Proxy is a film where lots could be written, it’s just hard to know where to start. I’ll start by saying that it’s not really your modern-day horror film. A disturbing psychological thriller with plenty of horrific events, most definitely, but it never felt like outright horror to me.
Nevertheless, mental illness can be its own form of horror, right? And in Proxy, just about everyone is crazy. If you are looking for a horror film with some humor, this isn’t it. Viewers should go into the movie knowing that there are a lot of heavy topics – mental illness, child death and the stages of grief are all featured. It isn’t an easy film to watch.
The film starts pretty shockingly with heavily pregnant Esther Woodhouse getting assaulted and battered in the stomach with a brick. Not surprisingly, the baby doesn’t survive and Esther, an unemotional, reclusive character, played by Alexia Rasmussen, soon finds herself visiting a local support group for grieving mothers. It’s there that she is befriended by fellow attendee Melanie Michaels, played by Alexa Havins, who is there under the pretense that her husband, Patrick, and son, Peyton, were killed in a car crash.
But, as Esther soon finds out, both Melanie’s husband and son are alive and well. This discovery would both anger and scare most sane people – but Esther isn’t sane. A lesbian who seems to have an attraction to crazy people, she finds herself infatuated with Melanie, perhaps because she thinks they are alike in their need for attention.
Despite her interest in Melanie, Esther already has a girlfriend, Anika, who is also crazy but rather in a violent fashion. Anika is the mysterious assailant who attacked Esther and killed her baby, apparently at the behest of Esther, herself. Esther, who can’t even keep her pet fish alive, it turns out, never actually planned on having a child – she only became pregnant for the experience. She loved the attention it brought her, as she explains to Melanie.
Melanie doesn’t return her affections though, and Esther’s infatuation with her soon becomes obsessive stalking, which culminates with Esther breaking into Melanie’s house and killing Peyton, only to be killed by Patrick in return. And that’s the abrupt end of Esther.
From there, much of the film involves watching Melanie and Patrick each cope slowly and differently with the pain of losing their son. The situation is particularly ironic for Melanie, who once spent her free time pretending to be a grieving mother. And as they deal with their grief, Anika, played by Kristina Klebe, also deals with hers, mostly through the quest of revenge. The Michaels’ killed her girlfriend, so she will kill them. The final scene of the movie is a showdown between Melanie and Anika, and I won’t say who wins, but we do finally get a glimpse into what exactly is going on inside Melanie’s head. And as her motives in the film are never entirely clear, that was rewarding enough for me.
Proxy runs for a full two hours and it felt even longer. It drags at times, and truthfully, I don’t know if the story warrants the screen time it gets. From a filmmaking perspective though, it really is a beautiful, very artistic film, accompanied by an eerie original score from The Newton Brothers. Scenes such as the blood splattering Melanie’s face when Esther is shot made it a compelling film to watch, even when it dragged.
The L.A. Times calls Proxy “a worthy successor to Rosemary’s Baby”; and while I don’t know if I would go as far in praise as that, Proxy is a unique, thought-provoking film that really showcases Parker’s talent as a filmmaker. It also highlights the absolute pain any parent must feel after losing a child. I started this review with the comment that Proxy doesn’t come across as your average horror film, but for anyone with a child, this film is horror.
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