Tag Archives: Natasha Lyonne

ANTIBIRTH (2016) – A REVIEW BY RYAN MARSHALL

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It wouldn’t be impractical to compare ANTIBIRTH, the messy (in more ways than one) feature debut from accomplished visual artist Danny Perez, to the unexpectedly PCP-laced joint or to the scatter-brained B-side to a profoundly psychedelic experience. Indeed, it’s precisely this kind of abnormal out-of-body ambiance that the film aspires to; evoking heavy shades of David Lynch, Cronenberg and many others as it stretches its admittedly thin concept to grotesque, kaleidoscopic extremes.

Brimming with all sorts of hazy, shamelessly abrasive potential from frame one, this grungy yarn concerns the plight of wayward trouble-maker Lou (Natasha Lyonne), who wakes up one morning after a night of heavy hedonism to the most sickening sensations. These are later discovered – first, by Lou’s best friend Sadie (Chloe Sevigny) – to be the symptoms of pregnancy, but neither of the two can recall the events which transpired that previous evening.

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There are at least a dozen movies attempting to co-exist here, but taking precedence over most others – at least for a while – is the hang out picture. The viewer assumes a sort of sleazy fly-on-the-wall perspective for roughly the first half of the surreal narrative, watching as Lou’s situation get worse and the she engages in mundane daily routine. Suddenly, disturbing visions of obscured memories begin to plague the poor party-goer’s mind, and upon the arrival of a peculiar old woman (Meg Tilly, delightfully bat-shit) in the small mid-west town, things take an unexpectedly twisted turn.

Perez is probably best known for his collaborations over the years with Animal Collective, in which he provided the band’s heady tunes with an appropriately imaginative visual companion (see the excellent and often overwhelmingly terrifying  “visual album” ODDSAC from 2010), so it’s no secret that his first foray into more grounded narrative work would be an ambitious one. Like that earlier film, ANTIBIRTH dabbles almost exclusively in gross body horror and Perez certainly has the means of dishing it out when the time comes, which is – rather unfortunately – too late in the game.

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Allowing for a better understanding of his past work, one might get the sense that Perez is more interested in exceedingly strange ideas and imagery than he is in people. This doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, but when the anti-heroine of the director’s abstracted world is one-dimensional at best and insufferable at worst, and those around her aren’t much better off, a gory good time then becomes an unnecessary struggle to locate anything of genuine substance. One could argue that the film’s indifferent attitude is embedded in its punk DNA, but when it accumulates to something as frequently unfunny, off-putting and shoddily constructed as this, it can be best chocked up to sheer ineptitude.

As expected, Perez is able to cook up some spectacular moments throughout – the idea of a quiet Michigan town teeming with experimental military activity and extraterrestrial conspiracy is an enticing one, and that sound design is pretty neat – but his stylistic flourishes end up being more debilitating – and, dare I say, amateurish – than exhilarating (the sequences set in the “Fun Zone”, a family-friendly pizzeria seemingly converted from an aging dive bar, are a fine example of this). Where it clearly wants to revel in oddity and excess, the film remains stagnant and can barely stay afloat, meandering on an already fairly weak foundation. It’s a leisurely, sedated, albeit colorful descent to whatever lies beneath the bottom of the barrel; you’re free to take that as you will, but the effort it requires to find something even vaguely inspiring isn’t really worth it.

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Calvin Reeder’s The Rambler: A Review by Nate Hill 

I can’t picture a single festival screening of Calvin Reeder’s The Rambler that wouldn’t result in at least half the crowd walking out in revulsion. There’s just no way to put it lightly when describing the alienating, severely soul-disturbing kind of sickly atmosphere that hangs over the entire film like a radioactive blanket of surreal dread. The dvd cover barely suggests the beyond Lynchian, out to lunch, bugfuck nuts events which unfold, and instead hints toward a western with vaguely horror themed aspects. Couldn’t be more different than that. The conventional elements like plot and the theme of Western are dimly present, shaky railroad tracks for a train that careens straight into the subconscious of bizarro world, some of what we see even too messed up and disassociate for the hardiest of cultist buffs. Few films are able to capture the purely illogical and disjointed feeling of a dream, but this one nails it scarily well. Sentences don’t match responses, human behaviour is terrifyingly devoid of inhibitions, events repeat and come out of nowhere, and we really and truly feel lost, removed and detached from any kind of rational thought or action. Now the film doesn’t outright announce that it’s all a dream, save for a few hints embedded in the story, but it sure felt like one long nightmare to me, evoking psychological feelings which words really can’t describe. Dermot Mulroney does a ‘Man with no name routine’ as a vacant ex con who is released from prison and blows back into his one horse trailer park town. He does indeed have no name, now that I think of it, and is only ever referred to as The Rambler. Upon returning, he finds his volatile girlfriend (Natasha Lyonne) has taken up with another man, and no one seems to want him around anymore. Time to hit the road, he figures, sauntering out into the acrid desolation of the southwest in a dead cool opening credits scene set to Terry Allen’s Red Bird, one of my favourite twangy tunes. From there it gets hard to describe, comprehend and stomach. He’s off in some John Waters style twilight zone of very unsettling characters, saying and doing things that make little sense and get increasingly shocking and vulgar. A mysterious girl (Lindsay Pulsipher) weaves in and out of the story and seems to be the only one besides him who is remotely coherent. A crackpot doctor (James Cady) shows him an extremely defective device that is supposed to look into people’s dreams. There’s ugly, misanthropic fiends running all about with nothing to say other than loosely strung together verbal diarrhea, and a constant nauseating film of unease over everything. I’ve read reviews wailing about how this film has less than nothing to say, and should have shut it’s mouth. But that’s the point to a nightmare; it doesn’t teach, enlighten or otherwise change us in any way other than to give our sense of dread a workout and provoke a cold sweat. Similarly, the film simply is there to scare, to induce the gag reflex and doesn’t strive for anything else, and in that sense it’s pure, primal and honest about it’s intentions. The very definition of not for everyone, this will even put off bands of counter culture cinephiles who scoff at anything mainstream. Deliberatly vile, constantly off its rocker and so far beyond the event horizon where bizarre ends and something truly indescribable begins, The Rambler will shake the shit out of anyone who claims to have seen it all. You have been warned.