OCTOBER 10, 2010
Just when I thought I’d had enough of “let’s tie a woman up and do stuff to her” movies, along comes The Clinic, which gives the sub-genre a breath of fresh air, thanks to a unique scenario, a decent twist, and way above average technical and acting qualities. I’m actually kind of bummed that I opted for a goddamn Blu-ray screening of Texas Chain Saw Massacre at Frightfest over this film, which was showing at the same time (on the smaller screen). Stupid BC!
Along with Inside and Grace, maybe I just have a thing for mothers dealing with some truly horrible pregnancy issues? The titular clinic is a place where mothers that are near birth are given c-sections (not by choice) and then set loose. Some want to band together to find their babies, others just want to escape by any means necessary. Why the babies were taken, and why the mothers weren’t just killed, becomes clear in the film’s final moments, and while it’s not too surprising, it is pretty damn unique, and more than makes up for some of the film’s weak spots, such as the generic opening, with a couple stopping at some out of the way place run by weirdos, only for their situation to turn grim before the night is through.
However, since the film is set in 1979, I can’t question why the characters haven’t seen the 560 million horror movies that start out this way, because many of them didn’t exist yet. And the period also keeps the movie from having the standard “no signal” cell phone scene, or explaining away other modern elements that ruin the plotting of horror movies – I’m actually surprised we don’t see more period horror films because of this.
There are two minor twists after the big revelation though, and they require perhaps a bit too much of your suspension to be disbelieved. The first isn’t too bad – it’s telegraphed earlier in the film at least, and it fits with the “geography” of the story (trying not to spoil). The other is a bit ridiculous though, as our protagonist visits a grave at the exact right time to see someone else that’s important to the story. Maybe if the graveyard keeper saw her at the grave and had made a comment like “Oh, do you know (so-and-so)?” it would be a bit easier to swallow, but I’m just not a big fan of coincidences in movies to begin with, and two in a row irked me.
Another minor gripe is that it takes our formerly pregnant ladies a bit too long to make sense of the Roman numerals on their hospital gowns. Granted, if it’s 1979 they haven’t gotten to the Friday the 13th series yet, and Rocky was only at II, but still, even if they didn’t know the exact number “translation”, they still shouldn’t have taken half the movie to figure out “We’re not the first women they’ve taken”. No shit! Also, the number seems a bit high, in the 600s or something. I know Australia is a hotbed of criminal activity (and flies – I was consistently tickled by the fact that flies were constantly landing on characters’ faces throughout the film), but if 600+ women had disappeared in a particular area over a period of maybe 30 years, shouldn’t someone have noticed by now? I would have backed the number down to about 200, tops.
It’s a shame actor Andy Whitfield is currently battling cancer (I look forward to his full recovery!), because in a perfect world he would not only be healthy, but also be getting the roles Sam Worthington gets. They have a similar shape and look, but the difference is, Whitfield is actually interesting to watch, and capable of making a compelling character. He doesn’t get much to do, since the focus is primarily on the mother (the equally impressive Tabrett Bethell), but he gets a number of good moments. Sometimes in a structure like this, you’ll be enjoying the A plot too much to want to cut to the B plot (think Saw V, or any Saw depending on your like/dislike of the guy being tested), and this could have been no exception if not for the fact that Whitfield makes for an enjoyable man on a mission.
The movie also has one of the best “Oh shit...” scares in recent memory. You know the type, where someone will walk into a room and realize that the knife or other object that they just laid down is now missing, or like in Halloween when Annie’s car door is suddenly unlocked and it takes her a moment to realize it. Here, it’s a little counter that ticks off whenever someone goes through a door. One of our non-heroine mothers walks through and sees that the door is now at 001. She looks around a bit, finds nothing, heads toward the exit, and sees that it now reads 002. OH SHIT.... It’s an awesome moment that I just spoiled for everyone.
My last two notes say “Walken” and “Music”. Walken refers to the fact that the clinic’s handicapped janitor sounds like Christopher Walken. And I always write “music” when I like the music, but I don’t know why, because there’s not much to say about it. I liked the music. That’s it.
The film has already been released in Australia (or at least, has a distributor to do so), but not in the States as of yet, which is a shame (and somewhat surprising, given the success of Spartacus). Hopefully that will be rectified soon. In the meantime, ask yourself this – between this and Lost, do fictional Australian women ever have nice, uncomplicated pregnancies?
What say you?