth after being cast out of Heaven.

The siblings embark on a journey into the forest to search for the Hellmouth so that they can save Maxine’s soul.

Antrum is shot dreamlike, merging bleached sepia tones with added grain, lending it a genuine 70s Grindhouse film feel. The siblings’ journey showcases lingering shots of Flora and Fauna, bathed in the honeysuckle haze of long summer hours.

The opening scenes hold a vibe similar to the 1986 Stephen King adaptation, Stand By Me, where we enjoy the bond between Oralee and Nathan as they explore, hunt, and play.

Meanwhile, the story itself plays out similarly to King’s Pet Sematary.

Armed with a DIY book of Necromancy, Oralee regularly consults its pages for details surrounding the different layers of Hell that the siblings must travel through to retrieve Maxine’s soul.

Oralee’s book chronicles different mythologies and occult references, including the Greek Mythology of Cerberus: a story thread that subtly sets up the film’s heartbreaking climax.

Within the pages of this book, we catch glimpses of Satanic and Occult Sigils and imagery (keep an eye out for these Sigils as they are interspersed throughout random frames during the film).

These subliminal images play a large role in unnerving the viewer; the Demon Astaroth‘s symbol appears a lot.

Alongside the repetitive subliminal imagery, the film appears to use a lot of low-frequency sounds, and frequencies of around 19hz are said to cause fear, panic, and awe in humans. These infrasound, or Ghost Sounds, play an important role in the world-building of Antrum. The sounds cause physical responses of unease and anxiety in those who may be susceptible to subliminal manipulations.

Keen-eyed viewers may spot black and white Snuff film images of a beaten, bloodied man and an injured woman who are posed in a ritualistic manner in the depths of a basement.

Towards the story’s climax, we also see lingering images of beautifully grotesque Demon faces, reminiscent of the floating Pazuzu face seen in The Exorcist (1973).

However, the penultimate horror, the Absolute Daddy Of Abominations, is revealed in all its full and foul glory during Antrum‘s climatic scenes.

Antrum

The towering figure of a giant, metal Baphomet, complete with erect phallus and embers glowing within its skull, will forever sear its way into your memory. The imposing Iconoclast is the marriage of The Wicker Man and The Knights Templar‘s goat deity.

Nothing can prepare you for witnessing the unspeakable acts being committed in its name during the film’s horrifying scenes.

Despite its edgy, daredevil reputation, at its heart, Antrum is an emotional coming-of-age tale about the sacred journeys shared by siblings and the powerful bonds between us and our pets. Many were first led to the film by way of a dare or simply morbid curiosity. However, it is the film’s emotional core that lingers long after the forbidden appeal has worn off.

The film succeeds in presenting its own horrifying mythology, leaving the viewer either emotionally drained or yearning for more, depending on their disposition.

Antrum is worth tracking down. Perhaps if the stars align just right, we will one day see it in theaters… that is if they don’t burn down first.

Antrum is available to watch via Prime Video, YouTube, and Apple TV.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3.5

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