– By Dave Dubrow
Most movie reviewers understand that there’s considerable effort involved in moviemaking, from screenwriting to funding to shooting to editing to distributing and so on. For my part, I want independent cinema to not just survive, but thrive, because that’s where the imagination is. Hollywood’s a horrific cultural wasteland, populated by bloated, sclerotic, unimaginative franchises. So I go into every indie film hoping I’ll dig it. If I dig it, you’ll probably dig it, and hence we reward the moviemaker with free advertising and money so they can keep making movies and entertaining us.
So it gives me no pleasure to tell you that Antihuman is a terrible bore from stem to stern. It’s the longest two hours you’ll ever spend in front of a screen. At no point in its overlong runtime does the film entertain. It’s horribly pretentious to quote oneself, but in my Slaughtered Bird review of the film The Snare, I asked, “What’s the ultimate purpose of any movie? To entertain? To elicit an emotional reaction?” Unfortunately, Antihuman fails to do any of those things, leaving behind an ambivalent emptiness.
In it, Maggie and her three friends, all women, trek through the forest to find Maggie’s childhood home, which turns out to be a mental hospital. Maggie suffers from a terminal illness, two of her friends aren’t terribly nice to her, and she hallucinates things, which would, under different circumstances, create an interesting set of conflicts. Here, they don’t. Arriving at the mental hospital doesn’t make things any more captivating, and the movie just sort of ends without a climax to speak of.
The acting’s fine. The filmmaking’s all right except for the score, which is everpresent, too loud, and distracting. So the movie’s failure has nothing to do with the actors or the equipment or the crew, but rather the producers, directors, and writer. Blame them.
At no point are we given the slightest reason to care about what happens to anyone in the movie, not that anything actually does happen. When the dialogue isn’t clumsy and expository, it’s ponderous, serving up lines like “We women are the worst-treated creatures alive” as though they’re Alan Watts-esque nuggets of wisdom. Every other line is given dreadful weight by endless philosophizing, making each exchange an exercise in competing non-sequiturs. One person asks an irrelevant question, and another person answers it using a metaphor that makes sense only as a kind of reverse koan, where the point is to mire you inside Samsara instead of helping you achieve enlightenment. Hanging over the film’s tedious proceedings is the theme of nuclear war, the most destructive non-sequitur of them all.
Once you reach a certain age you get pretty comfortable with the idea that it’s not your fault that you didn’t understand a piece of art, but rather the artist’s fault for creating such a dense product. Antihuman is that dense product. It’s not that I’m too stupid to get it. It’s that there wasn’t anything to get, and the attempt didn’t deliver a good time.