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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For the second season of the show, John Carpenter reunited with the
writers of his season one "Masters of Horror" episode. Angelique is a
young teen found stumbling along the side of the road by two doctors on
their way to work at an abortion clinic. Wanting an abortion, they take
her with them. Once at the clinic, it isn't long before her deeply
religious father, Dwayne Burcell (Ron Perlman), shows up with his three
sons to get her out of there and save the baby by any means necessary.
Having had run-ins with him in the past, the head doctor of the clinic
even went as far as to have a restraining order taken against Burcell.
Meanwhile, Angelique claims that she wants to abort the baby because
it's the hell-spawn of a demon that raped her. They don't believe her,
but the pregnancy is clearly abnormal.
Having not done a film since 2001's "Ghosts of Mars", Carpenter returned with a vengeance with "Cigarette Burns", one of the best episodes of this show's initial season. As such, his season two contribution was one of my most anticipated. Unfortunately, "Pro-Life" was a crushing disappointment. The story had potential, but didn't live up to any of it due in large part to horrible writing. Perlman is in a big hurry to find his daughter before something happens to the baby. So, why doesn't he just shoot through the clinic doors right off the bat? He's killed a guard, yet he's worried about ruining the clinic's doors? Why waste time looking for another entrance? Oh, that's right, so the girl can tell her rape story. Later, he further wastes time by giving the head doctor a taste of his own medicine. As for anyone looking for thoughtful commentary on the abortion debate, look elsewhere. You'll get none of that here.
Aside from Perlman, nobody in this episode can act worth a damn. The characters aren't at all likable either. For example, look at the main doctor character and his girlfriend. When demon baby shows up, they save their own asses by locking themselves in the next room while leaving a drugged and defenseless Angelique to fend for herself. How noble! Speaking of the demon baby, it looks more like one of the mutilated toys from the first "Toy Story".
We get some horrid CGI head-shots too, which lead to continuity problems. Watch how the side of the guard's head is blown off when he's shot. Well, later, when the nervous kid looks at his body, he only has a hole in the middle of his head.
What I liked about the episode - Perlman's performance, the music during the birthing scene and Perlman's reaction to the demon's revelation. Other than that, there's nothing here. The episode hints at better ideas, but ends up delivering only the most ridiculous and unsatisfying. Carpenter is one of my three favorite filmmakers, and this is the first thing he's done that I've flat-out hated.
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
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
SLIGHT SPOILERS (but it doesn't matter anyway).
An exercise in gobblygook of catastrophic proportions not even worthy of the l0 lines I need to put these remarks on the netwaves. This is the single worst episode of the Masters series to date and the first that qualifies for the defunct Mystery Science Theatre treatment. Even if it took me a full half hour to realize the intended ironic angle, it was still a very lame mess. Its sole value lies in the perspective that forces one to realize that in addition to gore and ugly masks the genre only succeeds when the classic cinematic notions of photography and lighting, dialogue and acting, editing and timing are put to use. Here they are absent and John Carpenter is no master. Period. And no trite analysis of the easy social comment herein will change that. Oddly, Carpenter never has been anything more than a B director, but at least such films as 'Fog' and 'The Thing' had terrific atmosphere (the latter is one of my cult favorites).
Abominable acting. Camera angles stuck in cement. Tensionless rhythm. Yet perhaps the single most obnoxious element of the episode is the storyline which of course JC cannot really be blamed for (unless the writers were buddies of Cody.) The initial two minute slo-mo of a girl running through a forest only to be nearly run over by a would be Scully-Mulder duo is the first and last thing that works in the film. But come on, a girl hurtling through a deserted woods to nowhere in particular in desperate need of an abortion fortuitously rendez-vous with the fender of a pair of 'women's rights' MDs whose clinic just happens to be at the end of the road around the corner. Oh, and I won't even nitpick about how the doc whips the accidentee into the car and speeds away at 0 to 60 in six seconds. Does wonders for possible broken ribs or concussion.
Then things fall apart real quick. The vacuous dialogue "I just want to help you", the interminably sluggish back and forth at the gate, grandiose battle tactics like cutting the telephone line (in the age of cell phones?) followed by the the shoot-out: a born-again Ramboesque clinic director vs Ron Perlman and the high school bullpen out for a few kicks at Easter break. Another lovely line: "So what are we going to do?" from the kid who had just been sitting on a pile of assault rifles in the back of the van. Er, no it isn't yet pheasant season. So who needs those teen boys anyway. What about the good old tried and true method of the lone lunatic who bashes his way through the gate with his all-American SUV?
As for the exchange of bullets scenes themselves, the cuts here were as stiff as the staccato of a DC comics strip. All that was lacking were the Wham, Bam, and Whiz of the balloon titles. And all to the tune of a soundtrack worthy of an old Mannix episode.
