Director, Zack Parker, a member of contemporary horror’s “splat pack”, offers an unsettling and brutal glimpse into the lives of grief-stricken parents and the fractured events after the murder of their children. Motives and sanity jockey for place in what has to be one of the most unconventional horror films of the last few years. While the film is certainly cerebral, there’s no shortage of violence. Common with horror films, the visual aspect is overwhelming, but the things that occur off-screen drives the film to darker waters. Be prepared if you undertake this two-hour lesson in sucker punching.
Meet Ester (Alexia Rasmussen), a young mom-to-be, receiving her last ultrasound a mere two weeks before the scheduled birth of her child. The morose woman discusses the typical things any woman in her position would. The tempo is already nerve-wracking; call it permanent damage created by Roman Polanski all the way back with ‘Rosemary’s Baby‘. Horror films that explore childbirth and pregnancy hit below the belt in my opinion, and this is no exception. Ester leaves her appointment and is brutally attacked on the street, her child murdered by a hooded robber’s weapon of choice – a brick. When this was showing at festivals, an actual warning preceded the film, letting audiences know exactly what was in store for them. If you need evidence that this isn’t another mainstream popcorn muncher, you find it in the first five minutes.
Ester regains consciousness at the hospital, still sullen and withdrawn, and now with visible external scars from the attack. Her behavior never reaches that of a woman dealing with the outright murder of her unborn child, and that serves as a bizarre focal point that assuredly gets worse. Alone in life, Ester finds the hospital social worker’s therapy suggestion to be an option, and explores help with other women dealing with the trauma of a violent crime. It’s there that she meets Melanie Michaels (Alexa Havins), a woman also grieving with the loss of a child. Havins is remarkable in her role, and it’s one that quickly forces the viewer to reassess Melanie’s story and motives. Her husband, Patrick (Joe Swanberg, You’re Next, The Sacrament) is dealing with the loss in a different light, and the way these three central character intersect is one that will make your jaw drop.
Parker weaves the film together carefully, exploring the methods of classic directors like Cronenberg, De Palma, and even Kuberick, Hope you enjoy interior hallway shots, because the film is deft at presenting them. Parker channels Hitchock in a teeth-grinding bathtub scene, exploring the zombie-like Ester, who may or may not be the central protagonist/antagonist of ‘Proxy‘. Brimming with insane reversal of fortunes and dispassionate appeal as the films abruptly shifts tone and interchanges characters, ‘Proxy’ touches on true insanity. I was forced to draw limited conclusions as the film ticked down to an equally powerful and bizarre climax. If anything, the film touches on how broken we are, how we find perverted friendship in the face of tragedy, even skewing obvious tragedy for our own satisfaction. ‘Proxy‘ will most likely ruin your evening if you’re a casual horror fan, so tread carefully, friends.