'Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made' Review: A Horror Movie About A Horror Movie That Kills People Who Watch It And Uh, You're Watching It [Sitges 2019]

A cursed film that can kill those who see it isn't really something new. If you've seen The Ring, or John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns, this will look familiar. But Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made wears its heart (and pentagram) on its sleeve and delivers a fun and sometimes emotional film that feels like a throwback to the films of William Castle and his clever gimmicks. Antrum opens with an ominous warning that "Antrum isn't safe." Said by an expert during the movie's opening documentary segment, complete with talking heads which discuss the film you're about to see. Indeed, you get not one, but two films for the price of one when you see Antrum.At first glance, this is a mockumentary about an infamously cursed film that literally kills those who watch it. As we learn, the film, which is thought to be the work of an Eastern European filmmaker form the '70s, only screened theatrically twice, prior to which it had already garnered a reputation for making the festival programmers who saw it drop dead. Then a screening in a film festival in Belgium resulted in the movie theater burning down, and another one resulted in an audience riot and the trampling of several would-be audience members. It's a clever throwback to the William Castle era of cinema, as the talking head interviews prepare you for the worst once the filmmakers say they've unearthed the original 35mm print of the film, and several warnings flash on screen telling of how the film may trigger extreme anxiety, seizures, panic attacks, and death. Co-directors Michael Laicini and David Amito play the mockumentary completely straight, perfectly replicating the look of a BBC documentary despite hyping up a film that – so far – doesn't do anything. Once the film's second layer begins, which takes up the majority of the running time, we get to see the cursed Antrum.  In the film, two siblings have run away from home. Their beloved puppy, Maxine, has passed away and the brother wants nothing more than to make sure that their dog is going to the good place. His sister then decides to take him to the fabled spot where Lucifer himself fell to Earth, all so they can open a portal to Hell, recite some incantations, and save their deal dog's soul. Along the way, the siblings see and hear things that disturb both them and the audience. Are they really on their way to hell, or is it just a forest? What are those two men camping in the woods with what looks like a Brazen Bull (good luck sleeping after googling what it is)? Are they demons or just weird? Antrum fully commits to the bit, with time-appropriate clothing and a credits sequence that looks to be Russian, and a film grain that makes it look like a '70s European arthouse film – even if at times it becomes obvious that the film was actually shot in 2019 and not in the '70s. The movie takes some time to find its footing, especially when it comes to the audience caring about the young brother and sister. But as the film goes along, the superimposed demonic sigils appear in random frames (170 of them! According to the documentary), and images of demons staring at the audience start appearing, we're off to a delicious life with some truly creepy imagery. This all culminates with a horrific sequence and one of the most emotional bits in a horror movie since A Quiet Place did that to John Krasinski. Those who say that The Blair Witch Project could never be replicated in 2019 better take a look at this film. Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made may not convince viewers that the film is cursed and they're going to die after watching it (I haven't... yet) but its commitment to the gimmick, its ethereal score, and its eerie imagery make for a creepy and effective throwback horror film./Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10