Surrogate (2022) is Generic Parental Supernatural Horror with a Few Surprises
First Non-Festival Release: April 6, 2022 (Limited Theatrical Release)
Director: David Willing
Writer: Beth King, David Willing
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Starring: Kestie Morassi, Jane Badler, Taysha Farrugia
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Parenthood often asks the question: would you do anything to protect your child? Society makes great incentives for parents to answer yes to this question, as those who abandon their post are shunned for failing to adhere to this standard. What happens when these forces are simply beyond your control?
After her chance encounter with a dying woman, Natalie (Kestie Morassi) is afflicted with a curse that latches onto her that ultimately threatens the life of her daughter Rose (Taysha Farrugia). Natalie investigates the origins of the entity terrorizing her family to better understand how to rid it from their lives.
Dull possession horror Surrogate saunters through haunting tropes before meeting a typical, downbeat end.
An overreliance on supernatural horror tropes makes the story behind Surrogate plodding and repetitive. Its solid opening sequence is gradually worn down by obvious scares and generic ghost horror plot points. The initial character development is thin giving us little information about the Paxton family dynamic other than that Natalie is doing her best to take care of Rose on her own with some help from her mom (Louise Siversen) and brother (Darcy Kent). Once she accepts that something paranormal is happening to her, the film devolves into the typical research and confront formula that has been done before. Surrogate isn’t especially inventive in its approach to storytelling.
The overall metaphor of Surrogate is pushed repeatedly through the narrative to the point where it is impossible to watch it without seeing. Parenthood, specifically motherhood, is difficult. The parasite that has latched onto Natalie makes everything harder about her life leading to her alienation and volatility. While leaching away at what little resources she has, what is haunting Natalie specifically wants to divert the energy she needs to take care for her real daughter. Still, her spirit remains indomitable against the forces pressuring her to resign her and her child’s fate. While heavy handed and well-tread, Surrogate makes it a point to show the nuance in making life bearable for one’s children, even if it does lean into bleakness more than people may want.
Poor acting and characterization make it difficult to follow the Aussie thriller to the end. Disappointingly, many of the portrayals in Surrogate are overwrought with ill-proportioned screaming and overacting in general. Shallow characterizations of all characters except for Natalie, make it difficult to take the narrative seriously. As Natalie’s world comes crashing down, it seems likes she interacts less and less with real people. Instead, the people that inhabit her world seem to be cruel stereotypes: the ‘out to get you’ social worker, the broken mother who lost her son, the precocious child, etc.
While it doesn’t make use of its interesting launch point, Surrogate does a few things right. The decidedly bleak tone of the film makes for a wonderful canvas for horror. Surrogate is as dark and depressing as one could hope for based on the script, as Natalie wades through the muck of the mystery behind her paranormal parasite. It leads her to some hopeless places, which does a great job for establishing and maintaining the atmosphere of horror. Additionally, there are quite a few well-executed scenes, that while not scary per se, show a technical prowess fit for an indie film.
There isn’t much behind Surrogate that you haven’t already seen. While committed to showing the ugliness behind parenting and the difficult choices parents make to give their children better lives, Surrogate fails to provide a sufficient vehicle for its ideas. Poor performances and silly gimmicks make it difficult to take the film wholly seriously even when it does execute a solid scare or two. The choice to carry this film to term is up to the viewer, but for those that aren’t enamored with horror aimed at parents may want to table this one.
Overall Score? 3/10