The Antenna: Horror of a totalitarian sort

A- political Horror
Written and directed by Orçun Behram

[NOTE: I posted this review on the assumption that The Antenna will be available via virtual cinema in the Bay Area October 2. That may not be happening.]

I’m not a fan of gross-out flicks; especially the current, particularly gross stuff. But I liked The Antenna. Not only did it scare me out of my socks, but it had something to say. Yes, it’s very gross and ugly, but I couldn’t take my eyes and ears away from it. I strongly suspect that the writer and director of this Turkish horror picture, Orcun Behram, is a fan of David Lynch and George Romero.

You know there’s something wrong from the beginning. Many early shots are focused tightly on a minor, inanimate object, while the people you want to see and get to know are badly out of focus. The music and sound effects also bring you into a very unsettling state of mind.

Mehmet (Ihsan Önal) lives and works in a large apartment building that appears to be in the middle of nowhere. He seems to be the superintendent – although he doesn’t have much power; his boss is often shadowing him and telling him what to do.

It’s a big day. The government is installing a new satellite dish on the top of the building. Once installed, everyone will have clear, perfect entertainment direct from the authorities. What they get, of course, is a living hell.

Things go bad almost from the start. The expert installing the dish falls to his death – and that won’t be the last demise of the day. Then a thick, oozie black liquid starts coming out of the dish. Then it starts seeping out of the faucets. Then it’s coming out of electrical fixtures. Between the ooze and what’s on the TV, people are turning psychotic…if they’re not losing their faces.

I suspect that the English title, The Antenna, is a bad translation. The device that causes all the problems is clearly a satellite dish – not what Americans call an antenna. On the other hand, the original, Turkish title, Bina, means building.

Like people everywhere, the apartment’s tenants – or at least the ones we see while they’re still sentient – are hooked on television, which seems to tell people what to do and how to think. Even having an original thought, the TV warns, can put you in danger.

I mentioned earlier that Mehmet’s boss gives him little leeway and doesn’t want to hear what Mehmet has to say. At one point, he orders Mehmet to take off his clothes and swim in a flooded tank to find out what’s broken. And, of course, Mehment is not to tell anyone about these problems.

Clearly, The Antenna is a comment on media and the Internet, and how entertainment technology can help control people in a totalitarian state. I’m not sure if filmmaker Behram intended it, but I felt that the film was looking at one particular form of totalitarianism: Communism. Everything looked rundown and nothing worked.

You may need a strong stomach to watch The Antenna. But it’s worth it.

The Antenna will be available via virtual cinema Friday through the New Mission.