Determined to "rescue" his pregnant daughter from an abortion clinic, a religious fanatic and his sons plan a violent firearm assault just as the doctors suspect her pregnancy might not be of this world.
Pro-Life, directed by John Carpenter, written by Drew McWeeny & Scott Swan, tells the story of a young girl trapped inside a clinic, who discovers the only thing more dangerous than her pursuers is the demonic secret that she carries within her. Ron Perlman, Mark Feuerstein, Emannuelle Vaugiere and Caitlin Wachs star. Written by
masters of horror
When the demon breaks through the door, he breaks most of it away and starts to walk through. In the next shot, he breaks it again, identically to the first time, and then just stands there. See more »
So...are all pro-choice advocates just bloodthirsty liberal baby-killers, who just can't wait to pull apart live fetuses in their spare time? And are all anti-abortionists just unmedicated wack jobs who hear "God's" voice and believe in doing 'His' will, even if saving the life of an unborn child means sacrificing anyone, including the child's mother?
Don't ask John Carpenter. You're not going to find a whole lot of concrete answers here, but with a script by CIGARETTE BURNS' authors Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan, Mr. C. certainly explores at least some of the aspects of the argument at their most absurdly extreme in his second outing for MOH, PRO-LIFE.
The story kicks off as two doctors who work at a local women's health clinic (Mark Feuerstein and Emmanuelle Vaugier) nearly run over a frightened young girl (Caitlin Wachs). They take her to the clinic to check her out, not realizing that she is actually Angelique Burcell, the daughter of a violently militant pro-lifer, Dwayne Burcell (the always excellent Ron Perlman from HELLBOY and other genre favorites.) It's already bad enough that the clinic has been fortified for protection from some of the less-than-peaceful overtures from Burcell and his 'associates.' But it's even worse that now he wants his little girl back, and that Angelique is pregnant and wants to have an abortion.
What finally ensues is a cross between ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 and THEY LIVE, as Burcell and the clinic's head doctor, Dr. Kiefer (Bill Dow) have a .45 caliber debate about pro-choice vs. pro-life, with some innocent bystanders paying the price even though they're not taking a stand on either side.
Then, because this IS MOH, after all, Carpenter revisits PRINCE OF DARKNESS/THE THING territory, when it becomes pretty clear to the audience why Angelique really does need to have this abortion, and her father's zealous efforts to stop her are even less well- intentioned or accurate than he realizes.
First, the cons, and there are a lot of them. The gore effects are pretty decent when they show up, but the "big reveal" of the father of Angelique's baby - not to mention the 'infant' itself - are about as downright cheesy as anything you can dredge up from the grade-C flicks that Roger Corman used to produce for his New Horizons/Concorde Pictures outfits back in the '80's.
Except for Perlman and Wachs (whose Angelique doesn't look a day over twenty-five when she's supposed to be fifteen), the acting on display here is pretty much non-descript. Everyone's a stock character cliché, and Perlman barely saves his Dwayne Burcell from becoming a caricature of malevolent insanity, especially in one particularly gruesome scene in which he and his son allegedly give Dr. Kiefer his 'just desserts.' (Thankfully, most of that scene is left to the imagination).
McWeeny and Swan's script doesn't attempt to take sides, or to evenly balance the views either way, although I can cautiously guess that director Carpenter does not share the political view expressed in this episode's title. The ambiguity doesn't help the story much, where at least in a previous episode like the controversial HOMECOMING, you knew where both the writer and the director were coming from.
Cody Carpenter's scoring work here won't be to everyone's liking, though I thought it was very reminiscent of his dad's musical stylings from back-in-the-day, and much more complementary than it was in CIGARETTE BURNS.
Biggest pet peeve: Dwayne and two of his sons, after doing some pretty heinous things, just disappear from the movie entirely. There's absolutely no payoff when it would have been really satisfying, so that aspect takes a lot of the starch out of the story (and especially the ending.)
Now for the pluses: Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger's FX work really rocks, though I would've like to have seen more practical stuff. (The CG shots look really fake - and you'll see what I mean). Also love the quick homage to Rob Bottin's groundbreaking work on Carpenter's THE THING (you sharp-eyed fans out there will know it when you see it.)
Caitlin Wachs brings in a decent performance as Angelique, although it's more than a little tough to suspend your disbelief when you realize what age she's supposed to be playing.
And say what you will about Perlman's Burcell, but he is a man of unshakable faith, no matter how insane his deeds are. So it's doubly devastating for him in the end when he learns how badly he's been 'punk'd' (and by who).
Bottom line: PRO-LIFE is a return to the more "classic" Carpenter form. A little bigger budget and a lot more fine tuning on the script could've made this a MOH episode that I would highly recommend. As is, though, I would steer only die-hard Carpenter fans into PRO- LIFE'S direction. And the acting scores here are mostly for Perlman's performance.
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