dir: Alexis Jacknow
Clock is a disturbing and potent horror flick about how annoying it is to be told you have to have kids when you don’t want to have them.
Honestly, there is no shortage of arseholes on this planet. There’s like 7 billion of them. Soon there will be 8 billion. We are consuming this planet and rendering it inhospitable as we speak. The last thing we need is more people fucking up the joint.
That’s one take a person could make. On the other hand we are told we have these natural biological and evolutionary urges that, were we not to possess them or give in to them, our species would have died out long ago.
Heavens forfend! Sure, we all know the urges to have sex, but thankfully we found ways to make it not always result in pregnancy. But that only counts if you’re not an American woman. If you’re an American woman (or a ten year old child) in a state where abortions are all but outlawed now, you are legally obligated to carry a baby to term even if it fucking kills you.
Sorry, I don’t make the rules, I just recoil in horror from them. Speaking of horror, this horrific flick is horrific not only in what it shows, but in some of the arguments characters have.
There can’t be a form of horror more visceral than horror about pregnancies. There’s nothing that can be more horrifically biological than weaponising those bodily processes against a woman, whether it’s in Rosemary’s Baby, Alien or this here Clock streaming on Hulu.
I’ll leave out mother! because I still have no fucking idea what happened in that Darren Aronofsky movie.
In Clock, our protagonist Ella (Dianna Agron) is perfectly happy not to have children. She is told that she is somehow defective, or wrong, but she just doesn’t want kids. That should be okay, but people in these kinds of stories, and let’s face it in real life too, constantly feel obligated to tell other people what to do. So there’s no shortage of arseholes telling her she’s wrong.
Let the woman be. Let her live her life, and you worry about yours.
But that doesn’t sit well with her father (Saul Rubinek), whose parents improbably survived Birkenau. With so many millions lost to the Holocaust, her father insists that his parents survived for nothing if she doesn’t carry on their legacy (by having a kid).
That’s a terrible burden to put on anyone. And such a loaded, freighted topic to use for entertainment (if we assume the purpose of any movie, horror or otherwise, is to entertain). A conversation Ella has with a doctor about her myriad reasons for not wanting to become a parent include one of the darkest interpretations of what the Holocaust actually means.
I don’t think it’s a spoiler to talk about it, because it’s just so profoundly horrible – Ella’s contention as to why people refer to the Holocaust as the ultimate evil, as the worst genocide, is because it happened at a time and place where it required “good” people living comfortably to look away as it happened around them, or they actively participated in it. And that some people are keenly aware that it could just as happily happen again now.
I mean…she’s not wrong. Look at all the hideous things going on right now as we speak *waves hands at everything*, and it does seem like we’re only one election away or one climate change exacerbated natural disaster from people starting to round up redheads or people who hang toilet paper the wrong way and start eating them.
We don’t have to agree with Ella. It’s nobody’s business than hers (you would think).
During a disturbing (disturbing to me because for no reason I could discern the actor playing the doctor has an Australian accent) visit to a gynaecologist, Ella hears about some clinic or some study that can do something to women so that they want babies.
Note, this isn’t a fertility clinic; this is some strange place where, through yelling at you and lots of drugs, they change your lack of interest in having a baby to a burning desire to have a child no matter what.
In other words, if you don’t want kids you’re broken, but like a broken clock, you can be fixed.
Hmm, like that isn’t a recipe for disaster / plot of a horror film.
They never tell Ella what’s in the drugs they’re giving her, but obviously it’s some combination of potent hallucinogens and, I dunno, Draino or something, because Ella starts hallucinating some scary shit. She’s given the updated equivalent of a Rorschach test, except instead of imaging some shit visually, they’re 3D! The wonders of modern psychiatry.
The doctor who runs the so called trial (and it is a Trial, in the Kafkaeque sense) is Dr Simmons (Elizabeth Hardin), a cold hard bureaucrat-type science person who has no clue of what she’s really doing, because she’s convinced she’s doing something good. The idea that a person who doesn’t want or can’t have kids and doesn’t mind is somehow medically or mentally defective is fucking nuts. That’s my official diagnosis.
If Dr Simmons were around during the Handmaid’s Tale, oh, you better believe she would have been one of the worst Aunts around for the Gilead regime. But she’s not malicious, or sadistic, she just doesn’t see how harmful what she’s doing to these women is.
The three things Ella sees during her evaluation / drug trip is a terrifying tall woman, a grandfather clock, and a bunch of dead spiders. These visions recur and keep haunting her, especially that horrific woman. These are all linked to Ella’s past or childhood, and the good doctor is of the opinion that if Ella figures out what these mean and accepts them, or is desensitised to them through aversion therapy (or some similar crap in a floating tank), she’ll pop out so many babies.
The thing is, though, even if those images and what they mean to Ella are explainable, the simple fact is that this therapy intended to make normal women who don’t want to have babies baby crazy makes Ella go psychotic. Absolutely psychotic.
And when you do that to someone, horrible things ensue.
This is, even with only two jump scares in the flick (one of which, while Ella is driving, almost killed me), a terrifying flick, a visually and conceptually disturbing flick, and a very gory movie comfortable with going into tremendously unsettling areas.
The flick doesn’t pull back, it doesn’t imply something and then cheapen out. It’s pretty committed to its dark vision. This is a flick that sets us a premise like “doctor type thinks way to desensitise woman who is terrified of birth is by forcing that woman to watch endless loop of actual births”, which means we have to see them too.
Well, you’ve seen one birth, you’ve seen…more than humans should ever see…
But there is worse, far worse. A clock, a pendulum clock, mirrored by a woman with a fetus swinging between her legs still attached by its umbilical cord, or just how much Ella now loves eggs (which means that poor actress had to eat all those raw egg yolks *eww*, or just what Ella has been doing in that nursery for her friend who’s about to have a baby, and the scene with the broken waters…
My gods, and there’s worse to come. Perhaps this falls into the area of horror flicks that are like cautionary tales (the message being “don’t fuck with nature”) where people presume to know what’s best for other people, or who presume to know how other people should think or live. For me it’s more a caution against prescribing drugs to fuck up people’s minds and send them off on kill crazy rampages. But either way, there’s a lot this flick recommends that people shouldn’t do.
As disturbing as everything is in the end, we can’t really blame Ella for what’s happened, because she’s been lied to by everyone around her, and she’s been drugged out of her fucking mind. It doesn’t make for the best decision making / best choices. But I’m pretty sure by film’s end we know what the makers are advocating.
Like, most of all, lay off women who don’t want to have kids. Let them be, for fuck’s sake.
8 ways in which this flick seems to come from a very dark and personal place out of 10
“Why don’t you want kids? You want kids. You have to have kids.” – everyone’s mother and mother in law for all time ever - Clock