Horror. Worldview. Faith.

Pro-Life – Review

Pro-Life – Review

Jul 1, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by John Carpenter, 2006

Pro-Life is the second effort from famed horror director John Carpenter for the incredibly wonderful Master’s of Horror television series created by Showtime.  The story depicts an ultra-conservative father named Dwayne Burcell (Ron Perlman) who becomes irate when he learns his pregnant, underage daughter is being treated inside an abortion clinic against his wishes.  Come to find out, this clinic already has a restraining order against Burcell for previous threatening behavior, but the stakes are much higher now that his daughter is inside.  All we know about the daughter, Angelique, is that she was running from someone or something at the beginning of the film and was picked up along the road by two doctors – two doctors who just so happened to work at the aforementioned clinic.  Thinking he heard a voice directly from God to “protect the baby”, Dwayne and his three sons storm the clinic, killing anyone who gets in their way.

As we learn more about Burcell and his determination to “free” his daughter, we also learn more about how she become pregnant.  She tells the shocking story of how a demon dragged her below the surface of the earth and raped her.  She is convinced that the baby inside her is of the devil and wants it destroyed immediately.  Unfortunately, demon babies apparently develop much faster than human babies, because instead of the normal 9 months for gestation, this demon baby caused Angelique to go into labor in a matter of days.  When she arrived at the clinic, she looked only a couple of months pregnant.  A few hours later, she was delivering.  Meanwhile, Burcell is busy giving the head doctor of the clinic a dose of his own medicine.  In a disturbing scene, Burcell and his son use a suction device on the lead doctor to show him what “sucking the life” out of a human is all about.  Pretty rough.

Finally, Angelique delivers the baby and sure enough, it is a whacked out demon looking creature not unlike the creature we see burst from Norris’ chest in Carpenter’s classic 1982 film The Thing.   At this point, the film adds another ingredient to the mix.  The demon father, who looks exactly like what you figure a demon might look like, shows up at the hospital to claim his baby.  Before the demon makes his way to the delivery room, he comes face to face with Burcell.  The climatic point of the movie occurs at this moment when the demon speaks to Burcell and says, “protect the baby.”  Yep, it was the voice of a demon, not God, that Burcell was hearing the entire time, making his rampage a demonic act rather than a holy one.  Sensing that she only has a few more minutes, Angelique takes a gun and shoots the baby in the head just as the demon father comes in the room.  Grieving over the death of his baby, the demon picks up his child, ignoring Angelique, and carries him sadly back to hell.  The film ends.

The title alone of this film along with above synopsis would lead one to believe that Carpenter is attempting to make a huge social and political statement.  Amazingly, it just isn’t the case.  I have given Pro-Life a good deal of thought in the last couple of days since viewing it and I am convinced that Carpenter used a hot-bed issue not to provide social commentary of his own, but simply as a way to create a powerful backdrop to the story he really wanted to tell – parents and their relationship with children.  In some ways, Carpenter paints a very sympathetic picture of Burcell.  It is a man who, misguided he may be by his solution, is convinced that abortion is murder and does not want his daughter engaging in that kind of activity.  Add to that the pious, religious angle and I suppose some would write off Burcell as just a fundamental religious zealot with no intellect or sense of right and wrong.  I don’t see that here.  Yes, he is out of control and heavily misinterpreting the messages he receives, but the love of family is what drives him more than anything else.  The same is true for the demon.  Both Burcell and the demon are trying to save their own flesh and blood and Carpenter reminds us of the strong bind between parent and child, a bond that creates the ultimate kind of pain when a child is taken away.

Pro-Life is not a great film, but it has redeeming moments and from frame one is an exciting, non-stop action horror movie.  Due to the 60 minute time constraint, character development is difficult to achieve, but this is off-set by the incredible performance from Ron Perlman who has made a career of dominating every scene he is in.  Some of the demon scenes come across a bit cheesy, but they quickly give way to the serious undertones of the film and do provide a few genuine scares.  John Carpenter is a legendary director who has had a poor run the last several years with his box-office attempts.  It is nice to see that he still “has it.”  This movie is not as effective as Carpenter’s other Masters of Horror attempt Cigarette Burns, but it is still worth the hour of your life to watch it.

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