M. Night Shyamalan achieved success with The Sixth Sense because he capped an engrossing supernatural mystery with a humdinger of a twist ending, but his later films were less ingenious and the repeated use of the twist ending became a crutch used to prop up the meandering bullshit that preceded it (i.e., Unbreakable). First Born, with Elizabeth Shue as a mother suffering from the psychological torments of post-partum depression, is a movie that screams for a smart and satisfying twist ending to somehow redeem its ludicrously minimalist plot.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been in love with Elizabeth Shue since she ground her body against an out-of-his-depth Kyle MacLaughlin in The Trigger Effect, but between First Born and the limp-dicked Hide and Seek, she really needs to view this as an opportune time to shop around for a new agent. In First Born, Shue is a ballet dancer married to a buttery-gay Englishman (Steven Mackintosh, Underworld: Evolution) and living in a spacious apartment in the city. The fruitcake limey inexplicably knocks her up so they move to a spacious house in the suburbs.
Featuring a glassy-eyed doll and upside-down crucifix “T” in “First Born”, the DVD cover tries to sell the film as a supernatural thriller, although its intent is far more ambiguous. Once Shue gives birth, innumerable narrative distractions and red herrings follow, none of them contributing to the bare scaffolding of a plot in any discernable fashion. Mice appear in the new house and Shue freaks out, a homeless woman bangs on the restaurant window during a romantic dinner and scares the bejesus out of everybody, a dykey-looking Slavish woman shows up on Shue’s doorstep to help nanny the baby, a mysterious doll that Shue finds on the subway seems to attract a lot of plot attention, but when all is said and done, nothing ever really happens. Shue is unhappy because she’s a woman who just had a baby and her husband always works and blah-blah-blah, but none of her craziness has an edge to it, and any scares are half-assed and without purpose.
Shue begins to believe that something is coming after her baby, and the audience is drug along by the insistent implication that an amazing twist is right around the bend, and as this PG-13 “thriller” continues to stumble through the paces, faith becomes a factor for the viewer. Faith that you haven’t just been jerked around for an hour and a half, faith that the filmmaker has the balls to give you at least a sliver of a twist ending, even if its some poorly-written hackery that could have been tacked on to the end of a Scooby-Doo episode. For Christ’s sake, I just gave you 90 minutes of my time, give me something in return, please, give me the payoff you’ve been so ardently promising, Mr. Straight-To-DVD Auteur. Tell me its Ralph Macchio’s baby, that would make my eyes bulge. You can even give me a Wizard of Oz “I dreamed it all” ending, I don’t give a shit. But First Born gives you nothing, it just takes from you and leaves you feeling sore and ashamed and wanting your 90 minutes back.