A Fantastic Fest 2019 Review
The debut feature of writer and director Orçun Behram, The Antenna is a stylish and atmospheric Turkish horror film that, while being critical of the current political climate in Turkey, also carries a message about propaganda and dictatorship that is universally resonant.
The film centers around a dingy high-rise apartment complex overseen by superintendent Mehmet (Ihsan Önal). The building is being fitted with a new TV antenna so that the government can broadcast propaganda into every home. But after the engineer plummets to his death, Mehmet discovers a strange black goo oozing from the antenna… And it’s slowly seeping down through the entire building.
The Antenna has a lot of promise, but it’s a little too ambitious for its own good. With so many characters wandering around the apartment block, Behram struggles to develop any at all, leaving their inevitable deaths feeling somewhat hollow and repetitive. The exception to this rule initially appears to be Mehmet, who we see offering to help a young resident escape her oppressive existence. But as the film progresses, Mehmet becomes ineffectual to the point of uselessness—and by the time he finally decides to take action, it’s a little hard to care.
The real problem, though, is the pacing. While The Antenna’s initial slow burn is deliciously sinister, it unfortunately sits at the same pace for so long that it starts to stagnate. At one point, it starts to feel like the film is ramping up to a climax, but there’s still a good hour left to sit through—and you’ll watch every slow, trudging step that Mehmet takes along the way. Sometimes it works, lulling you into a dreamlike state before jarring you out of it with a surreal and haunting visual, like a faceless body or a wall of creepy TV monitors. But more often than not, the film just feels like it’s sleepwalking.
Visually impressive but overlong and underdeveloped, The Antenna’s poignant ideas are drowned by its sludge-like pacing. With about 30 minutes lopped out, the film might broadcast its message a little clearer. But as it is, it’s more punishing than biting.
Words: Samantha McLaren (@themeatispeople)