review by Diablo Joe
There are few things scarier than being suddenly, unexpectedly having to be admitted to emergency surgery. An even more horrifying concept is to awaken from your surgery in a place completely foreign to you, trapped, cut off from your family and freedom. Now imagine the hell of watching your others trapped with you subjected to repeated horrifying experiments.
The only thing worse is when they start on you…
“Antidote,” from director Peter Daskaloff, subjects just that experience to wife and mother Sharyn (“Human Centipede’s” Ashlynn Yennie). When a burst appendix sends her into the O.R., she awakens in a mysterious facility, an IV in her arm. As facility head Dr. Hellenbach (an unctuous Louis Mandylor) informs her, this solution is responsible for her expedited recovery. Soon, however, Sharyn finds that Hellenbach and his team make use of this healing antidote to subject the inmates of the facility to repeated horrors and torture. Hellebach forces Sharyn to search deep into a dark, sordid past that could both provide the answer to why she is there and if she has any hope of escape.
At first glance, “Antidote” seems like an over-wrought, rather clunky sci-fi-thriller concept. Midway, however, it turns the tables on both its protagonist and us, the audience. So much of what we see and experience in the first half becomes far more prescient and thematically impactful. As Sharyn’s circumstances become more evident to all, “Antidote” becomes a very different film. Its flashbacks to Sharyn’s past illuminate a very different side to her and the story.
“Antidote” is a film with an interesting concept and premise, but also one that suffers from a desire, it seems, to play its cards close to its vest, lest we guess its secrets too early. The result is a movie somewhat defanged by the filmmaker’s cautious approach. Director Daskaloff, who wrote the screenplay with Matthew Toronto, has stranded Sharyn in a dark, dingy environment, surrounded by attendants gowned in scrubs and masked. Though they create an overall bleak feel, these visual decisions seem too middle of the road to be as effective as the filmmakers may have wanted. Similarly, Daskaloff’s rather distanced directorial style also fails to give us the chills that a much more radical approach would have engendered. The fil could have adopted either a hyper-clinical look (a la Cronenberg’s “Dead Ringers”) or a more claustrophobic, nightmarish visual sense (say, Gilliam’s “Brazil”). Then, the horrors Sharyn experiences might have had a more visceral punch. As it stands, we never fully become engrossed in her experience.
“Human Centipede’s” Ashlynn Yennie is quite good in her role as a warm, loving mother thrown into a terrifying world. As she relives her dark past, we see a much different side of her character, and she does a fine job with both. Mandylor is measured, slightly effete, and condescendingly aloof as Hellenbach. He gives the doctor a weary, firm patience, the full gravity of which becomes evident as the film progresses. The supporting cast is fine as well, with Augie Duke standing out as one of Sharyn’s fellow prisoners/patients.
“Antidote” is a film that had excellent potential but just never entirely commits to sticking the landing. Even its ending seems to lack confidence in itself. One wishes that Daskaloff had been a bit more aggressive in his approach. A more full-throated directorial and visual style could have been the antidote that “Antidote” could have dearly needed.
This devil of a reviewer gives “Antidote” 3 out of 5 imps
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