What is Antrum?
On its surface, the film tells the story of a pair of young siblings in the late 1970s. On a mission to save the soul of their dead dog, Oralee and Nathan trek into the woods to dig a hole to Hell. When they arrive at the site where the Devil apparently landed after being cast out of Heaven, they begin to dig.
Presenting itself as a long-lost arthouse Satanic movie, Antrum begins with a documentary portion wherein a variety of experts recount the film’s tragic and dangerous history. According to the film’s tale, 56 people died in a movie theater fire during Antrum’s first screening; later, a riot breaks out at another screening and unsuspecting patrons were trampled to death trying to escape. Warnings and legal notices flash at viewers, advising all who watch to proceed with caution, lest the same fate befalls them.
And once this “cursed film” begins to roll, it really is difficult not to believe you may actually be watching a life-threatening movie. Antrum appears, for all intents and purposes, true to what it claims to be. The wardrobe is straight out of the 1970s, the film grain recalls a much older style of moviemaking, and there is even a credits sequence which looks to be in Russian (though it was shot in English, the experts interviewed in the opening segment claim the film is of Soviet origin). It feels entirely plausible that this footage really was found, not made.
But what really drives Antrum’s scare factor home is the demonic images and sigils overlaid throughout the film. They appear when you least expect it, and when the Devil himself is staring you right in the eye while you ponder the inevitability of death, it’s hard not to take the subliminal messaging of the film seriously. You begin to fear what might happen if you don’t.
But wait, is Antrum real?
Luckily for us, Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made is not actually cursed, and won't result in your untimely demise. Released onto the horror festival scene in 2018, every bit of this movie is fabricated. We promise, no one burned alive in Europe while watching this film in the 80s, and that opening documentary segment? A mockumentary. But that does not mean this film is not scarily effective.
Directors David Amito and Michael Laicini had hoped, of course, to play up the film’s reputation and capitalize on it. They committed fully to their concept, to obvious payoff, but it was ultimately word of mouth that added fuel to the lore fire surrounding Antrum. When fans and festivals alike heard about the film, it had not yet received a wide release. As it was nearly impossible to find and screen, people inevitably asked themselves: is this actually a vintage film? And if it’s so hard to track down and watch, could it really be dangerous to view? It’s not, but it’s not a stretch to feel it could be. Antrum’s reputation far precedes it.
While Antrum may not lead you down the path to an untimely death, it’s worth a watch if for no other reason than to see what horror filmmakers can still get so right in this day and age. With obvious callbacks to the found footage styles and films of the past, most notably The Blair Witch Project, Antrum’s careful blurring of fact, fiction, and style is perfectly executed. It takes itself seriously, and that, more than anything, convinces us to as well.
Antrum will likely survive far past its initial hype, even if some of its viewers allegedly may not.
Featured still from "Antrum" via Uncork'd Entertainment