Rushed to hospital with appendicitis, Sharyn (Ashlynn Yennie) wakes up after surgery not in a hospital but chained to a bed in a dank underground medical facility presided over by the sinister Dr Hellenbach (Louis Mandylor).

A scientist of the mad variety (is there any other kind in a FrightFest film?), Hellenbach and his team of surgical scrub-clad sadists experiment on Sharyn and her fellow patients, torturing and maiming them, lopping off extremities and searing flesh, ripping out tongues and poking out eyes, before healing their captives with a secret miracle drug that physically restores them. And then the mutilation begins again…

Trapped and desperate, haunted by guilty memories, if Sharyn is going to escape she’s going to have to confront the demons of her own sordid past.

Pity poor Ashlynn Yennie. Best remembered as the back end of The Human Centipede, she really doesn’t have much luck with doctors but as one of Antidote’s producers she has only herself to blame this time.

A serviceable but all too familiar psychological horror with ambitions far beyond its microbudget, Peter Daskaloff’s Antidote is restrained and tense for much of it’s nimble 88 minutes as it cribs from the likes of Jacob’s Ladder and The House That Jack Built before running out of road in its predictable last act with a twist that if you don’t see it coming, then you’re as dense as Yennie’s Sharyn (I mean the mad scientist is even called Hellenbach, for God’s sake!).

The cast are decent and don’t bump into the furniture but have little to do other than act as info dumps for Yennie and fail to make much impression. Yennie tries hard but her protagonist isn’t particularly likeable and her guilty flashbacks don’t help on that front while Mandylor’s sinister doctor feels like Hannibal Lecter-lite. If Hannibal was played by an Aussie Udo Kier. That’s not a criticism. Mandylor seems to be having fun, wringing menace out of every line, his beefcake body barely contained by his too-tight scrubs, he’s a truly odd presence in this kind of role and makes you wish the rest of the cast weren’t as bland.

Rather coy when it comes to the torture porn aspects of the plot (personally I could have stood a little more torture and at least some porn…), offering us only glimpses of blood and carnage, and unable to afford much in the way of special effects, Daskaloff keeps Antidote subtle and restrained, making the most of his limited location, to create a claustrophobic, gloomily oppressive atmosphere that along with Mandylor’s gleeful surgeon is the film’s greatest strength. But long before Antidote’s 88 minutes are up, you’ll tire of watching Yennie wandering or being chased down the same corridor over and over again from different angles.

A decent little timewaster that doesn’t quite wear out it’s welcome, Antidote is effective enough to make you want to see what Daskaloff could do with a decent budget.

Arrow Video Frightfest Review: Antidote
3.0Overall Score
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