Inside we’ve posted our third review from this year’s Masters of Horror: Season 2 (all reviews), which airs every Friday on Showtime. Inside you’ll find Tex Massacre’s review of “Pro-Life”, which was directed by John Carpenter and written by Drew McWeeny & Scott Swan. The film tells the story of a young girl trapped inside a clinic, that discovers the only thing more dangerous than her pursuers is the demonic secret that she carries within her.
Pro-Life (MoH 2.5)
Reviewed By: Tex Massacre
6/10 or 3 Skulls
Director John Carpenter returns to the tube this week with another installment of Masters of Horror. In Season One, Carpenter delivered possibly the strongest entry in the series. It seems that this time around, base genre filmmaking gets sidetracked, before becoming irretrievably lost, in what winds up being a pretty pedestrian point–life is precious. I don’t really know Carpenter’s political leanings or social conscience, but it seems that the master is betting two sides of the same coin and hoping the toss lands on the edge.
As our tale opens an attractive young couple (Emmanuelle Vaugier & Mark Feuerstein) are winding their car down a tree-lined mountain road. The pair are returning to work after a brief tryst, when Angelique (Caitlin Wachs) darts into the path of their speeding Chrysler. Luckily for the girl the car come screeching to a halt merely inches away from her quivering body. The visibly shaken lovers offer Angelique a ride back to their clinic to be certain she is not suffering from shock. Both the fortunate and unfortunate turn of events here are that, Vaugier and Feuerstein work at an abortion clinic and Angelique happens to be in great need of that very service. In fact, Angelique is so convinced she is destined for an abortion, she utters what will likely be the most singularly controversial line of the entire series: “God wants you to kill my baby”.
Just before the startling revelation about Angelique’s intentions is exposed, the characters run smack dab into the film’s antagonist–Dwayne (played to earth shattering delight by Ron Perlman). See, Dwayne is 15-year old Angelique’s father and he’s also a militant pro-lifer. In fact his presence is so disrupting to the clinic that a court has mandated a 500 year restraining order against him. This poses quite a quandary to both Dwayne and our doctors, as both are keenly aware that Angelique is held up within the walls of this–as Dwayne describes it– Slaughterhouse. But with his underage child held captive at the hands of butchers, Dwayne figures he’s getting Angelique back one way or another. But boy does old Dwayne got another thing coming.
There is just one more problem that ours heroes and villains will have to face and even though it’s pretty obvious from the get-go, Showtime isn’t sugar coating it (It’s right up front in the adverts–probably to keep the right wing conservatives at bay)–this baby is a demon.
Carpenter’s film is already being earmarked as “controversial” but compared to last season’s unaired episode IMPRINT it hardly breaks a sweat. It’s also way more even handed than Joe Dante’s previous entry HOMECOMING–a film that was so brusque in its satire that it defeated its own purpose and wound up berating its audience with its point. Frankly the most shocking thing about PRO-LIFE is that it’s just not all that special.
Carpenter borrows points from his past work, including nods to ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 and a creature that owes a huge debt to THE THING. The film is paced pretty well–basically, it never gets boring–but it leaves all kinds of loose ends, irking viewers with a rash of “what ever happened to…” questions. The ending is inevitable and the twist is only a twist if you’re not paying any attention to the film at all. The saving grace and indeed the whole crux of the film lies in the performances. This is short film world, so backstory and character motivation are tossed out the window pretty much from the start, but Perlman and Wachs (who will be portraying the title character in the upcoming horror film THE LEGEND OF MARY WORTH) give it all they’ve got and mange to make a lasting impression on the viewer. Perlman–a scene stealer by any definition–makes his obsessed father figure a true terror and the catalyst behind the episode’s most cringe worthy scene–one so brutal it will make men all over the globe cross their legs in absolute petrified horror.
It seems like Carpenter had a lot to work with here, but the end result is lackluster. It’s missing the spark that made CIGARETTE BURNS so vital. The side stops on the way to a predictable conclusion, passing aside without resolution, don’t help. And, the score from Edward Shearmur tries for that Carpenter-esque minimalism but winds up stuck in repetition.
The only thing Carpenter managed to just nail in the end, almost feels overwrought in the context of the story. If this episode’s final frames are ultimately about a parents love for their children, or an affirmation on the sanctity of life, or a gentle reminder that all choices have consequences, it nearly undermines the point of the film that comes before it. And, while I appreciate the sentiment in a strangely slushy way, I question the filmmaker’s inability to commit to an ideology. Perhaps I wanted Carpenter to take more of a stand and leave the indecision to the voters.