by Rachel Willis
Imagine going to the hospital for a routine appendectomy and waking up in a hospital that’s a little too Hostel. That’s what happens to Sharyn (Ashlynn Yennie) in director Peter Daskaloff’s film, Antidote.
From the mysterious and gruesome opening, we’re quickly plunged into this warehouse-style hospital where patients are chained to their beds and answers to the question ‘why am I here?’ are in short supply.
We’re not given much information as Sharyn awakens to this nightmarish situation. A mysteriously polite doctor (Louis Mandylor) appears to offer her medicine for her anxiety, leading us down one alley of possible explanations. Glimpses into Sharyn’s past as she struggles to cope with her new world offer another possibility.
However, Daskaloff wants to keep us guessing with each new bit of information. As Sharyn meets her fellow patients, we learn new facets of the horrific experimentation that happens at the facility. A mysterious serum promises healing from every possible injury: amputation, burning, hanging, tongue removal. The antidote is really quite magnificent stuff.
While I was initially reminded of films like Hostel and Saw, Antidote doesn’t relish the gore quite as much. Most of the brutality happens off-screen, and the film is more interested in the tension created by the unknown. The suggestion of violence often does more to put the audience on edge than the ultra-realistic rendition.
But to work, the film must keep the audience hooked. We need to feel Sharyn’s anxiety and desperation, and this is where the film struggles. Watching Sharyn wander around the hospital (why is she allowed to do this?) is repetitive and boring. It’s easy to grow disinterested as we wait for the big reveal.
Yennie does bring an everywoman quality to her character. Sharyn’s dubious past unfolds throughout the film and is the most interesting aspect. It’s a problem when the film’s backstory is more engaging than the present action. Maybe if we’d seen a little more of that suggested violence, I’d have sat up straighter in my seat.
Playing against our everywoman, Mandylor makes Dr. Aaron Hellenbach a cool, sophisticated, sadistic madman – a bit like Hannibal Lecter only not so terrifying. He never feels like a villain, even though he appears to be the main engineer of the ‘experiments’ done on the patients.
Antidote has the elements to be intriguing, but doesn’t effectively deliver them.