Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Zack Parker
Written by: Kevin Donner & Zack Parker
Starring: Alexia Rasmussen, Alexa Havins, Kristina Klebe & Joe Swanberg
People are more terrifying than any monsters or supernatural forces. Human horror stories are most often downright disturbing and grimy experiences that drag the viewer through the muck of darkness that’s within us all. PROXY sounds like an ideal concept on paper. The summary was vague and intriguing enough to interest me when it was first announced to play as a selection of Midnight Madness during last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. It has since eluded me on VOD and I just finally had the experience of sitting through this flick. It seems like there are plenty of themes throughout PROXY: parenthood, living vicariously, grief, but mostly insanity. The group of characters brought together in this film are utter psychopaths. There’s real promise here and that’s part of what makes the end result that much more disappointing.
Without spoiling anything (this flick switches gears many times), PROXY begins with a very pregnant young woman named Esther. After walking out of a doctor’s office, she meets a brutal assault that causes her to miscarriage. It’s a startling opening to say the least and things only get worse from there. Esther is a seemingly friendless nervous wreck recommended to attend group meetings for grieving parents. It is here that she meets Melanie and they form a close friendship. This friendship goes sour in a very bad way and things get crazier than they already were for Esther, Melanie, Melanie’s husband, and a mysterious woman named Anika.
It feels like director Zack Parker was trying to execute PROXY in the same style as Hitchcock or De Palma, but doesn’t realize what made their films so brilliant to begin with. The story is the most redeeming quality simply by virtue of the fact that I wanted to see where things would eventually wind up. It seems like a rough draft of a potentially awesome script was turned into a final cut of this movie. The plot is unfocused in so many ways and half-asses a few concepts. There’s a scene where we are supposed to think that everything going on is from the mentally unhinged husband’s perspective, but it isn’t fleshed out further than a couple of quick minutes. The movie sort of does this with other characters as well, but these brief glimpses are more like a quick ideas than something that’s been thought over and executed in a solid way. The music in PROXY is actually quite good and there are moments that are very well-shot. One slow motion sequence will be the turning point for some viewers either loving or hating this film. I thought the intentions behind it were good, but it just came off as almost laughably silly.
The running time is way too long and the plot winds up very slow-paced as well. The would-be building suspense isn’t worth the so-so pay-off that the film finally arrives at. Interesting stuff occasionally happens and certain plot points are surprising, but there are long stretches of nothingness that drag in getting to both. The biggest problem with the film is that none of the characters are remotely interesting. The three actresses aren’t convincing in the slightest, but the usually decent Joe Swanberg is equally bland as the husband. These people aren’t fleshed out nearly enough to give the viewer a reason to care. Seeing as the content of the flick is disturbing, things could have been horrifying beyond words. Instead, PROXY becomes a struggle to get through in its tedious pacing and bad acting.
A combination of wooden performances, poor characters, half-assed writing, and an awful slow pace kill the potential for PROXY to be really awesome piece of dramatic horror. Bad things happen in this film, but I couldn’t find the will to care much. I mainly stuck it out, because I wanted to see where things would eventually wind up. I was let down by a lackluster semi-developed ending that fit well with an already underwhelming flick. Those who are seeking a nasty tale of human horror that brings the lives of damaged well-developed characters together will do far better in watching Simon Rumley’s emotionally devastating RED, WHITE & BLUE. PROXY is one to skip.