It wasn’t that long ago, relatively speaking, that the Turkish film industry was something of a joke. Google Turkish Exorcist and Turkish Star Wars for two prime examples of why. In recent years though, the films from likes of Can Evrenol (Baskin, The Field Guide to Evil) have begun drawing international attention. The Antenna by writer/director Orcun Behram is the latest film to journey from Ankara to North America. A work of politically themed science fiction, how well does it compare to homegrown dystopian tales?
Mehmet (Ihsan Önal) is the superintendent of a rather run-down apartment building in what looks like Soviet Russia but is actually an unnamed city in Turkey. His supervisor Cihan (Levent Unsal) informs him that they’re one of the first buildings to get one of the new government antennas, (it looks more like a satellite dish), that will broadcast programs 24 hours a day starting at midnight.
In what is an omen of things to come, the installer falls to his death after hooking it up. Shortly after residents start complaining about black slime oozing out of the walls. It’s not long before people are dying, killed by the goo, or by each other. Could the antenna be responsible?
Behram has said The Antenna was inspired by the rise of government control of the media under Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But it’s easy to see parallels in many other countries. Just look at a certain orange world leader’s tweets demanding the power to jail journalists and shutter news outlets that displease him. The film frames it in horror terms, the black slime a physical representation of government propaganda and its effects on the population. The varied assortment of tenants standing in for all of us.
Thankfully The Antenna isn’t a dull, preachy message film. The first 20 or so minutes do run slow as we get introduced to a cast that includes a young woman Mehmet is involved with, Yasemin (Gul Arici), and her overprotective father Firat (Enis Yildiz). However, once the slime makes its appearance things pick up.
Most obviously showing the influence of Cronenberg ’s Videodrome, (and the high rise settings of his earlier work), along with Orwell’s 1984, there’s also more than a touch of David Lynch in the mix as well. The constant reminders of the “Midnight Bulletin” even echo Halloween III, though in not nearly as catchy a manner.
The Antenna feels a bit disjointed at times, the various storylines don’t always blend smoothly. And at an hour and fifty-five minutes it could have used another edit, several scenes drag on a bit too long. But overall it’s a solid film that works well even if you don’t get its message.
The Antenna opens in Virtual Cinemas on October 2nd in Los Angeles, New York, and other major cities via Dark Star Pictures. A VOD Release will follow on the 20th.