One of the greatest things about horror is how we embrace the word and the feeling. Horror can be defined by anyone however they choose. If you think gnomes are scary, then that’s your horror, if you think the vast emptiness of space, or the possibility of what exists beyond us, is scary, then that is your horror. Up to this point sci-fi thrillers never really did it for me. Films like The Vast of Night and Ex Machina are a few outliers of sci-fi thrillers I truly enjoy, possibly because of the horror I find in them. With all of that being laid out, I have never found one of these films that truly filled me with existential dread, leaving me breathless, and concluding with me crying my eyes out. That is until I watched La Paradoja de Antares (The Antares Paradox).
While this film may not check the boxes of what many people think horror is, I believe this is one hell of a genre-bending movie. We’ll get to my horror aspect later, but it is important to note. The Antares Paradox follows astrophysicist Alexandra Baeza (Andrea Trepat), the overnight watch for EART Observatory. One fateful night will change Alexandra’s life irreparably. Facing the storm of the century, a father who’s dying in the hospital, and a signal from another planet that could, if authenticated, change the course of history. The film takes place in one location, with Alexandra being the sole character on set. Throughout the film, she talks to quite a few people over the phone and video chat like her sister Ana (Aleida Torrent), her lazy coworker Fernando (David Ramírez), and an unpaid intern Dani (Ferran Vilajosana), to name a few.
One of the greatest assets of the film is its one-location shoot. The entirety of the film takes place in the observatory, and with the exception of going to the server room, Alexandra does not leave the antennae room. I’m a huge proponent of one-set films, like mother!, Pontypool, and The Thing; one-set films can really add so much context and thought to a film. It doesn’t always make sense to keep a film in a single location, but for The Antares Paradox, it works towards providing atmosphere, isolation, and beautiful juxtaposition. This leads to my primary aspect of horror in the film. Alexandra works so hard to try and prove there is life outside of our galaxy, to prove what she has been spending her entire life towards is real. Her work involves the vastness of space, looking millions of lightyears away. The entirety of her work takes place in a small claustrophobic room. She interacts with multiple people but is confined to a single room.
The Antares Paradox starts off strong with a Chekov’s gun-type scene, though instead of a gun, it’s an existential question posed to Alexandra. In a Zoom interview with a video channel called CosmicVloggers Alexandra talks about how each star in the universe has at least one planet in orbit with it, meaning, according to NASA and SETI, there are at least 300 million habitable planets out there. A few minutes later in the interview, Alexandra is asked why humans invest as much time and money as they do to try and find things lightyears away, while there are people here on earth dying of diseases, starvation, war, etc. The interview ends with the Chekov’s gun question, by that I mean we don’t get her answer now, rather we cut back to the interview later on in the film at a perfect moment. Alexandra is asked, more or less, if a genie granted her a wish to either cure cancer or give us evidence of extraterrestrials, which would she choose?
Another great moment of horror for me is actually something that lasts a good majority of the film, and that is the authenticity checks Alexandra must do to prove the validity of the signal. It is made very clear early on that she has a habit of putting the cart in before the horse. It alludes that Alexandra has jumped the gun on saying signals are authentic before doing the checks a few times. There are five steps Alexandra must do on the signal, and each one takes such a painstakingly long time. From running a program that checks their systems for firewall hacks, to searching literally every satellite to make sure the signal isn’t coming from them, Alexandra must wait every single clock-ticking second for these programs to be run. This gave me a whole separate level of anxiety, which I think is another necessity for horror. If you don’t feel anxious then where are the stakes? Knowing Alexandra’s tenacity and willingness to believe, when so many others don’t, each test she ran left me breathless just hoping it would be successful so she could move to the next one.
Andrea Trepat gives an absolutely brilliant performance. It is never understated or oversold, she perfectly rides the line of what fits for her character. With every great character though comes its script and direction. One of the most interesting aspects of this film is that it was writer/director Luis Tinoco’s debut feature film. This is by no means Tinoco’s first foray into film, rather Tinoco has been working heavily in the visual effects world for nearly the past 20 years on films like Interstellar and Hellboy, to name a few. The visual effects of this film are sparse, but what we get in that field is beyond spectacular. If this were a fourth or fifth film in someone’s oeuvre it would be impressive, what makes it more impressive is a feature debut.
The Antares Paradox is the perfect title for this film, and can only truly be comprehended after watching it. Again this film is less horror, though I was frightened by many aspects of it, as much as I was engaged and enthralled. I truly cannot wait to see what Luis Tinoco does next, as I am sure it will be a visual feat, but in the meantime, I am more than happy to wallow in my own tears as I watch this film for a second, third, and eighth time.