Year of Release: 2006
Date Viewed: July 1st, 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated (Made for Television)
Out of all discussion topics that are bound to instigate strong emotions, I can't think of a more uncomfortable conflict to get stuck in than when the abortion issue arises. One of the most common arguments heard from its opponents is that all births are God's will. Interfering with God's will is of course sinful and blasphemous. This Masters of Horror tale directed by John Carpenter takes that idea and flips it around. What if there's an event where it's God's will to prevent something from being born? The word "something" is not a typo.
The film opens with teenage girl Angelique (Caitlin Wachs) running alone through the woods of a semi-rural town. There's a look of fear and panic on her face. She reaches the highway only to get nearly run over by two doctors; Alex (Mark Feuerstein) and Kim (Emmanuelle Vaugier). While trying to restore the girl's composure, they notice that her figure shows the mid-point physical signs of pregnancy. Angelique accepts their offer of an evaluation at the nearby clinic. The incident came not a moment too soon because close on the trail is Angelique's estranged father Dwayne (Ron Perlman). Due to one or more non-detailed incidents at the clinic, Dwayne is bound by a restraining order that prevents him from getting anywhere close to the building. He knows Angelique is inside and of her pregnancy but has no knowledge of the circumstances. He also knows that the clinic employs doctors that specialize in abortion procedures. As a staunch follower of Christianity and its pro-life dispositions, the idea of his daughter being subjected to something contrarian is unacceptable to him.
The doctors are only interested in monitoring Angelique's health especially since they're aware of her father's reputation. But Angelique pleads to have the fetus aborted, insisting that it's God's will. She refuses to explain the pregnancy's origins because the story is too nonsensical to be believed. But the doctors soon realize that the situation is anything but typical when the three trimesters of pregnancy seem to be progressing within mere hours. Time is running short to make a decision. Meanwhile, Dwayne makes preparations to make the decision for them. Armed with guns and his three allegiant sons, he storms the clinic for a firefight between pro-life and pro-choice with one side vowing to win at any cost. Even a human cost.
I wouldn't have believed this to be a John Carpenter film if his name wasn't flashed at the title sequence. Underneath all that camp and shock scares, I think of Carpenter as a filmmaker who follows in the tradition of Stanley Kubrick that often has something to say about society. His films are typically grounded on satire and symbolism. We don't get to see very much of that here. That might be because his role was strictly limited to the director's chair although there's usually no way of finding out for sure. There are indeed true cases about fanatical pro-life devotees who have violently attacked abortion clinics to advance their cause. And there are countless individuals who unquestioningly devote themselves to religion without exceptions. But despite all these openings for social commentary, Dwayne's character is little more than an average loon who belongs in an asylum for the insane. The climatic firefight plays out like the ending of a B-movie western. "You have my daughter!" "She's safe away from you!" "You shot my son!" "He shot first!" "You're a murderer!" You're insane!" (Not actual quotes.)
As for the supernatural side of things, (this is a Masters of Horror episode after all) Carpenter's take on hell's breeding grounds is uncharacteristically comical. I mean to say that he's done comical themes before but it's odd to see it so imbalanced here with true-to-life issues. When the evil being's form is revealed, my reaction ranged from initial shock to hysterical laughter. It's frightening yet so typical.
Dwayne's mental breakdown pushes all other angles to the back seat. He kills doctors, their employers and even innocent bystanders all in the name of God. Ron Perlman doesn't fit my preconceived image of a religious fanatic but no doubt fits naturally into the psycho role as he always does. Those who enjoy gore-fests in their horror films will be delighted at the exaggerated ways the victims bite the bullets. And that's practically all that can be said about this movie. Despite having subject matter that challenges boldness, Pro-Life declines to take a life of its own. One could argue that the topic is far too touchy and redundant to make a distinctive message. I think there is a lot of psychological factors left to be explored. Unfortunately for guys like me though, nobody involved in the production noticed or gave a damn.
Pro-Life is currently available to watch for free (legally) at IMDB, Hulu and YouTube.