Detroit-set shocker 'Antibirth' explores the horror beneath American drug culture

Detroit has provided a vivid backdrop to the terrific recent horror films “It Follows,” “Don’t Breathe” and “Only Lovers Left Alive,” but Michigan’s urban blight has never been as much of a malevolent character as it is in “Antibirth,” a queasy indie shocker about a young woman getting wasted in the American wastelands.

Natasha Lyonne stars as Lou, a rapidly aging party girl and motel maid, who spends most of her military benefits checks on the drugs she shares with her best friend Sadie (Chloë Sevigny). After one wild night, Lou wakes up with every symptom of pregnancy except the fetus, and gradually begins to suspect that something unnatural has been done to her.

“Antibirth” is more about setting and vibe than plot. Writer-director Danny Perez leans heavily on his superb cast (which also includes Meg Tilly as someone who may know what’s happening to Lou). He gets a lot of mileage especially from Lyonne’s woozy, eye-rolling reactions to her bizarre predicament.

The characters and performances keep “Antibirth” lively even when the story goes around in circles, stacking up scene after scene of Lou feeling freaky and not knowing why. Had the movie been just a little more thought through, it could have been a new classic.

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“Antibirth” is still quite good, though, with memorably surreal imagery and an abrasive texture that enhances Perez’s overall vision. As a portrait of a middle America full of forgotten people and ruined civilizations, this is one of the year’s scariest movies.

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‘Antibirth’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

Playing: Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood

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