Masters of Horror: Pro-Life (DVD)
Directed by John Carpenter
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
There are only a few things that scare real men. Fat chicks in party hats could be one of those things. Discovering a sex tape made by your parents may be another. But only one thing cuts deep into the soul of every single male out there: unplanned pregnancy. Ho ho, kiss your freedom goodbye!
For women, most often, pregnancy is a wondrous thing. There's a certain glow about the female form when it has a bun in the oven. That's not so much the case for 15 year old Angelique (Wachs). Her little bundle of joy is scaring the crap out of her to the point that she is running through the woods to escape her religious father (Perlman). After a near fatal encounter with a car she is brought to the local woman's health clinic and it is only a matter of time before daddy dearest or the fetus inside her paint the walls red with blood.
Here it was: Carpenter's greatest chance to tackle a big issue. The big A isn't something often found in horror. Abortion, a horror in its own right to some, is ripe with possibilities to both scare, inform and educate. Now if only someone had thought about that before perverting this into a three ring circus of stupidity, silliness and failure.
Starting with the script would be the easiest thing. Strangely enough, "Pro-Life" hardly touches upon any of the issues surrounding abortion. Young Angelique is not once conflicted about her decision to kill the child inside her, nor does she think twice about what her anti-choice father would think. This is compounded by her father's totally insane way of dealing with the situation. Apparently for dear old dad, slaughtering everyone in the clinic seems like the wise choice, even those that have nothing to do with abortion. Makes sense, right? A man who so firmly believes in God would most certainly have his sons kill innocent people who just want to leave in peace! Smart writing.
Not only are our main characters brain dead and one dimensional, but the doctors too seem to have graduated from the Dr. Seuss school of magical malpractice. When a woman has been shot in the face with goo that burns her should you:
A) Take her to the closest eye wash station
B) Yell and scream like buffoons in mating season
If you answered "A" then you would be wrong. Never assume that your health care professional will know what to do in a time of crisis, that would be expecting too much.
What makes for an even sadder experience is that none of the cast ever seems to develop as the story unfolds. The there's the needless throw away characters. In the midst of all this drivel, the audience is then introduced to several other people who either die, go missing, or just stand around bewildered. What could it have been that made a film about abortion so bland and tasteless? The Devil!
Yes, Satan himself is to blame for this. You see, Angelique was impregnated by the Hell lord, or his distant reptilian cousin, in her back yard. This idea isn’t too bad. Sure it is not up to par with Rosemary’s Baby but there could still be hope. Well, there could have been hope until you actually see the thing that gets spit out of her vagina. He is part crab, part unknown beast and part human baby (the head anyway). Ultimately what we have here is a refuge from Carpenter's far superior, The Thing. This somehow doesn’t match up to the disgusting bastard that knocked her up in the first place. The Devil we are introduced to at the film’s climax is a large, horned man-lizard that resembles nothing of his offspring. Did daddy’s seed turn sour? In the end it feels that the entire project was built around the slaughter and the devil; the characters were totally secondary.
If a filmmaker is going to have such an out-there premise and boring leads why not deliver on the gore? This reviewer asked that same question after the anti-climatic ending. There is one decent head shot early on, but the opportunity for some real meat and potatoes happens off camera when Perlman gets to torture the clinics head doctor … instead of saving his daughter. Logic is this episode's worst enemy. After the excellent FX in "Pelts" (DVD review), there should be a mandatory rule set where off camera kills cannot be allowed. Dad had all these great abortion tools to use and the audience gets to see none of it being implemented against the doctor of death.
There is one bright star in this black pit of suck: baby head shot. Oh fuck yeah! Angelique picks up a gun that weighs more than her, holds it like a noob and manages to blow the devil kid's head apart with 1 shot in a badly lit room. Give this girl a pass to the Halo 3 beta! I want her on my team! Sickening, that one of the episode's flaws was its best feature.
Screw it. At least they didn't scrimp on the extras for this DVD. The boring features like the storyboard gallery, still gallery and biography of Carpenter can be easily skipped over unless you really, REALLY want to torture yourself by looking at Satan's STD child. Let's just move right along to the two featurettes: Demon Baby: Birthing The FX Sequence and Final Delivery: The Making of Pro-Life. The demon baby has only one really interesting FX feature from what can be gathered in the first featurette, and that is his head. A real infant was filmed on a green screen and then matted onto the puppet to give it a much more realistic appearance that no animatronic could have matched. The rest of the behind-the-scenes footage for the last featurette doesn't do much aside from re-explaining many of the things any horror fan should know about basic special effects, but this episode didn't offer too much to begin with so that is no surprise.
Before I wrap this up I would be remiss if I didn't mention the commentary track. Would you want to sit through this whole film again just to listen to Carpenter and writers Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan? Yes and no. It is interesting to listen all the party members discussing the political/religious views of the characters as if there was actually a meaty storyline to back them up. Sorry, but what film did you guys think you made? Because "Pro-Life" misses so many key points that you’ve just made an action packed, dumbed down version of a previous Devil rape film. Better luck next time.
"Pro-Life" is a hit and run film. Issues of responsibility, morality, faith and mortality are briefly touched upon, but they're left suddenly on the side of the road in favor of a sillier concept. A film like this could have opened up dialogue and minds about the issue of abortion, but crab-baby and lizard-devil daddy helped to turn this whole episode into a joke. There is never once a moment of revelation or even the simplest development of a character. "Pro-Life" is a total failure on every level imaginable.
1 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5
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