ANTRUM (2018, streaming on Amazon Prime) is a terrific horror movie in a terrible package. Let me explain.
The film comes with its own packaged legend. It opens as a mockumentary in which the film is alleged to be cursed and that anybody who watches it dies, complete with a series of stories of strange deaths. The only surviving print was found at an estate sale–which apparently was tampered with by a cult, resulting in grisly frames and overlays inserted in the film allowed to stay in for present release–and is now available for the public to watch. This part of the film feels cynical and just didn’t work for me, though apparently some people are Googling whether the movie is safe to watch (sigh). Just what 2020 needs: a film on a major streaming service that kills people.
Anyway, after this setup, we get to the film proper, which is surprisingly good. The story is this: After being forced to put their dog to sleep, a teenage girl takes her little brother into the woods to dig a hole to Hell to release the dog’s soul. Through sound, music, a grainy 70s feel, and imagery, the filmmakers turn a simple story into one filled with an atmosphere of constant and mounting dread, and without a single cheap jump scare. Thematically, the story touches on a child’s imagination of Hell and a very real hell, and how they may be linked. The artistic direction is very good, very 70s horror, unnerving, and unsettling, and both of the young actors are terrific, particularly Rowan Smyth, who plays the boy Nathan.
So despite finding the mockumentary element too heavy-handed for willing suspension of disbelief, I loved ANTRUM and highly recommend it for horror fans.