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Review Recollection: 'Antibodies' (2005)

Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.

The official DVD cover/poster for Christian Alvart's, "Antibodies."

The official DVD cover/poster for Christian Alvart's, "Antibodies."

Evil is a Virus That is Worth Witnessing.

A serial killer named Gabriel Engel (André Hennicke, Pandorum) that the police have been after for months has finally been captured. This is where most stories would end happily ever after, but instead, this is how Antibodies begins. Michael Martens (Wotan Wilke Möhring, Valkyrie), a cop from a small, rural town had an unsolved case from a year ago concerning a 12-year-old girl named Lucia Flieder and Michael intends to interrogate Gabriel in hopes of a confession for her murder.

Gabriel already admitted to being in the area around the time of Lucia’s death, but her murder doesn’t entirely fit his M.O. But Michael plays right into Gabriel’s hands and becomes the pawn in his sick, psychological game as he’s able to get into Michael’s head from the moment they meet and remains there until the credits roll. The question isn’t, “Will Michael be able to find what he’s looking for?” but is instead, “Will Michael be able to survive the cerebral hedge maze Gabriel has thrown him into?”

Written and directed by Christian Alvart (Case 39, Pandorum), Antibodies is a German crime drama thriller that is worth seeing for André Hennicke’s performance alone. His portrayal of Gabriel is psychotic, disturbing, and extraordinarily mesmerizing as he steals nearly every scene he’s in. Hennicke embodies Gabriel and brings the character to life in all of his monstrously disquieting glory. There’s a brief sequence where Gabriel is drawing in his cell and he slowly starts pulling out his hair. There’s no dialogue, but Hennicke is able to pull it off with such terrifying elegance that it is incredible to witness.

Wotan Wilke Möhring is also quite impressive as Michael Martens. Michael struggles with the mental obstacles Gabriel throws at him throughout the film. Möhring is fantastically efficient at portraying a man who devoted his life to being an abiding citizen that is also committed to his religion. He cares deeply about his family and is now slowly losing his grip on his so-called perfect life. The interrogation scenes between Michael and Gabriel seem to simultaneously be an homage to The Silence of the Lambs while also offering something different with its complete mastery of tension and Gabriel’s ulterior motives ring loudly upon the audience yet fall on deaf ears to a gullible Michael.

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Wotan Wilke Möhring and André Hennicke as Michael Martens and Gabriel Engel in, "Antibodies."

Wotan Wilke Möhring and André Hennicke as Michael Martens and Gabriel Engel in, "Antibodies."

The religious parallels are incredibly interesting and deserve recognition, as well. The film has a tendency to not only reveal these parallels, but dives into them in a way that is easy to understand for the audience; the similarities between Michael and the archangel Gabriel are uncanny. The ending involving the test Gabriel gives Michael is all a part of a twisted game Gabriel plays and the web he’s spun has managed to get Michael tangled up in it. The film makes you think you know where it’s headed before it takes an unexpected detour and ends up going in the opposite direction.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the film is the involvement of Norman Reedus. The Wikipedia entry for Antibodies is still so bare, but apparently, Reedus did his part in the film for free. Before The Walking Dead came along, Reedus was known best for his roles in The Boondock Saints, 8MM, Blade II, and the John Carpenter directed Masters of Horror episode, “Cigarette Burns.” Reedus has always taken part in projects that are unusual, but typically turn out to be fairly awesome. It was a great change of pace to see him show up and speak a few lines of German without waving a crossbow around or revving a motorcycle.

André Hennicke as Gabriel Engel in "Antibodies."

André Hennicke as Gabriel Engel in "Antibodies."

Antibodies isn’t without its flaws as its script is often juvenile with the way it references sex and pleasuring yourself way more often than it should. The German thriller is still able to capitalize on a wonderfully tense and magnificently unsettling atmosphere with two incredibly strong leads that make the whole journey worthwhile. The story is riveting despite a few hiccups, the cast is top notch, the cinematography is excellent, and its unpredictable outcome is brilliant.

Antibodies is currently streaming on Amazon Video and Vudu for $2.99. The 2-disc special edition DVD is available for $24.98 on Amazon while the standard DVD is between $19.99 and $43.41. The film is available on DVD for various prices on eBay with the best offers being a pre-owned version of the single disc edition for $5.39 (10% off its normal $5.99 price) and the two-disc edition for $18.24; both have free shipping.

© 2018 Chris Sawin

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