Psychological Hulu Horror Clock (2023) Ticks Away at the Pressures of Motherhood
First Non-Festival Release: April 28, 2023 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Alexis Jacknow
Writer: Alexis Jacknow
Runtime: 91 Minutes
Starring: Dianna Agron, Melora Hardin, Jay Ali
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Women are often subjected to onslaught of covert and overt messaging that their entire lives should revolve around kids. We see this systematically in advertising, film and tv, and laws while watching it play out socially, amongst friend groups, families, and strangers.
Ella Patel (Diana Agron) is no stranger to this pressure. Despite living an undeniably successful and satisfying life, Ella is reminded of how she is seen as less-than for not feeling that pull to have kids. After reaching a boiling point when a doctor makes yet another comment, Ella decides to take a chance on an experimental treatment that promises to kickstart the maternal drive in otherwise child-apathetic women leading to deadly consequences.
Clock explores an underserved angle of pregnancy horror featuring a fantastic lead performance and intriguing story building techniques.
Before the psychological horror gets a chance to begin, Ella is introduced as a confident woman who is assured of the lifestyle she wants. She has worked hard to build an impressive career, has a large group of friends who respect and support her, married a great guy who truly cares for her, and still finds time to spend time with her aging father and volunteer. That isn’t enough for those around her though. Ella is constantly reminded daily of her lack of desire for children. Eventually, the bombardment from all sides wears her down to wear her resolve is broken.
Once Ella takes the leap of seeking help to change her desire to have kids, Clock takes an unexpected turn at examining the pre-conception portion of pregnancy that makes it a breath of fresh air in the subgenre. Ella’s journey is fraught with many emotions: fear, doubt, anger, but the one that is most interesting is this emptiness that she so clearly sees in her life. Incorrectly, Ella assumes that everyone around her is right, and that this panging feeling means that deep down she does want to have a child, but her biological clock is broken. The horror comes from her decision to trust that belief. This fascinating character study is sullied only by the duller approach to horror the film takes.
While the story goes down some fascinating roads, the psychological horror element varies in mileage. Some truly bizarre and horrific imagery aside, Clock prioritizes a certain brand of hallucinogenic jump scare that gets relatively cheap by the end of the film. Clock struggles to focus on a singular threat to Ella and those around her. Instead, the threat changes shape as the movie progresses. Is she meant to fear visions of a ghostly woman? Does the institute she seek treatment at have more sinister plans? Is there someone in her midst that she cannot trust and plotting her downfall? Clock shifts too frequently between these potential antagonists without commitment causing the production to feel noncommittal, and thus make the horror lack the gravity it needs.
Despite this, Dianna Agron gives an unbeatable performance that adequately inspires empathy and fear in viewers. Agron establishes a cool confidence within Ella that slowly disintegrates over the course of the film. Her unravelling is intimately terrifying, as every horror she endures her only desire is to please those around her who cannot be content with her already very successful life. The tragedy of Ella works because of Agron’s nuanced performance, giving just enough push on the real-life sentiments so many women face in the pressure to be mothers and achieve what many bestow as their “ultimate purpose” in life.
Clock manages to be one of the more compelling and unique pregnancy horror films to emerge from the shadows, but it still doesn’t quite pull everything together in the end. Strong characterization and performances, including the incredible Agron, compensate for its weaker elements. Yes, the horror is wishy-washy but the story is captivating enough to excuse it. Fans of pregnancy and maternal horror will find plenty to enjoy alongside those who enjoy more psychological based horror. Time is ticking. You’ll want to hurry up and watch Clock before it’s too late.
Overall Score? 7/10