This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
I would perhaps be lying if I said I’d been looking forward to Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist after the kerfuffle it raised in Cannes this year. Anticipating may be closer to the mark, or perhaps dreading. The label ‘horror’ has of late been so entirely synonymous with ‘pish’ that it has become very difficult to disentangle them, so much so that I’m not about to hope for anything from the almost universally excellent Shane Meadows’ next film, seeing as he’s saying it’s going to be an entry in the Genre of Doom.
But, to the matter at hand. After the death of their child, He (Willem Dafoe) and She (Charlotte Gainsbourg, and yes, it is pretentious enough to call its main characters he and she) are understandably upset, although She far more so. After her stint in hospital, psychotherapist He decides that the only way for She to deal with her crippling grief is to face the fears that are bothering her, the film somehow transitioning from grief to fear and hoping no-one will notice that they aren’t equivalent.
Turns out for reasons that are never made abundantly clear that She fears the woods around their remote log cabin, so in order to confront her fears they decamp to said wood. Anyone with any exposure to the horror genre whatsoever will know by this point that good experiences are rarely found in log cabins, and Antichrist in no way bucks this trend.
For seventy five minutes, nothing happens in stultifying abundance. After the prologue’s done and dusted, quite literally the most interesting thing that happens is that some fucking acorns fall on a roof. And then there’s a talking fox, that mainstay of atmospheric horrors, a bit more tedium, then some crass torture porn that manages the unique feat of being less shocking that Saw V. Then it ends.
While it’s a well shot slice of abject boredom, the second half of that sentence is far more important than the first. I suppose I’m supposed to be building up some empathy for He and She in the first act, but seeing as it’s not to much of an exercise in reductionism to say that it’s based on forty minutes of a woman crying it’s not too much of a surprise when this fails miserably.
The double standards many (by no means all, as this is such an obvious sham that many also see through it) critics have been applying to this film is absolutely shocking, far more shocking than the film itself is. Had this come from, say, Eli Roth, the opening ninety minutes would be slammed for being so ludicrously pretentious that it has become quite literally laughable by the time it attempts its shitty torture porn segment in the final act that it’s lost all hope of being remotely affecting. But, Eli Roth didn’t make this. Lars Von Trier did. One of their own, in a way. So rather than give this the same level of respect the myriad of trashy, valueless horror extant today all of a sudden it’s become an artistic exploration of the boundaries of cinema and edgy and provocative and all of the other euphemisms for ‘dreadful’.
Lets look at the points and lessons this film raises before dismissing it, however. Oh, hang on, there aren’t any. So this is just a standard issue shitbox torture porn film that’s being cut a baffling amount of slack because it features slow motion shots of Willem Dafoe standing in the rain. Really? That’s all it would have taken to elevate Hostel to ‘arthouse darling’ status? Jesus.
Y’know, maybe it’s desensitisation from the years of internet pornography, maybe it’s the fact I own one of my own, but the sight of a phallus, erect or otherwise, is not shocking to me. So the supposedly salacious, edgy and provocative sex scenes of which people speak instead reduce to yet more tedious slow motion shots of Dafoe, except this time focusing on his arse. Which, I believe, I have now seen my recommended lifetime amount of, so if we could please have a Dafoe’s-arse free cinematic diet from here in that would be appreciated.
So then, this absolutely, utterly fails in being shocking, artistic or provocative. There is nothing in this film, absolutely nothing. Less than nothing, in fact. It is not compelling in the slightest. It says nothing about human nature, or anything about the characters it features. This film exists purely in its own bubble of hype and strangled expectations, and will be remembered, in the unlikely even that it is remembered at all, as an embarrassment for all concerned.
Lars von Trier, go fuck yourself.