'Clock' review: Psychological thriller puts spooky spin on baby fever
Courtesy of Hulu
Equal parts inspired by “Rosemary’s Baby,” and elements of “A Clockwork Orange,” the new Hulu original horror film “Clock” puts a fresh, psychological spin on how women deal with fertility and whether or not having children is for them. The movie examines its main character through the lens of her biological clock and the pressure endured by friends and family members to procreate. “What are you going to do all day?” she’s asked nonchalantly by a close ally who just popped out child #2.
Writer/director Alexis Jacknow’s feature debut asks plenty of these questions, but the way it examines how society feels a woman’s sole purpose is to produce children presents a fascinating exploration into the psychosis of someone struggling to alter their mindset. This coming at a time when female autonomy is practically non-existent and birthrates are drastically declining. Thinking about these subjects and how they relate to everyday life proves a solid horror exercise on its own merits, but “Clock” tries to throw an “Insidious” spin halfway through the movie (complete with a tall scary figure that looks rejected from “The Conjuring” universe) that doesn’t entirely work. The mental instability is enough juice, we didn’t need physical manifestations to get the point across. It's kind of silly.
Dianna Agron shines playing Ella Patel, a 37 year old interior decorator who enjoys living a child-free life. Her days consist of cooking, mastering her craft, and having a healthy sex life with husband Aiden (Jay Ali). It’s a routine that offers plenty of fulfillment, but her friends and family don’t see the appeal: often inquiring about why she hasn’t started a family. None more so than her father Joseph (Saul Rubinek) who practically scolds her for dismantling the bloodline that dates back to the Holocaust. Even a yearly visit to a gynecologist echoes the sentiments of everyone within her orbit. No matter where she goes, baby fever follows. The time is now.
In an attempt to tweak her lack of enthusiasm for having a child, Ella enrolls in a shady clinical trial with Dr. Elizabeth Simmons (Melora Hardin - eerily diabolical). The trial was created to alter the brain chemistry of the participants, complete with 3D rorschach tests, weightless water therapy, and pills that eventually makes them want children. Word to the wise, whenever weird doctors hand you a pill without context and say: “Take this” - maybe don’t.
Naturally, Ella’s journey to correct her urges comes with consequences: she begins having visions and hallucinations that affect daily activities. Not to mention an implant given at the end of her trial renders intercourse mute (as her husband accidentally finds out). These schlocky/conventional jump scares and cheap musical cues serve as distractions from the real horror: psychological trauma. Like Alex in “A Clockwork Orange” who underwent an intense series of mind altering tests, Ella’s journey turns her into something she never was, and the way Jacknow incorporates symbolic imagery with a desaturated color palette (and nursery from hell) solidifies she’s a rising filmmaker everyone should be watching.
CLOCK debuts on Hulu Friday, April 28th.