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
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John Carpenter doesn't quite reach the comeback high he got last year with Cigarette Burns, the first in his entries in the Masters of Horror series. But it's definitely a showcase for him to display his storytelling panache on a typically grisly and hell-bound tale. He gets to also mix a few elements from past pictures with something that almost borders on being formula for some horror directors following Rosemary's Baby. The story starts out with the kind of weird, religious ambiguity of They Live, as we're thrust into a story that has implications that really are, at least at the start, beyond our thinking. But then we enter in Assault on Precinct 13 mode, as the 'good guys' (err, the doctors who just want to keep Angelique, played by Cailtin Wachs) away from her crazed, God-abiding father Dwayne (Ron Perelman, always a pleasure to see in a role as un-relenting grim and hard-edged as this), which then turns into a gun-blazing blood-bath. And finally, we get the element of the Thing, which, of course, is a 'thing' that baffles everyone, except for the audience.
I'm sure that even if I didn't know the basic premise of Pro-Life, I would've figured it out anyway after the first five, ten minutes. Part of the opening ambiguity is a little random- that Angelique happens to be picked up after running through the woods by doctors working at a women's medical clinic- but from there on it is pretty thrilling work done, and pretty graphic. The make-up and special effects from Gregoy Nicotero's team, per usual, are top-notch, and being on the 'anything-goes-type' of cable channel doesn't hurt either. If anything it also provides Carpenter- via his writers- to have one of the most cringe-worthy scenes Carpenter's ever done, which is Perelman's own 'abortion' on a certain doctor as penance for something that happened to one of his kids. Some of this, too, is quite funny, mostly with the demon baby and the circumstances around it (i.e. when Angelique's water breaks, it ain't exactly water), plus the baby itself. Whether it's meant to be funny or not I can't say, but there's no mistaking that underneath some of this terrifying and harsh subject matter, is Carpenter making his own satirical jab at the abortion issue (and what side he really takes could be anyone's call, though the reverse of the title is what I'm leaning towards).
Unlike Cigarette Burns though, Pro-Life is not without its liabilities- some major ones in fact. One of those is Cody Carpenter's musical score, which in spots isn't bad but in its repetitive mode (over half an hour of a rhythmic beat that only stops at a certain point), and it detracts at time from the total potential of the true excitement; his father has proved to be much better at maintaining this kind of score for the material. And the ending, while not a total disaster, is very strange to me, and had me with a look on my face like 'uh, OK'. I suppose it ends up fitting into a kind of twisted catharsis for Angelique's situation, but even for the amount of disbelief needed it's a big leap to take. But all this aside, I was very glad I got to see one of the masters of modern horror having his fun with the material, and giving some good screen time for such Perelman, who it could be argued gets to steal his scenes however in such a style that works for the demented, voice-guided character.
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