For the past six spook seasons, we’ve been able to cackle and cringe at seemingly smart people blundering into torture traps: the Saw movies. (A new one comes out this week.) No one confuses them for high art, but at times the idea of a moralistic torture master has felt queasily apt. This year’s crop of victims will have to wait in line: a Danish provocateur is falling into the pit first. Antichrist is Lars von Trier’s latest horror pic—he’s always made fear-based films, picking the wings off flies or other sweet creatures like Bjrk. But never have Von Trier’s detractors been able to dismiss his intellectual vigor or sincerity, until now. The new movie is a joke, a toxic cocktail of banal psychobabble, laughably arty slo-mo flourishes and unmotivated sexual violence that only brain-in-jar types could take as a serious statement.
You can’t blame the actors: a droning, intellectual Willem Dafoe, finely cocksure, and steel-jawed Charlotte Gainsbourg, as mourning parents bent on self-therapizing their way out of grief. Their child fell out of a window while gentle snow drifted; meanwhile, Mom and Dad humped in the shower, on the washing machine and in bed. Von Trier then shifts the action to a woodsy Pacific Northwest retreat: “Eden,” they call it, a dead giveaway. Things go poorly.
So much has already been written of the movie’s clit-snipping shock shots and ball-bashing female tantrums, its presentation of a proudly verbal fox and a deeply uncooperative crow. One aspect bears repeating here, a phrase that’s been taken up as a defense of the film. Chaos does not reign in this movie, but rather, its opposite: the same turgid predictability that dictates The Unborn, The Stepfather or any of the other weekly domestic terrors tooled like clockwork. Avoid.—Joshua Rothkopf
Opens Fri; IFC. Find showtimes
Watch the trailer
Cast and crew