False Positive (2021) Delivers Unnerving Pregnancy Horror
Title: False Positive
First Non-Festival Release: June 25, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: John Lee
Writer: John Lee, Alissa Nutting, Ilana Glazer
Runtime: 92 Minutes
Starring: Ilana Glazer, Justin Theroux, Pierce Brosnan
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Lucy (Ilana Glazer) and Adrian (Justin Theroux) are at their wit’s end with trying to get pregnant. Adrian has the bright idea of seeking out his former professor Dr. John Hindle (Pierce Brosnan) who runs a renowned fertility clinic. The duo is delighted with his service and soon enough Lucy is pregnant. What begins as their greatest joy turns into something more sinister when Lucy believes that John and the clinic aren’t what they appear to be. Lucy begins investigating and finds out there is so much more to her procedure than she was consulted.
False Positive is a creepy psychological horror film with great performances and style flawed only by its familiarity.
A slight misdirection of a film, False Positive is not what I thought it would be. That is mostly great. Unfortunately, there are moments where it appears that it doesn’t know what it wants to be either. I understand playing the idea of the trope of “is this supernatural thing real or imagined” is a common trope for horror films but it doesn’t quite work here. There isn’t enough time dedicated to the question and it feels like an afterthought most of the time. I wish more was explained about certain horror sequences throughout the film. Additionally, the ending negates some of what happened to Lucy.
There’s an odd moment where she confronts Grace about a change in her appearance and office to which Grace responds by saying she is not Grace’s “magical negress.” This sentiment on its own is fine, but it’s odd considering Lucy hasn’t had similar moments elsewhere in her life with real people. I want to be clear, I’m fine with films attempting to break down stereotypes but False Positive doesn’t do it any service by inserting it without much development or overall purpose than it is afforded. And False Positive is chock full of odd moments like this, which aren’t necessarily deal-breakers for a horror film but are just interesting decisions.
Plenty of commentary is made about women and their autonomy during pregnancy and childbirth. Lucy deals with quite a bit of awkward reactions to her pregnancy, or at least awkward to me. The delivery of the dialogue is what works best here. There’s always a hint of condescension from everyone when they speak to Lucy. It’s easy to feel angry for her by how others treat her. This empathy potentiates with the dreadful overuse of the term “mommy brain” that is uttered a torturous number of times.
There’s this theme of over the top “girlboss” sentiment that others throw onto her even when Lucy doesn’t feel comfortable with it. She clearly wants recognition for her work ethic at her job and her commitment to her and her babies’ health, but it comes off as infantilizing often. You can see it in Lucy’s eyes as she brushes it off until it’s too much. Thankfully, Glazer does a great job of portraying the strength and vulnerability in her role. She’s the clear standout amongst the cast. The remaining air is taken up by Adrian and Dr. Hindle, where both Theroux and Brosnan give fine performances. Corrigan and Grace are given enough time to where it feels weird that they don’t receive more.
Dark and serious, False Positive shines in its sleek production values which mask an overall average film. False Positive works to throw in a few cool visuals in the otherwise stagnant film. The dream sequences are rightfully elaborate and darkly fantastic. A calling card of False Positive is its proclivity for showing interspliced narratives one on top of the other. It adds to the suspense and makes for some nice juxtapositions between different junctures in time.
A step down in quality from typical A24 fare, False Positive more than likely benefited from its direct to Hulu release. A creepy enough film with good production values, there isn’t much wrong with it beyond its lack of confidence in execution. Many may find the ending or even the subject matter itself controversial but truthfully it doesn’t go as far as they could go to condemn the abuse that happens in the medical industrial complex. I appreciate that Director John Lee swung for the fences even if it doesn’t quite reach. False Positive may not ignite feelings of excitement or dread, but it is a serviceable horror flick that will mess with your mind just enough to be worth it.
Overall Score? 6/10