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Review: Indie Chiller ‘Proxy’ Mixes Pop Psychology With Horror Movie Clichés

Review: Indie Chiller 'Proxy' Mixes Pop Psychology With Horror Movie Clichés

There’s something deeply mysterious to some about pregnancy. It’s a beautiful, important, wholly miraculous event that still carries with it an element of the unknown. And that element, that nagging itch at the back of every parent or would-be parent’s mind, is the kind of thing that is ripe for cinematic exploration. Countless horror movies have played up the fears, both psychological and physiological, that go into pregnancy and the best (“Rosemary’s Baby,” “Inside,” the original “Alien“) find a way to acknowledge the process’ specialness while also acknowledging the fear of the unknown. What’s interesting about “Proxy” is that it plays with all of the ephemera associated with pregnancy – the way that a person’s psychology can warp around it – but too often gets bogged down in B-movie clichés and an unnecessarily convoluted narrative that strives for profundity but comes across as crass and dull.

At least it starts out with a genuine shock: young mother-to-be Esther (Alexia Rasmussen) is walking home from a doctor’s visit when she’s attacked by an unknown assailant in a red hoodie (shades of Nicolas Roeg‘s brilliant “Don’t Look Now” are certainly intended but undeserved). Not only does this hooded figure knock her down but the assailant also starts to beat her pregnant belly with a large brick. The camera is unflinching; the attack continues for what seems like forever. Even though the effect is unconvincing, it still produces a guttural queasiness.

Afterwards, Esther is in shock, and begins to go to counseling for the trauma. What’s especially shocking is that the unknown hooded figure who attacked her is actually her girlfriend Anika (Kristina Klebe), acting on orders from Esther. Clearly Esther is psychologically unwell, but there’s not enough time given to her mental sate. Instead, it’s a very breezy, pop psychology look at postpartum depression and the idea of an unwanted pregnancy getting taken care of in the most desperate way possible. (There’s no real discussion of why she just didn’t get an abortion way earlier, or even who the father was). Instead of dwelling on these issues, it shuffles Esther into a “Fatal Attraction“-ish relationship with another woman from her support group, Melanie (Alexa Havins).

Melanie has had a similar tragedy befall her, but now she’s better–she’s got a loving husband (Joe Swanberg) and an adorable young son with yarn-colored hair. Of course, since this is a midnight movie with art house aspirations, the relationship between Melanie and Esther becomes increasingly close and unstable, especially with Anika serving as the explosive third point of this romantic triangle. At one point they have an intimate moment and Melanie says, “Oh but I’m not a lesbian,” to which Esther replies, “Me neither.” Esther is starting to crack though, and at about the movie’s midway point travels to Melanie’s house and commits a truly violent act.

Again, the movie tries to weave this dreamlike vibe, at the cost of narrative clarification. It is clearly something about how guilt and pain can be transferred, like a virus, from one person to another, after some seismic event in someone’s life. The violent attack on Esther serves to drive the story forward, leading to further violence, always radiating outwards, in cosmic waves, from pregnancy or childbirth. And this is an interesting idea, for sure, but after this horrific event at the one-hour mark, the movie is still less than halfway over. So instead of really being about any of these things, it shifts back into textbook thriller mode, and offers a bunch of unsatisfying subplots that jangle uneasily inside the movie’s larger framework.

Melanie is now presented as the main character, and survivor of this horrific event, but her sanity is called into question as well. And Anika, wracked with guilt, has a little revenge subplot where she figures out what happened to her beloved girlfriend and sets out to make things right (since we already know she is capable of great violence, especially in the name of love). There are a bunch of sequences in the second half of the movie that maybe happen but could only have transpired in the character’s warped imaginations. It’s frustrating and unsatisfying and way, way, way too long, dragging endlessly when it should have moved swiftly.

By the end of the movie’s two hour plus (!) runtime, writer/director Zack Parker seems to be saying one thing, over and over and over again: women be crazy. It’s an unhelpful and exhausting sentiment, especially when he decides to throw in some super cheesy dream sequences towards the finale (or are they..?). The idea that a pregnancy can alter a woman’s mind as much as her body is a fascinating one, and ripe for this kind of horror movie treatment, although to tackle a subject like this it takes sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and a willingness to push the audience to uncomfortable places. Instead, “Proxy” plays things relatively safe, a movie starring and about women that’s soaked through with misogyny. There are a number of gifted participants, both in front of and behind the camera, like Klebe, who starred in Rob Zombie‘s bold retelling of “Halloween,” and Swanberg, whose section of the first “V/H/S” was a delightfully subversive horror romp. You’d think that somebody, at some point, would have stopped and asked Parker what he was trying to do. Instead, the filmmaker just spins in circles, saying nothing and achieving even less. It’s a shame, too. He could have given birth to something beautiful. [D]

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Wow. You blatantly spoiled all three of the film's major twists. Way to coddle your audience, Mr. Taylor.

Emperor Zerg Rush

Swanberg's segment from V/H/S was hardly horror at all and more a bad sci-fi short story.

Jensen Wright


While I agree this film isn’t as great as many state, it seems the reviewer has completely missed the point of the film. He seems to have missed the fact that the Melanie character was only PRETENDING to have lost her son and husband. She hasn’t gone on to get a new one! Similarly, it’s not a mystery why Esther wanted her girlfriend to attack her. The movie is called “PROXY” — this makes it all the more blatant. Both of these women are addicted to the attention they get through tragedy (i.e. Munchhausen by _PROXY_). Esther openly states that she didn’t want to be a mother; she only wanted to be pregnant because of the attention she got. Both women attended a support group for the same reasons — only Esther went to more gruesome extremes to reach that point.

While I don’t think this is a particularly great film (it could certainly benefit from some intense editing and possibly some reshoots of the worst performances), I do feel the writer of this review should go back and rewatch, paying more attention to what is actually unfolding. It may drastically affect how he viewed the film.


    thank you for bringing that up.How they offend themselves. Narcistist who with children dont recognize their heir and reverse the flow of energy when they have a ligit case of extension of you. women Traumatized in materity wards are prone to or it is munhausen in its owncase with goal of money on part of doctors. Women continue this by continuing the tale of a sick child his entire life, oh the doctors said she would not make it, she did not breath right away, etra.


    Munchause by proxy means the proxy is the sick one, you are describing an enabler. A five year old with supposed ADHD, OR KEPT INSIDE POISONED IS THE PROXY.


fear you will be a bad parent as in the disapoint ment rooms, but fear of pregnant procccess is bogus. cutting hair and watch it walk off would be closer fear.. it shows infection by parsitic being living off of you, something done to you. they show demons confusing this with possession, telling you your child is not yours. Films like switched at birth match the fear of it not being yours. pregnant is the time womb buids a fetus, yes she creatiting a body over time, a passive puppet she animates. make a movie your clipped nails attacking, would be just as stupid and on par.

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