Friday, February 27, 2015

Progeny - 1998

I'm frankly surprised Brian Yuzna and Stuart Gordon are not better known, more revered, and are not still active today.  Their movies give the impression of people with a passion, a desire to make film, and original thought and creativity.  Sure, they are in their late 60's today, but many actors and directors are in it till death.  Perhaps it is just health, perhaps it is lack of funding.  Whatever the reason, it's sad that these two pioneers have perhaps filmed their last movies already.

Everyone knows Re-Animator as a quintessential 80's horror film.  And as I've reviewed in my blog, From Beyond is also a tremendous horror film.  Their movies are highly original, interesting, well done, well acted, creepy, and technically well executed.

A lot of Yuzna's films seem to revolve around intelligent people who are also a little crazy, or are messed up in a crazy situation.  The Dentist 1 and 2 is all about the mental deterioration of the titular dentist, his two Re-Animator films of course revolve around the little crazy and brilliant scientist main character.  And while it is not uncommon for horror films to have these types of main characters, it is kind of interesting to note that.

Progeny is in the same group.  The main character is Doctor Craig Burton (Arnold Vosloo, from those new Mummy movies).  He and his wife Sherry are making love one night when a bright light envelopes them and they discover that 2 hours has vanished.  While Sherry sort of dismisses it, he is stuck on how strange that really was.  When he develops a reaction to bright lights and surgical tools, he checks himself into therapy and undergoes regression hypnosis.  He discovers he remembers someone in their room, being lifted off his wife, and her being taken away.

Then Sherry announces to Craig that she is pregnant.  All is joyful, but too brief, as soon the pregnancy starts to cause her pain, and she pinpoints the night of conception to that horrible night when Craig remembers her being taken.  He has Sherry undergo hypnosis, and she tells a horror story of white squirmy aliens, experimentation, and a very creepy, well done impregnation by the aliens.

Soon, Dr. Craig Burton and Sherry begin to drift apart, it could be the influence from the thing inside her but she begins to want to keep the baby, and he wants to get it out of her.  When Craig hears of a alien specialist named Dr. Clavell (Brad Dourif), he calls him and tries to get his help.  Now it's up to the two of them to force whatever is growing inside of Sherry out.

This movie was pretty amazing.  It was very thoughtful, it was just the right level of realistic and sciency.  What I love about some movies like this is the strict line they walk between what is revealed and what is not.  This movie really never comes out and says explicitly if the aliens actually exist or not.  All we know is what these people remember from their hypnosis, that and a few things the main characters see, but those that could be written off as stress related visions.

Another thing this movie touches on, briefly, is why the aliens would look like they do.  It's a brief, slightly confusing sentence, spoken by alien expert Clavell, but it's smart, and a great little touch.  Another cool thing is that as the aliens have Sherry experience all these past memories while they have her.  There are these brief flashes she has, memories of her childhood, of random other things.  It is a really cool idea to show exactly what the aliens are doing.  We never really know their ultimate goal here, but you would have to think if aliens did exist, they would not only be experimenting with one part of the humans they kidnapped.

There is also some witty dialogue spoken in the film, which was very well written in general.  One thing I loved was a segment where Dr. Clavell dresses up as a doctor and tries to get Sherry out of the hospital.  Sherry, under the fetus's control, says the great line "He wants to take my baby!  He's a UFO expert!"  and the nurse says "She's flying tonight."  It was a funny moment.  Another cool part is when Craig convinces Clavell to help him.  He offers Clavell the one thing he would need to really prove that aliens exist - solid evidence.  It's just a very realistic, thoughtful approach to keep the story making sense, give the characters justification, and remind us that even though it's a movie, some things really do need explanation.

I also liked the ending a lot.  To spoil it for you, Clavell runs out on Craig in another great segment as he realizes just how carried away with this Craig is.  Craig is then operating on his wife alone, trying to remove the alien from her stomach.  He kills her, injecting her with a drug that will stop her heart, because he thinks this will cause the alien to leave her body.  It does, but then the hospital staff busts the door down.  Then Craig notices it's twenty minutes later than he thought it was.  Meaning, the alien has escaped...and his wife is dead.  You see, he could have brought her back, within three minutes only though.  So the fact the aliens came, wiped his memory, and took twenty minutes of his time means that effectively he was not there to bring his wife back to life, and he is now guilty of her death.

It's a great ending because it pulls no punches, it actually kills her.  Then we get a short segment where Craig, in jail, disappears.  Did the aliens come again, or is it his imagination?  We just never know.  It's a fitting end to a great film.

One other small bonus.  I really had to think about the nudity in this film from a different standpoint than normal.  There isn't much number one, just some shots of Sherry topless.  But it's always done with the aliens, and it's always done in connection with her helplessness and fear.  Thus it does not come off as sexual, which I think was a great achievement.  It comes off as like if you were to view a naked dead body, or when you have to get naked with a doctor.  Cold, unwanted, forced and departed.  It's the kind of thing where it's like watching a really rough rape scene in a movie.  Usually you're not aroused, instead you're kind of grimacing and wondering if you should look away.

I did not want to rate this 5 stars.  I think I should give it 4.  Writing that review made me think 5 was appropriate, but I do think I'll stick to 4. It's just not as good as From Beyond, or Re-Animator, or those other 5 star movies.  It's a little more slow paced, not as many effects, lower budget, and perhaps a bit more amateur in feel.  And given it's late 90's, it should not be "not-as-good" as mid eighties work.  But it is still a great movie, a classic, I highly recommend.

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