At one point we learn that Daddy isn't really the daddy, but at this point we haven't been led to care much any more either. This story's single source of drama is the conflict between the pro-life father and his pregnant daughter who is only thankful she's not having twins. Yet there is not a single scene, flashback or not, where they are actually ever found together. They remain mere abstractions to each other throughout.
With the exception of the gatekeeper every single one of the characters is absolutely dislikeable. Bland, hysterical, dull-headed, macho. As perfectly flat as human wallpaper can be. None of the doctors seem to have anything medical about them. And there's that bickering Dad who rails at his pregnant daughter as though he himself were the stressed out boyfriend. He fortunately got his. There are two great MST-worthy comic moments: the gusher when Angelica's plumbing goes out and later the new-born lobster with a glued on baby's head. Also cute was Angelica's rugby ball belly before she finally popped the right-to-life little monster from Hell. As for that audacious male abortion scene...well, they should have retained Miike's episode and banned this one instead.
In short, a 3rd rate Rosemary's Baby meets Alien set on the turf of a M.A.S.H. episode. This stinker alone, appreciable only to today's permissive under-16 generation, will assure as someone else said here, that this series will not be renewed for a third season. A real shame, since there have been a number of brilliant productions, including such really decent spoofs as Dante's 'Homecoming' or McKee's deliciously quirky 'Sick Girl'. Not to mention the superb imagery of Malone's 'Fairhaired Child'.
Sorry John Carpenter, I believe your directing days are over. It's time to run for President.
I was looking forward to seeing John Carpenter's episode in Season 2
because his first, Cigarette Burns, was by far the best from Season 1
(and I did like other episodes from that season). Oh, how I was
In fairness to Carpenter I think the primary problem with this episode was absolutely horrible writing. The characters, aside from the subject matter, seemed to behave and speak as though they were written for an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. The acting was bad, and I normally like Ron Perlman a lot, but I can only blame them so much because the writing was so horrible. I'm not going to try to guess what the writers were trying to do because that would be useless but it appeared as though they were trying to mix horror (obviously) with some form of social commentary on abortion and religion. In this case, not surprisingly, it seemed a chance to bash a certain variety or religious nuts as well as fanatical anti-abortionists. And I am in favor of both aims but it was done so horribly that I was embarrassed to watch characters act and speak with such stupid inconsistency. This failed totally to offer any worthwhile opinion on the subjects and the horror element failed as well alongside such inept writing.
While I don't think Carpenter can be blamed for most of the badness here I will say he did choose to direct the teleplay and therefore has that to be held responsible for. There are a couple small bits that I found nice, hence the 2 stars I gave it.
The actual gore and monster effects were good, but the CGI gore (two separate gunshots to the head) were so obviously inferior quality CGI they should've never been given the OK. I'm generally very critical of CGI but not because I have a problem with it in principle. I have a problem with the execution of it. The technology, while amazing in some respects, is not good enough to match "real" effects, whether they be miniatures or gore especially when it is supposed to match something organic and/or alive, and therefore shouldn't be used until they are. CGI can be used well in small amounts or obviously if the whole film is animated.
I'll also take this opportunity to note that the show title, Masters of Horror, is a bad title to have. There simply aren't many actual "masters of horror" around. Maybe two or three. If the show were called "Tale of Horror" or something like that it would be fine. But as it stands the criteria for directing one of these episodes, and therefore being criticized for not being a "master of horror" is that they have directly at least one horror film in their career. And it didn't even have to be a good one.
Not really very original, since clearly elements of both "Assault on Precinct 13" and "The Thing" are rather obvious. In addition, lots of plot holes get in the way. The effects are alright, but there are some annoying flaws, the most glaring being why no one has a cell phone to call police, after the phone lines are cut? Ron Perlman is in his comfort zone, as the psycho pro-life father, assaulting the abortion clinic where his daughter is being attended to by the rather naive staff. Another weak point in the script is why Perlman continues to torture the doctor, when his daughter is screaming at the top of her lungs just down the hall? "Pro Life" has lots of screaming, but not much meaning. - MERK
Look I went into this with low expectations given things I've read
within the internet community ... but I'll be damned if this isn't one
of the more fun and MOH episodes. It is however the type you have to
make sacrifices for. You have to switch of your logic and be willing to
overlook some plot holes and cover your ears for the occasionally
poorly delivered line- but man, this is definitely a Carpenter film. It
has his trademarks all over it, more so than Cigarette Burns. This has
the look, the sound, the gloss and grime of a carpenter movie. I love
it because it has all the basic elements of other films of his and is
basically an awkward cut and paste best of assembler, but what the hey!
its a ball. It is funny, with a nice score (although I can understand
why some may have issues with it), features some great effects (one of
which is genuinely urn-nerving, towards the end- a combination of
practical and CGI- trust me, you will know it when you see it) and with
some nice acting from 60percent of the cast. Perlman is great, just as
he was in Desperation- with another juicy scenery chewing role.
