“Evil is a virus. It’s highly contagious,” proclaims Antibodies’ pedophilic mass murderer Gabriel Engel (André Hennicke), though Christian Alvart’s contribution to the serial killer genre proves that the compulsion to plagiarize David Fincher’s Se7en is at least as communicable a disease. With a smorgasbord of lustrous widescreen compositions, some heavy industrial-metal clatter, and a detective narrative laced with religiosity and deviant sexuality, this 2005 German thriller barely tries to conceal its heavily indebted influence. It also does little to expand upon its forbearer aside from excessively dousing every scene in gobbsmackingly obvious Christian symbolism, a formula that’s in step with the film’s uniformly ham-fisted address of its primary themes.
One and a half years after the crime, holier-than-thou country cop “Saint Michael” (Wotan Wilke Mohring) remains obsessed with finding the person who slaughtered a local 12-year-old girl, an investigation that doesn’t stop even after likely culprit (and habitual panty collector) Engel is nabbed in Berlin. Despite the psycho’s jokes about Hannibal Lector, his “let’s play a game” meetings with Michael still play out like cut-rate Silence of the Lambs outtakes, with the quid-pro-quo exchanges temporarily converting the righteously prideful cop into a believer in man’s inherently dark, bestial nature. To wit, Michael buys a suit from a woman in red whose store features devil-horned mannequins, hangs out in a brothel (but doesn’t touch the titties), struggles over whether to watch porn or religious programming on his hotel TV, and then sticks it to the clothes retailer in the same dirty way Engel stuck it to his pubescent male victims. All the while, Antibodies’ dichotomies between rural/pure/innocent and urban/defiled/wicked turn out to be as turgid as they are shallow.
Laughably treating his exploitative material as if it were Dostoyevsky (replete with an opening quote from Crime and Punishment), Alvart adorns everything in portentous bibilical trappings but is more interested in sleek visuals and rug-pulling gimmicks than his protagonist’s (histrionically handled) moral conflict. Genre veterans will identify the pivotal twist long before the climactic avalanche of Abraham references. Such predictability, however, eventually pales in comparison to the goofy spinelessness of the film’s own head-in-the-box bombshell.