The Antichrist is a 1974 horror thriller from Italian director Alberto De Martino that rips off The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby with entertaining results. The film follows a paralyzed young woman named Ippolita as she loses her faith and becomes the vessel for Satan’s offspring turning her into a vomiting vixen craving sex and destruction. Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray provides a solid A/V package and enough special features to please obsessed fans of the film. Recommended.
“Everything looks darker than it really is.”
Paralyzed Ippolita (Carla Gravina, The Violent Four) has lived an isolated life within the confines of her father’s lavish Italian home after a car accident killed the family’s matriarch. Seeking cures for her disability, the depressed young woman seeks help from the Virgin Mary. When she isn’t granted the power of her legs by a heralded statue in the village, Ippolita loses her faith. She begins to hear voices and sees blasphemous images around her. After undergoing hypnotic regression therapy Ippolita sees her past life as a witch burned at the stake for challenging the Church. Soon after Satan impregnates her in an infamous dream sequence which turns the invalid woman into a foul-mouthed bile-spewing lust machine out to kill everyone and bring about the child of Satan. When father Massimo (Mel Ferrara, The Longest Day) calls for an exorcism all hell breaks loose.
Director Alberto De Martino is able to build a base for this bizarre religious effort thanks to William Friedkin’s iconic film. Carla Gavina is exceptional here as Ippolita complete with the identical hairstyle Mia Farrow sports in Rosemary’s Baby! Her performance is utterly unhinged, showing her sexing up the boys before massacring them all with a mouthful of pea soup. Arthur Kennedy (Emmanuelle on Taboo Island), Umberto Orsini (Story of a Cloistered Nun), and Anita Strindberg (Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key), and Alida Valli (Eyes Without a Face) provide excellent supporting performances while dealing with a floating foul-mouthed demon woman!
The film deals heavily in vulgarity and shock value which offers a pleasing package of sinful depravity in the days of “satanic panic”. De Martino deftly explores themes of incest, the patriarchy, and the occult through this elite Roman family’s rocky past. Ippolita regresses into an infantile state because of her disability with her liberation being the relationship with the devil. It all plays into this superstition of Satan getting into the ear of daughters to free their sexuality. In the early '70s, the Pope stated that the possibility of a tangible devil was present in our world which escalated hysteria among Italian believers and brought old fears back to the surface for a new generation. The film opens in a mondo-style documentary sequence with processions and imagery of older Italian women licking the floor at the base of the Virgin Mary setting up the film’s chaotic tone.
Where The Antichrist succeeds is in taking the demonic possession trope and applying it to a sexually frustrated woman. This allows for a broader exploration than a mere child robbed of innocence. We see someone who is defined by their disability and loses their faith in hopes of finding a sexual awakening and purpose in life. When she is unable to get approval (sex?) from her father and brother she opens herself to demonic temptation through a hunky psychotherapist bent on his own masculine need to cure Ippolita.
Cinematographer Joe D’Amato (credited here as Aristide Massaccessi) gives the production plenty of dynamic colors, textures, and excellent locations to bask in the decadence of Roman life. Bruno Nicolai and Ennio Morricone score the feature with layers of screeching strings and bizarre textures evoking a holy intent at conflict with an undercurrent of chaos. It isn't Morricone's best score but it's very effective at complimenting the utterly bizarre happenings on screen. Ennio’s infernal violins render the music unsettling, keeping you parked on the edge of your seat. A few years later Ennio would provide an operatic score The Exorcist II: The Heretic with outstanding results.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Antichrist arrives on Region A Blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber. The disc loads a giant Kino Lorber logo before landing on the static Main Menu screen with typical navigation options supplied. When you hear the droning pipe organ from Ennio’s score you’ve made it.
Kino Lorber presents The Antichrist with a brand new 4k restoration in 1080p with the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Courtesy of Studio Canal this restoration offers film-like grain levels and striking primaries. The searing red walls of Ippolita’s home and the priests' opulent robes highlight the reds and maroons used throughout the feature. Blues and greens in costuming are vivid and strong as well. Fine detail is evident from ornate sculptures and indoor furnishings to the costuming and facial features of the actors. Close-ups offer plenty of detail including Carla’s caked-on demon makeup. Black levels appear solid without noise. Soft lensing and overexposure are frequently applied to give indoor scenes a dreamy supernatural appearance. Wide shots lack detail but offer plenty of color and depth.
Sadly there are instances of heavy dirt and blemishes apparent. This isn't the cleanest transfer but with an added emphasis on color, texture, and depth its hard to beat. Previously released as The Tempter in a radically censored cut, Eurocult collectors should consider upgrading to this release.
The Antichrist goes to confession in a serviceable DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio mix offered in English and Italian. Effects, scoring, and atmospherics overwhelm the mix with enough textures for three films. The liberal use of groans, screeches, and other bizarre noises creates a sense of constant unease. Dialogue is dubbed throughout except for the native English speakers making the Italian track easier to digest. Exchanges are clean are clear without overt hiss or pop detected.
Kino Lorber supplies this release with a De Martino interview ported over from an old Anchor Bay DVD which is worth checking out. Afterwards I recommend popping on the excellent commentary track.
On the surface, The Antichrist is another in a long procession of Italian ripoffs, but underneath the covers, you’ll find a fascinating exploration of sexual identity, the occult, and the power of devout belief. Alberto De Martino’s schlocky antics are highly entertaining when coupled with the battle between psychotherapy and religion. Kino Lorber's Blu-ray offers a solid A/V package with enough special features to please fans of the film. For Eurocult collectors, this comes Recommended.