In terms of expectation, don't go into this with another Cigarette Burns in mind. Think of it this way:
Cigarette Burns = Halloween Pro-Life= The Fog, Prince of Darkness, Village of the Damned
Have some fun, the message is nicely done and is at times quite disturbing, so be warned. A mess, but an entertaining mess at that.
Of course, we are talking about a Masters of Horror episode here. It
couldn't just be a simple "problem" we (and the characters) are facing
here. Still, especially considering his Cigarette Burns episode, this
almost feels like a step back. It's not a bad story, it's just pretty
conventional and predicable.
Ron Perlman almost made me give this another star, I just like that guy, whatever role he's playing. And his character is most definitely the most complex one in this. The complete opposite to that is Emmanuelle Vaugiers character. She doesn't seem to be doing anything at all. And while looking good doing that (she always does), you wish she had something to say (not literally speaking).
There are quite a few other movie influences here that you will spot. Some are mentioned in other reviews, but all in all, if you are an avid moviegoer you will spot them yourself. That's not entirely a bad thing and even that a scene (you could call it "the inciting incident") is not really graphic, shouldn't be a problem. A more than decent episode than, but more action orientated than pure Horror (just saying in case you were expecting something like the Cigarette Burning episode)
Okay, okay! I can clearly see from the other reviewers this one is a
mixed bag. Either love it it or hate it, well that's fine. That's okay
because it deals with a touchy subject.
Set aside the politics for a moment, the movie is about a teenage girl who wants an abortion because she feels the baby is evil. But her father wants to protect the baby at all costs.
Ron Perlman is excellent as usual playing the tragic hero who knows it's there is going to be bloodshed. He knows it's going to get ugly and he's not happy about it, but he feels it has to be done. Catlin Wachs is great playing the victim. Bill Dow and the rest of the cast is great too.
I feel the both sides of the issue is being served. But it's Ron Perlman's character that really sells me on this. He is a father who loves his kids and do whatever it takes to protect them. I feel if you love this movie or hate this movie you can't hate Ron.
John Carpenter has never been above pushing people's buttons, just look at 'They Live'. He said of this "it's just a monster movie", and Cody Carpenter's score captures the mood.
I'm not trying to mock other people when I say this one is not for someone with a closed mind. If you feel strongly one way or the other about abortion, I suggest you avoid this one. I myself enjoyed this not because I am pro-life or pro choice. I enjoyed it because all of the characters most notably Ron and Catlin because they were real people.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well well well. As good as John Carpenter's season 1 outing in "Masters
of Horror" was, this is the complete opposite. He certainly proved he
was still a master of horror with "Cigarette Burns" but "Pro-Life" is
perhaps the worst I have seen from him.
It's stupid, totally devoid of creepy atmosphere and tension and it overstays it's welcome, despite the less-than-an-hour running time. The script is nonsense, the characters are irritable and un-appealing and the conclusion is beyond absurd.
And for those suckers who actually bought the DVD (one of them being me); did you see how Carpenter describes the film? He's actually proud of it and he talks about it as his best work for a long time, and he praises the script. And in the commentary track, where he notices an obvious screw up that made it to the final cut, he just says he didn't feel it essential to rectify the mistake and he just let it be there. I fear the old master has completely lost his touch. I sincerely hope I'm proved wrong.
I want to leave on a positive note and mention that the creature effects are awesome, though. Technically speaking, this film is top notch, with effective lighting schemes and make up effects.
Not his best work - but watchable. John Carpenter shows traces of his
ability to be a great director in this movie - but it is not enough.
The idea behind the script is clever, but the movie is mediocre ...
On the surface, the set-up of the story is reasonable: a 15 year old girl at an abortion clinic is having a very unusual pregnancy and her father (a pro-life activist) is trying to remove her.
Since it's a John Carpenter movie, you can expect horror, monsters, killing, dramatic tone and more. The movie gets reasonably good marks on all those. Unfortately though - it never gets interesting or engaging.
What ruins this movie are the glaring mistakes. They are inexcusably bad. Body pieces are missing one moment, then are very clearly back the next. The father complains to 'God' about something important (won't spoil what it is), but that 'something' doesn't happen in the story! Almost as bad are some of the actions of the doctor involved in the pregnancy. Even a reasonable teenager would be more believable. After finally watching his response to a burning face, I gave up trying to make sense of anything.
It looks like Carpenter did this movie with one eye closed. Not a very good effort. Skip it unless you're a die-hard John Carpenter fan.
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