Anti Matter 2017
Anti Matter (AKA Worm) is a sci-fi noir take on the Alice in Wonderland tale. Ana, an Oxford PhD student, finds herself unable to build new memories following an experiment to generate and travel through a wormhole. The story follows her increasingly desperate efforts to understand what happened, and to find out who - or what - is behind the rising horror in her life.
September 8, 2017 (USA)
Yaiza Figueroa, Philippa Carson, and Tom Barber-Duffy
Anti Matter is a cerebral, low-tech sci-fi that will resonate with fans of movies like Coherence, Primer, Time Crimes, and The Butterfly Effect. It tackles many familiar time-travel/teleportation paradoxes, including the existence/creation of doppelgangers and whether being human means something beyond our physical mass. Heady stuff, to be certain, but you won’t need to take notes in order to navigate Anti Matter from is riveting First Act through its poignant yet unnerving climax.
In many respects, Anti Matter can be considered a spiritual successor to 1998’s Dark City (directed by Alex Proyas and starring Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, and Jennifer Connelly). In that film, an alien race seeking to understand the human “soul” conducts a series of experiments using memory as a catalyst. The film asks if we’re merely a collection of our personal experiences or if there is something deeper to human existence. If a person awakes from a state of amnesia to discover they’re a serial killer, for example, will they still feel like a criminal if they can’t recall the actions or the lifetime’s worth of experiences that pushed them to that point? Similarly, could you tell an amnesiac killer that he/she is actually a saint and, if so, will they still know in their hearts they’re actually evil? In Dark City, memories are condensed into a fluid, substances with actual mass, that are injected directly into a subject’s brain.
To be clear: Anti Matter and Dark City are completely different films; one is a serious portrayal of fantastic ideas (Anti Matter) while the other is a fantasy with meditations on psychology and philosophy (Dark City). It’s subtext that unites these films. The distinction speaks to the universal themes discussed, and how each movie gives a unique answer to unknowable questions.
Official Synopsis: Anti Matter (AKA Worm) is a sci-fi noir take on the Alice in Wonderland tale. Ana, an Oxford PhD student, finds herself unable to build new memories following an experiment to generate and travel through a wormhole. The story follows her increasingly desperate efforts to understand what happened, and to find out who – or what – is behind the rising horror in her life.
Anti Matter is written & directed by Keir Burrows and stars Yaiza Figueroa, Philippa Carson, and Tom Barber-Duffy.
One of the things I enjoyed most about Anti Matter is that it is a complex, intelligent film, but it’s hardly incomprehensible. There’s a humorous reference to Schrodinger’s Cat sure to elicit a guffaw from those with a philosophy background. But you don’t need a degree in philosophy, psychology, chemistry, or physics to understand the film, nor to find yourself engrossed as the story unravels. The film encourages you to put the pieces of the puzzle together, offering clues to cinematic detectives; but it also gives those looking to merely experience the mystery an opportunity to sit back and just be amazed. You may find yourself perplexed, but very few questions will be left unanswered by the film’s conclusion.
From the moment Ana (played by Yaiza Figueroa) is subjected to the teleportation machine, we essential become the main character, waking up in her body as a deep fog is lifted. When Ana feels she’s being deprived of crucial information, we understand inherently; from this point onward, the audience is equally invested in discovering the truth. Are we being cruelly, systematically deceived and/or driven to madness? What happened during the immediate aftermath of what seemed to be a successful experiment? Like Leonard (played by Guy Pearce) in Christopher Nolan’s Memento, Ana can’t make new memories, meaning we have no idea how many times she’s chased the same elusive phantoms through the same meandering corridors, all to the same end: Confusion, paranoia, and crippling fear of the unknown.
Ultimately, like Dark City, Blade Runner, and many other classic and modern sci-fi, Anti Matter is a meditation on what it means to be human—especially in the quantifiable world of facts and science. It’s a complex collision of metaphysic and spirituality, a view of humanity that’s terrifying if only for it’s cold and clinical calculations and conclusions. While the film does assert that being human goes beyond a person’s weight and mass, there’s nothing comforting or warm to cling to. This emotionless pursuit of scientific inquiry is challenged by a contrasting subplot involving a group of militant animal rights activists who may or may not be involved in Ana’s conundrum. The threat of a potential conspiracy looms large throughout the film, leaving us uncertain about who we can trust, and whose narrative represents the “truth” of the movie.
The horror of Anti Matter is all cerebral; it’s both omnipresent and nebulous, like the nature of fear itself. You won’t be startled or disgusted by your examination of the film, but you may find yourself horrified by the indifferent nature of metaphysics, like a doomed man standing in the path of a tsunami. And while the film throws back the curtain on a previously unknown realm of mystery, it also makes it clear that mankind’s obsession for advancement will push forward, despite any proven perils.
Bottom Line: Anti Matter is a thinking person’s horror movie, steeped in metaphysics and mystery. Don’t expect any jump-scares or grotesquery; just a descent into the maddening possibilities of the unknown. The film is propelled by an excellent concept and script and anchored by genuine, believable performances by the film’s lead actors. Well done all around, but not much terror for cinematic thrill-seekers.