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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

THE CLINIC -- DVD review by porfle


The title and box cover may conjure up images of medical mayhem a la DR. GIGGLES or some Lovecraft-inspired hospital horror, but THE CLINIC (2010) is something different altogether.  More of a blood-tinged thriller than a gory body count flick, this Australian production relies more on mystery, suspense, and some kooky plot twists to hold our attention.

We know we're in for a well-photographed and competently directed film when it opens with a beautiful helicopter shot descending upon a single car traveling down a desert highway.  The very pregnant Beth (Tabrett Bethell) and her fiance' Cameron (Andy Whitfield, SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND) are headed for her mother's house for Christmas when they decide to spend the night in an isolated motel. 

But when Cameron returns to their room after a food run, Beth has vanished without a trace.  The creepy hotel manager Hank (Boris Brkic) claims ignorance, and when a frustrated Cameron attacks him the local cop (Marshall Napier) slaps on the cuffs.  So it's up to Cameron to somehow escape from custody and search for his missing bride-to-be.



Meanwhile, Beth wakes up naked in a bathtub, with a fresh Cesarean scar and no baby.  This is where THE CLINIC goes "Twilight Zone" and becomes a slowly-unfolding mystery that gets more inexplicable at every turn.  Wandering through the deserted slaughterhouse, Beth encounters other women who share her predicament, including Veronica (Freya Stafford), a doctor, and Ivy (Clare Bowen), whose decision whether or not to get an abortion seems to have been made for her.  Alison (Sophie Lowe) remains silent until her terrified screams reveal that there's a killer stalking them.

There's a strong emotional element to the story as the women discover their babies locked in cages, but can neither get to them nor discern which of them is theirs.  Color-coded tags on the infants' wrists correspond to ones which have been surgically implanted in the mothers' bodies, a fact that brings about most of the bloody mayhem to follow.  As all this unfolds, we're given teasing glimpses of shadowy observers impassively watching it all via closed-circuit cameras.

I don't really want to reveal much more than that, but the identity of their ruthless attacker and the motives behind it all are pretty unsettling.  Suspense builds as the women run for their lives while trying to find out what's going on and how they got there.  I was reminded of Dean Koontz, whose novels often involve a female lead who finds herself in a maddeningly inexplicable life-or-death situation fraught with ever-increasing peril. 



The finale involves a couple of plot twists that some viewers may find hard to swallow.  This didn't really bother me--I was sufficiently swept along with it all not to get hung up on an improbability or two.  In fact, I found the over-the-top stuff kind of cathartic after the long build-up, with the big reveal coming as an adequate payoff to the mystery.  After the final tragedy of these events hits home, there's a bittersweet coda to the story that's rare in movies such as this, ending the film not on a total downer but on a wistful note that's rather moving.

Director James Rabbitts' screenplay is simple but effective, with some clever touches here and there.  The acting is fine--Bethell carries the film with a strong, emotional performance and gets ample support from the rest of the cast, particularly Freya Stafford as Veronica and Liz Alexander as the loathesome Ms. Shepard.  A subtle, sinewy musical score compliments the action.

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  The sole extra is the film's trailer.

THE CLINIC is a harrowing, adult survival tale that, while somewhat hokey at times, doesn't depend on gory, spectacular kills to thrill and titillate its audience.  In fact, you may actually find yourself not wanting the characters to get killed.  Crazy, huh?


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4 comments:

Dangerfield7 said...

Ok,... but what "True Events" inspired this tidy thriller? I know that overused tagline is so much snake oil... but any intel on this?

porfle said...

I couldn't find any. According to IMDb, "Although fictitious, the story was inspired by several true stories of child abduction." I think your comment pretty much hits the nail on the head.

Anonymous said...

It was inspired by the Lisa Montgomery story. Google it.

Jc said...

I've read countless stories of pregnant women being kidnapped and their babies being cut out. Killing them while another woman pretends to have given birth. Sometimes the babies die also.