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TIFF 2019: The Antenna Review

Thanks to Highball.TV for sponsoring ThatShelf’s 2019 TIFF Coverage!

Orçun Behram’s Turkish horror film, The Antenna, doesn’t live up to its promising logline. The plot focuses on a group of apartment building residents who start showing bizarre behaviours and signs of aggression on the first day of a state-run broadcast transmission. It’s a timely premise in a landscape where people grow more cautious of the media they consume by the day. But despite The Antenna’s great concept, the movie suffers from poor execution.

Films that take place inside one building tend to make that building feel like a key character and essential to the plot – see The Raid, Attack the Block, and (cheating here) Rear Window. However, Behram fails to make The Antenna’s various locations feel like a cohesive environment. As a result, his characters seem distant from each other in ways that do not further the plot.

Societal distance makes a compelling theme that is worth exploring – this is the premise for the original Halloween. Halloween did an excellent job creating dread by amplifying a sense of suburban isolation. But the reason this worked is because that large group characters were still connected to each other via their relationships to the film’s protagonist, Laurie Strode.

Relationships make us care about the characters. The Antenna has no enduring ones, and each unit in the apartment complex might as well be its own country – and in this instance, that distance doesn’t feel intentional or serve any function; it demonstrates a lack of cohesion.

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This lack of cohesion is on full display when the audience can’t follow the progress of the slime the antenna is producing – aside from one tracking shot. The antenna is on the rooftop, yet, the ooze affects a boy in the basement at the same time as people in the higher levels. How is the ooze getting everywhere, and affecting everyone, all at once? Plot holes such as these break the tension by pulling you out of the story. And it’s not like this film has tension to spare. Too many shots and conversations overstay their welcome and add to the picture’s pacing issues.

With its inspired concept, The Antenna does have some heady themes it wants to comment on, but it’s not transmitting its message on my wavelength.

Thanks to Highball.TV for sponsoring ThatShelf’s 2019 TIFF Coverage

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