If you’re like me than you were probably confused about this movie when it premiered at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival on October 14, 2018. Not unlike The Blair Witch Project, the makers of Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made promoted the film as a real-life event. Though they weren’t as dedicated to the marketing as Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez were in 1999. Antrum is indeed a fictional story. Don’t let anything convince you otherwise, but it has a whole fictional backstory that’s designed to look and feel like a dark secret.
Inspired by the notion of cursed films, directors David Amito and Michael Laicini create a unique mockumentary that’s a faux documentary pressed against a feature film. It’s a Venn Diagram of “found footage”, cursed films, and occultism that works together at convincing the viewer that they will die if they dare watch the feature. There’s even a legal disclaimer that sits on the screen for 25 seconds informing people that they are watching the film of their own volition. If anything happens, your family cannot sue.
Part 1: Documentary
The fictional history behind Antrum is that it’s a film from 1979 of supposed Bulgarian or maybe even Russian origin that became famous among occultists and film buffs when a fire broke out during its very first screening at a film festival in Budapest. It killed everyone inside and the film was lost. It was the holy grail of underground cult films. There are several incidents over the years, people who receive a screening and then drop dead 24 hours later. However, producers of this new “documentary” have obtained a copy of the film and are prepared to show it in its full form. Beware.
I will admit that this part of the film succeeds in its tension build. There was a moment or two where I felt anxious about watching the rest. It fills you with dread before the scary part even begins. We’re familiar with The Ring, John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns, Fury of the Demon, and to a lesser extent, Sinister and Berberian Sound Studio. They are films about cursed, lost or snuff films that either kill or drive you insane. Antrum takes the next step and just cuts out the middle man. Instead of being about a cursed film, it is the cursed film. Curiosity and unease grow and grow and grow and then…the story begins.
Part 2: Feature Film
The actual film in Antrum isn’t as frightening as the buildup. It’s about two siblings, Nathan and Oralee, that dig a hole to Hell after the death of their dog Maxine. The dog had to be put down after attacking Nathan, but that hasn’t changed how much Nathan loves his pet. When he asks his mother if Maxine is in Heaven, she says no, Maxine went to Hell because she was a bad dog. Now, I know momma bear has hard feelings regarding Maxine but why does she say that? What little boy wants to hear that their dog is in Hell? This, of course, upsets little Nathan. He begins having nightmares of Hell and demons, prompting Oralee to take action.
Rather than just giving him a heartfelt conversation about how Maxine is living it up in Heaven running through fields of chicken wings, and getting never-ending belly rubs, she creates an elaborate scheme to trick Nathan into thinking he can save Maxine’s soul. The two go to the woods where the Devil supposedly fell when he was cast out of Heaven, and start digging a hole to Hell.
Oralee is making the whole thing up but she eventually realizes that her lie has somehow become a reality. They are in Hell and it’s quite bleak. There are some character “sightings” such as Charon and Cerberus but the sightings are no better than the best Bigfoot sightings. Obscure and out of focus.
The feature film itself is pretty straightforward. It’s disturbing on certain levels but not scary. If you’ve seen enough horror movies throughout your life Antrum is nothing you can’t handle. It excels best in keeping the horror in the shadows, just out of reach. Watching the children like vultures watching roadkill. What it lacks in development and fright factor, it makes up for in creativity.(3 / 5)