A misguided mix of social commentary and horror
Lucy (Ilana Glazer) and Adrien (Justin Theroux) are a trendy, middle-class couple who are desperate to have a baby. Unfortunately, their efforts have been unsuccessful. But as Justin’s former med school mentor Dr.Hindle (Pierce Brosnan) has the skills needed to get Lucy pregnant, they seize upon the opportunity he offers them.
Of course, as this is more of a horror movie than a family drama, Lucy’s experience with Dr. Hindle is a disturbing one. As the movie goes on, she realises the doctor’s motives in helping her are far from pure and what’s worse, she starts to suspect her husband has something to do with Hindle’s seemingly evil plan. Or perhaps she just has “mommy brain.”
Apparently, this is something many women experience while pregnant and this is what Lucy is told by the doctor whenever she starts to fear he is doing something unnatural to her. So, could she be imagining things? Or is the doctor really up to no good?
The answer to these questions is finally revealed after a rather slow build-up. Lucy’s mental state is brought into question several times throughout the movie but as Brosnan gives a sinister performance as Hindle, it’s clear that something is amiss within his medical practices.
False Positive has been compared to Rosemary’s Baby, another horror piece about a pregnant woman, but Hindle is no satanist and Lucy does not give birth to the antichrist. Things do not go well with her pregnancy though and as the movie draws to a close, you may be disturbed by what you see on screen.
The movie is certainly very tense at times but it’s as much of a social commentary as it is a horror story. Lucy is constantly patronised by the male figures in her life and there are several instances of gaslighting. As such, the movie will resonate with any woman who has been humiliated by a man and made to feel silly or insignificant.
At this point, you might think the movie is worth watching. On the surface, it should appeal to both fans of gross-out horror and those who want to cut open the subject of male dominance with a scalpel. But unfortunately, the creative team behind this movie, including Glazer who provided the screenplay, fails to gel both aspects together. Every time the movie has something interesting to say about the mistreatment of women, the horror elements get in the way. As such the movie is more negative than positive.
There are far better horror movies about motherhood. I have already mentioned Rosemary’s Baby but Hereditary, The Babadook, and Goodnight Mommy are other worthy examples in this genre. There are far better movies about gaslighting too, including The Invisible Man and Unsane which also play with horror themes. False Positive pales in comparison, despite it’s similarities, so your time might be better spent rewatching one of those other movies than giving this one a go.
The lack of originality isn’t the movie’s only problem. Never once does it fully engage and this is partly due to the occasional wooden acting. This isn’t the say the actors aren’t talented but the script doesn’t give them a lot to work with. Then there’s the movie’s direction. It isn’t awful and there are occasional moments of invention but for the most part, it comes across like a daytime TV movie. Everything is rather bland and flat, so while the director achieves levels of competence, he never does anything to breathe fresh life into the genre he is playing into.
The movie’s conclusion is also problematic. The last 20 minutes or so undermine what has come before, as Lucy, who we have previously felt sorry for, does things that are seemingly out of character. We have been led to believe that she doesn’t have “mommy brain” but as her behaviour spins wildly out of control, there is the assumption that she isn’t in full control of her faculties. The fact that she has been physically and mentally abused can be held up as the reason for this but it still doesn’t feel authentic.
The people who gave birth to this movie clearly had some good ideas so it’s just a shame that the themes they have touched upon aren’t realised to their full potential. There are chilling moments to be sure and fans of David Cronenburg will appreciate the final image of Lucy and her offspring. But this is still a second-rate horror movie. Watching it might be less painful than giving birth but it’s not a movie that you will care for.
Verdict - 5/10