In a movie that could’ve been, one has to examine the genre from whence it came. The genre I am referring to is that of the suspense thriller; the kind of films that walk the line between horror and crime dramas. As serial killers become showcased more on television and movies, the more Hollywood tries to make them easier to swallow by focusing on the case surrounding them rather than the crimes individually. In other words, it has become convention that the story be focused on the policeman assigned to the murderer’s capture instead of said murderer himself/herself. Why am I saying all this? Because Christian Alvart’s Antibodies does exactly this, with enough inspiration and not enough aspiration to forward the genre.
After serial killer Gabriel Engels (Andre Hennicke) is captured outside his apartment, he is suspected of killing a young girl several years earlier. Small-town cop Michael Martens (Wotan Wilke Möhring) has been investigating the murder ever since and may now have his big break in the case. Michael must go to the big city to interrogate the prime suspect, in the hopes that he’ll get a confession. But soon, as Martens comes under the influence of Engels, he finds himself in a dark place and questions his faith as well as his whole existence.
American films like Seven and (of course) The Silence of the Lambs are most obviously the film’s sources of inspiration. As aforementioned, it’s the regular story of a police officer’s quest to find the truth behind a killer while simultaneously being mind-fucked by the person in question. But what sets Antibodies apart with those other “suspense thrillers” is the explicit nature of Gabriel Engels, the antagonist. If you think cannibalism and just flat-out brutal murder are bad, Engels tops that — he rapes and kills children. Nothing screams taboo more than this guy. Also, he also tries to provoke Martens in the worst ways, asking him such questions as “What do you think about when you fuck your wife?” Not since Hannibal Lecter prodded Clarice Starling about her childhood did I think that a serial killer was asking too personal of questions.
But what really makes Antibodies fail is the almost complete neglect of Engels in the third act. The focus is all on Martens and his son (I’m not gonna spoil the movie by saying why), and it makes one of the weakest biblical allusions in the process. The story shifts from the profile of a serial killer to that of a man’s existential identity crisis and then to his redemption, when he didn’t seem to deserve it in the first place.
Early on in the film when Martens first meets the prime suspect in his jail cell, Engels says: “Who were you expecting, Hannibal Lecter?” From that moment on, my expectations of this being an original serial killer movie diminished. Antibodies wasn’t an overall terrible movie. It just borrowed too many elements from previous films just like it, without advancing the genre in any way. The only aspect where the flick shines is the character of Engels, who provides one of the best opening scenes I’ve seen in a long time and one is fucked up individual.
Jose is an English major at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. In January 2009, he will begin writing film reviews for the campus newspaper, the Student Voice.