Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Paul Thomas Anderson Says 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Is "F*cking Great," Also Loves 'Grand Budapest Hotel'  Paul Thomas Anderson Says 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Is "F*cking Great," Also Loves 'Grand Budapest Hotel' 10 Unaired TV Pilots By A-List Directors That We Want To See 10 Unaired TV Pilots By A-List Directors That We Want To See 'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans 'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners Watch: Tom Hardy & Gary Oldman Face Off In The First Trailer For Thriller ‘Child 44’ Watch: Tom Hardy & Gary Oldman Face Off In The First Trailer For Thriller ‘Child 44’ The 10 Best Films Of 2005 The 10 Best Films Of 2005 Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point

Review: Indie Chiller 'Proxy' Mixes Pop Psychology With Horror Movie Clichés

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist April 21, 2014 at 7:33PM

There's something deeply mysterious to some about pregnancy. It's a beautiful, important, wholly miraculous event that still carries with it an element of the unknown. And that element, that nagging itch at the back of every parent or would-be parent's mind, is the kind of thing that is ripe for cinematic exploration. Countless horror movies have played up the fears, both psychological and physiological, that go into pregnancy and the best ("Rosemary's Baby," "Inside," the original "Alien") find a way to a acknowledge the process' specialness while also acknowledging the fear of the unknown. What's interesting about "Proxy" is that it plays with all of the ephemera associated with pregnancy – the way that a person's psychology can warp around it – but too often than not gets bogged down in B-movie clichés and an unnecessarily convoluted narrative that strives for profundity but comes across as crass and dull.
2
Proxy

There's something deeply mysterious to some about pregnancy. It's a beautiful, important, wholly miraculous event that still carries with it an element of the unknown. And that element, that nagging itch at the back of every parent or would-be parent's mind, is the kind of thing that is ripe for cinematic exploration. Countless horror movies have played up the fears, both psychological and physiological, that go into pregnancy and the best ("Rosemary's Baby," "Inside," the original "Alien") find a way to acknowledge the process' specialness while also acknowledging the fear of the unknown. What's interesting about "Proxy" is that it plays with all of the ephemera associated with pregnancy – the way that a person's psychology can warp around it – but too often gets bogged down in B-movie clichés and an unnecessarily convoluted narrative that strives for profundity but comes across as crass and dull.

Proxy

At least it starts out with a genuine shock: young mother-to-be Esther (Alexia Rasmussen) is walking home from a doctor's visit when she's attacked by an unknown assailant in a red hoodie (shades of Nicolas Roeg's brilliant "Don't Look Now" are certainly intended but undeserved). Not only does this hooded figure knock her down but the assailant also starts to beat her pregnant belly with a large brick. The camera is unflinching; the attack continues for what seems like forever. Even though the effect is unconvincing, it still produces a guttural queasiness.

Afterwards, Esther is in shock, and begins to go to counseling for the trauma. What's especially shocking is that the unknown hooded figure who attacked her is actually her girlfriend Anika (Kristina Klebe), acting on orders from Esther. Clearly Esther is psychologically unwell, but there's not enough time given to her mental sate. Instead, it's a very breezy, pop psychology look at postpartum depression and the idea of an unwanted pregnancy getting taken care of in the most desperate way possible. (There's no real discussion of why she just didn't get an abortion way earlier, or even who the father was). Instead of dwelling on these issues, it shuffles Esther into a "Fatal Attraction"-ish relationship with another woman from her support group, Melanie (Alexa Havins).

Alexia Rasmussen in Zack Parker's "Proxy"

Melanie has had a similar tragedy befall her, but now she's better–she's got a loving husband (Joe Swanberg) and an adorable young son with yarn-colored hair. Of course, since this is a midnight movie with art house aspirations, the relationship between Melanie and Esther becomes increasingly close and unstable, especially with Anika serving as the explosive third point of this romantic triangle. At one point they have an intimate moment and Melanie says, "Oh but I'm not a lesbian," to which Esther replies, "Me neither." Esther is starting to crack though, and at about the movie's midway point travels to Melanie's house and commits a truly violent act.

Again, the movie tries to weave this dreamlike vibe, at the cost of narrative clarification. It is clearly something about how guilt and pain can be transferred, like a virus, from one person to another, after some seismic event in someone's life. The violent attack on Esther serves to drive the story forward, leading to further violence, always radiating outwards, in cosmic waves, from pregnancy or childbirth. And this is an interesting idea, for sure, but after this horrific event at the one-hour mark, the movie is still less than halfway over. So instead of really being about any of these things, it shifts back into textbook thriller mode, and offers a bunch of unsatisfying subplots that jangle uneasily inside the movie's larger framework.

Proxy

Melanie is now presented as the main character, and survivor of this horrific event, but her sanity is called into question as well. And Anika, wracked with guilt, has a little revenge subplot where she figures out what happened to her beloved girlfriend and sets out to make things right (since we already know she is capable of great violence, especially in the name of love). There are a bunch of sequences in the second half of the movie that maybe happen but could only have transpired in the character's warped imaginations. It's frustrating and unsatisfying and way, way, way too long, dragging endlessly when it should have moved swiftly.

By the end of the movie's two hour plus (!) runtime, writer/director Zack Parker seems to be saying one thing, over and over and over again: women be crazy. It's an unhelpful and exhausting sentiment, especially when he decides to throw in some super cheesy dream sequences towards the finale (or are they..?). The idea that a pregnancy can alter a woman's mind as much as her body is a fascinating one, and ripe for this kind of horror movie treatment, although to tackle a subject like this it takes sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and a willingness to push the audience to uncomfortable places. Instead, "Proxy" plays things relatively safe, a movie starring and about women that's soaked through with misogyny. There are a number of gifted participants, both in front of and behind the camera, like Klebe, who starred in Rob Zombie's bold retelling of "Halloween," and Swanberg, whose section of the first "V/H/S" was a delightfully subversive horror romp. You'd think that somebody, at some point, would have stopped and asked Parker what he was trying to do. Instead, the filmmaker just spins in circles, saying nothing and achieving even less. It's a shame, too. He could have given birth to something beautiful. [D]

This article is related to: Reviews, Review, Proxy, Joe Swanberg, IFC Midnight


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates