The phrase “not for the faint of heart” was made for Proxy‘s opening sequence, an eruption of more-is-more body horror beginning with a routine OB-GYN checkup and ending in an emergency C-section.
From there, Zack Parker’s film transitions into a lumbering psychodrama with minimal staging and the utmost self-seriousness. “Everything is just pieces, fragments,” the aggrieved Esther (a very good Alexia Rasmussen) tells her doctor of the attack that led to the loss of her pregnancy. “I couldn’t tell you what was real or not.”
Parker draws out mundane scenes in a manner that emphasizes the intermingling of dread and banality; you develop the sense early on that any sort of idyll is temporary, likely to be shattered at a moment’s notice. The writer-director tries to turn the gruesome into high drama — watch for Hannibal-esque blood spatter flying through the air in slo-mo as tense string music crescendos in the background.
The horror of parental grief is a mighty tradition, with such exemplars as Don’t Look Now and The Haunting of Julia inspiring many acolytes throughout the years, and though Proxy shows early signs of being worthy of that vaunted company, it’s brought down by some truly wooden performances and an inability to turn its interesting spark of an idea into a workable story.
Like a lot of conspiracy thrillers, the questions it raises prove more compelling than the answers it slowly teases out.