Review: ‘Anti Matter’ (the worm turns)

Doing science can be cruel… especially when you don’t know what you’re doing.

Ana (Yaiza Figueroa) is an Oxford PhD student doing research into the effects of EMP on battery electrolytes when she stumbles onto an anomaly: the tested electron disappears. She shares her findings with Nate (Tom Barber-Duffy) who realizes Ana’s experiment has gone beyond cause/effect and touched upon quantum teleportation. In a rush to takes things to the next level and a window of opportunity closing, they enlist Liv (Philippa Carson) to globally hack their way into enough computing power to increase the mass of teleported objects, eventually creating an instantaneous wormhole large enough to successfully transport Ana herself… and that’s when one woman’s world turns upside down.

Memory is a funny thing. It defines who were are but it also influences our perception of the world and who we believe ourselves to be. From 50 First Dates to Memento, movies about memory and losing ourselves have been a fascination but also a horror; what could be worse than forgetting what makes us ourselves, to understand that we are slipping away? To quote Morpheus from The Matrix: “What is real? How do you define ‘real’?” Like a modern-day Alice in Wonderland, the character of Ana tumbles down the rabbit hole, but how well will audiences respond to how deep the rabbit hole goes?

Anti Matter (aka Worm in early releases) is art-house psychological horror at its finest. At its worst, it’s a case study of how it feels when dismissive busy people disconnect from others when it reminds them of their own mortality. At its best, it’s a true sci-fi story of how unprepared humanity is for huge leaps in technology. Generating a level of paranoia similar to films like Flatliners and Project Almanac, audiences are invited to follow along with the main character to solve her dilemma while being made to feel it is happening to them. This is what losing one’s mind and self feels like, when a lack of empathy from trusted confidants can turn madness into violence.

The production design lends itself to the film’s theme. An appropriated lab space fills up as Ana’s experiment grows, becoming more claustrophobic as the room is used up. The use of reflection and shadow hint at the film’s Wonderland inspirations; memory flashes from a mind coming unhinged suggests everything from conspiracy to parallel worlds… but is any of it real? The cast steps up to sell the story, but the practical effects could have been improved upon, especially with modern camera technology designed to make some of the shots more realistic without having to resort to pure CGI. The music is noticeable in a few scenes, but it serves the film well. This is what the ill-fated horror film The Lazarus Effect could have been with a better script and much better ending; Anti Matter gets it right.

An interesting note is that the film doesn’t end where it could have. The coda-like denouement feels like a setup for another story or at least hints at the possibility of one; you can almost hear Dr. Malcom from Jurassic Park saying “Your scientists were so preoccupied that they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” C’est la vie, Ian.

This movie starts a theatrical run in the UK on July 10th and in the US on VOD with limited run in US theaters in September 2017. 

4 Skull Recommendation Out of Four

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