Judge Eric Profancik is Pro Bono.
"God wants you to kill my baby."
It's a pretty clever idea. Take directors currently considered to be masters in their genre and get them to make a movie for you. Really, that's a darn good idea. Get the best and they'll give you the best. It appears that the realm of horror is the first to capitalize on this grand idea, bringing together such esteemed talent as John Carpenter, Takahsi Miike, Dario Argento, Don Coscarelli, and others.
Facts of the Case
Angelique (Caitlin Wachs, Commander in Chief), a teenager, is pregnant. She doesn't want this child, and the situation is greatly complicated by her father, Dwayne (Ron Perlman, Star Trek: Nemesis), who is decidedly pro-life. As she's trying to get away from her father, she luckily runs into Kim (Emmanuelle Vaugier, Saw II) and Alex (Mark Feuerstein, The West Wing), workers at the nearby women's clinic. They take her inside—instantly causing a problem with Dwayne, who has repeatedly protested the clinic, leading to a restraining order. The doctors at the clinic are respectful of Angelique's situation and keep her inside, which forces Dwayne and his sons to take aggressive action to get inside the clinic. But that's only the start of the problem, for Angelique's pregnancy is bizarre: She claims a demon impregnated her. As Dwayne fights his way in and Angelique's pregnancy progresses at an alarming stage, all hell will break loose at the clinic.
I'm a newbie to the Masters of Horror series. Now I know all about this Showtime series. But what I don't understand is why this series, only two seasons and twenty-six stories old, is being released one episode at a time? Why not the full season release? Why force a fan to shell out an MSRP of $14.95 for one hour of television? Certainly it isn't that hard to release all thirteen stories at once. It's a colossal slap in the face to fans. Just take a second to look at the history of TV on DVD and you'll see this selling style isn't the way to go.
Yet at least they can have an opportunity to see the stories and buy all the ones they like.
"Pro Life," the fifth episode from the Second Season, is my first (and probably only) taste of the series, and it's impressive. You can't judge the entirety of the seasons from one story—especially considering the concept of using seasoned horror directors—but this is a quality spot of television. The director du jour is John Carpenter (The Thing), and we all know his spotty record. Luckily "Pro Life" falls into the good category with an intense, macabre, and chilling tale. It keeps you interested with a sick and twisted story.
What makes this hour of television click is the buildup. There's a lot of drama and tension. What's going on with Angelique? How far will Dwayne go to get his daughter? You're wondering and worrying. Unfortunately things fall apart when we get to the climax, and the setup turns out much better than the payoff. The ending leaves you a bit disappointed, not giving you total satisfaction to the lead in.
Some odds and ends about "Pro Life":
• Acting: Some do good work (Perlman, of course) and some do less than wholly believable work (Wachs and Feuerstein). This inconsistency is more distracting than it should be.
• Gore: This is a horror movie and there is the requisite splatter. Sadly, the two big gore moments are too phony and obviously CGI. There's one good, practical blood effect, and that's about it.
• Social Commentary: With a title like "Pro Life" that has characters on both sides of this hot issue, you can't avoid the message. But what is the message? It's one of tolerance and understanding. Perlman's character comes across as sane and passionate but not a whacko. The pro-choice doctors appear as caring, understanding people and not murderers. Surprise, the writers worked the story to avoid all the clichés and unnecessary political drama.
If you pick up the disc, you will be delighted with the transfers—for the most part. The 1.78:1 anamorphic print is top-notch, with everything clean and clear. Colors are bold and accurate, blacks are distinct and crisp, and sharpness and detail come right through. Audio is either a Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 mix. Listening to the former, I was first solidly impressed with the vibrant, rich detail of the dialogue, music, and surrounds. Everything was perfectly understandable, immersive, and sparkling without the slightest hiss or distortion. However, near the climax I was getting annoyed with an artistic choice. The score becomes repetitive, driven primarily from the rear; after five minutes it gets old. So, by the end of the hour, the rear channels were used just a bit too much.
For a one-hour story, you have a respectable assortment of extras. First is an interesting commentary track with John Carpenter and writers Drew McWeeney and Scott Swan. This one's a definite listen, quick and easy. (I especially enjoyed Carpenter's smoke break.) Next up are two featurettes, "Final Delivery: The Making of Pro Life" (14.25 minutes) and "Baby Steps: Birthing the FX Sequence" (5.5 minutes). The first is a good, general overview of the project, while the second is a fast review of, as the title says, the special effects of the demon birth. Rounding things out is a text-based biography of John Carpenter, a photo gallery, a DVD-ROM based script, and trailers for "Family," "Cigarette Burns" (both from Masters of Horror), Death Row, Devil's Den, Dead and Deader, and Hellboy: Blood and Iron.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Based on just "Pro Life," I have a strong feeling the Masters of Horror series on Showtime is some great stuff. For "Pro Life," while I found much to enjoy, I'm only giving this one a rental recommendation (for those sans Showtime, natch); This series needs releasing as full seasons, and anything less is simply taking advantage of fans. Still, it'll make a nice evening rental.
Masters of Horror: Pro Life is hereby found guilty of showing that a man in a rubber suit can still be a bit freaky with the right lighting and lots of smoke.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Audio Commentary with John Carpenter, Drew McWeeney, and Scott Swan
Review content copyright © 2007 Eric Profancik; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.