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Proxy (2013)

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Prisoners (2013)Starring Alexia Rasmussen, Alexa Havins, Kristina Klebe, Joe Swanberg

Directed by Zack Parker


Scalene director Zack Parker is back with his most acrimonious film to date: Proxy, an unnerving and modern-day Hitchcockian thriller for the Mumblecore generation.

The film challenges viewers right off the start with a jarring intro as we are forced to witness Esther (Rasmussen), a very pregnant woman, getting her stomach caved in by a brick-wielding hooded attacker. After the brutal assault, an already troubled and lonesome Esther seeks solace in a grief recovery support group for women and meets Melanie (Havins), a beautiful and affable woman who is also dealing with the loss of her husband and child.

Esther’s sad life is brightened up with this new genuine friendship, until one day she sees Melanie at a department store and realizes nothing about her is what it seems; but her deceptions only make Esther more attracted to her, leading to an unpredictably deplorable and appalling incident that completely changes the tone of the film from there on in.

Framed like a De Palma-esque melodrama, Proxy effectively manipulates the audience while also providing lurid perversion and copious twists and turns in a sleazy and erotic Giallo-inspired plot. Whatever you think you know about Proxy in the first hour is completely ignored as it drastically switches gears, and those who are fans of Psycho and Dressed to Kill will certainly welcome the punishing change of pace.

TIFF 2013: Proxy ReviewThe film is driven by strong female performances as Alexia Rasmussen, Alexa Havins and Kristina Klebe (who plays Esther’s angry, jilted and threatening girlfriend) bring life to their divisive and unlikable characters in attention-grabbing ways. Many viewers will also appreciate Joe Swanberg, whose standout minor role is especially essential to the film’s plot and – unlike any of the other characters – is the only one viewers will be able to relate to.

Although Proxy is full of shock value, it should be noted that at a running time of 120 minutes, the film moves at an overly meandering and indulgent pace that definitely hinders the overall enjoyment of the periodic surprises throughout. If Parker had just cut 30 minutes or so, it could have been the top-quality suspenseful thriller that it definitely sets out to be.

A word of advice: Proxy is not for the weak-hearted or easily offended. The film is full of challenging bits of violence that will unquestionably upset many mainstream viewers. However, if you can make it through the film’s unrelenting first ten minutes, then you will be able to venture onto the surreal, gory and sexually-charged journey that, although it takes awhile to get to its climax, is definitely worth taking.

3 1/2 out of 5

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Serena Whitney