This Friday, I’m forgoing the usual VHS to do a rare post about a new release. I went to a screening of David Amito & Michael Laicini’s film Antrum this week and just had to throw down some thoughts here.
A recently unearthed film believed to be cursed tells the story of a little boy and his older sister who dig a hole to hell.
I did consider further cultivating the myth surrounding this movie, but its Imdb page now lists the release date as 2018 so I guess the jig is up. I knew nothing about Antrum going in so as far as I knew it was made in 1979. And I can’t say for sure that, if not for co-director Laicini’s appearance at the screening (he’s not in his sixties) and the blatant homage to Mulholland Drive toward the end of the film, I wouldn't have been duped. While at The Royal, I got a kick out of all the precautions and disclaimers.
We even got an onscreen thirty-second countdown clock before the movie rolled, just in case anyone had zero-hour second thoughts. Antrum was also book-ended by documentary footage about all the dead viewers this movie has left in its wake.
Curiously, this marketing campaign works for and against the movie in some ways. Daring someone to watch a movie definitely gets you more eyeballs, but I feel like even without all the hoopla, the movie could stand on its own as a retro-experimental piece. Though, by Laicini’s own admission, “experimental” is not a word you should ever utter when speaking to possible distributors.
I generally dig movies that covet this vintage vibe and Antrum was one of the most authentic examples I’ve seen. It had a dream-like quality that lends itself to multiple viewings as well as a thinly veiled nihilism that further aligned it with the era in which it was spiritually conceived.
In addition to the haunting sound design and score, the movie featured a lot of spliced in stuff that you might expect from a “cursed” flick. Not all of it worked, but I did like the idea of the summoned demon watching us watch the movie.
Antrum is one of those movies that I like more and more as I think back on it. I'm getting a kick out of envisioning alternate realities where it actually released in the late seventies. Would Antrum have served as a prequel the 1981’s The Pit? Would it have enjoyed a cult following similar to that of The Evil Dead, a picture with whom it shares more than a few similarities? Who knows?
Regardless, I’m pretty proud of this little Canadian oddity that comes with its own embedded lore, the likes of which I haven’t seen since The Blair Witch Project. I read an angry review on Imdb (posted the day after this screening so I assume we were at the same one) about how the filmmakers ripped off a 2016 flick called Fury of the Demon. I guess he didn’t stick around for the Q&A to hear that Antrum was actually shot in 2015. Oh well. Guess I’ll have to track that one down, too.