Monday, June 21, 2021

False Positive, on Hulu

Horror movies love to corrupt good things. Of course, it is hard to build a film around an evil apple pie, but it is much easier plum the dark side of motherhood. Rosemary’s Baby remains the champion at this, but tons of flicks tried to follow its example. Some were even pretty good, such as Aneesh Chaganty’s Run, Franz & Fiala’s Goodnight Mommy, and Stewart Thorndike’s Lyle. It is debatable whether this is a proper horror film or rather a dark thriller, since it really isn’t scary, despite the sinister turn an expected mother’s pregnancy takes in John Lee’s False Positive, which premieres this Friday on Hulu.

Lucy and her doctor husband Adrian Martin have been trying to get pregnant for two straight years with no success. Finally, he books her an appointment with his old colleague, ultra-arrogant fertility specialist Dr. John Hindle and voila. She’s not just pregnant. She has two healthy boy twins and a smaller, iffy-looking girl. Of course, Hindle and her husband want to abort the girl because you know, patriarchy. (Ironically, their arguments are much like those used by abortion advocates in the abortion debate.)

After the insert-your-own-term-here, everything should be fine, but she feels off physically and emotionally. Martin starts experiencing strange dreams and visions, but nobody takes her concerns seriously. Instead, she finds herself increasingly alienated from her supposed support system.

Of course, you can easily guess some of the skullduggery, because it is mandated by the film’s sexual politics. That is the problem with polemical films. They are so inevitably predictable. Fortunately, Lee and cinematographer Pavel Pogorzelski crafted some nicely eerie-looking scenes, which makes the film watchable. Honestly, if you are okay with laughing through Pierce Brosnan’s smug, preening villainy, then the film is a fair amount of fun.

Fittingly, Brosnan plays Dr. Hindle like the cartoon caricature that he is. Justin Theroux is a poor man’s substitution for John Cassavetes (the husband in
Rosemary’s Baby, whose influence on this film is impossible to miss). In contrast, Ilana Glazer goes all-in breaking down, cracking-up, and lashing-out as the slightly stressed Martin. Zainab Jah adds some nice dimension and provides about the only understated performance as the holistic midwife she seeks out. However, the real star is Gretchen Mol, who is responsible for a lion’s share of the entertainment as Hindle’s wildly psychotic head nurse.

This is exactly the sort of film critics overhype and over-praise just to make a point. It is a mess and it never delivers any real scares. However, if you are looking for an over-heated and overwrought dark thriller, it definitely comes through with the frenzied psychodrama. Recommended for fans of
Mommie Dearest, False Positive starts streaming this Friday (6/25) on Hulu.