I’m not sure John Carpenter’s The Thing was a pinnacle of realistic practical special effects—I think it must’ve been one, but I’m not sure; I am confident, however, he and Dean Cundey pioneered SteadiCam (at least according to them) with Escape from New York. So watching his second (and, thankfully, final) “Masters of Horror” entry, it’s sad to see Carpenter contending with Attila Szalay’s profoundly incompetent photography and the garbage special effects from Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger. While Pro-Life is certainly better than the previous episode Carpenter directed—also written by Drew McWeeny and Rebecca Swan—it’s always in trying to find a way to get worse.
The episode opens with Mark Feuerstein and Emmanuelle Vaugier talking about how they might work together but it’s okay they just slept together. This scene will be the most dialogue Vaugier gets in the hour, with the rest of her performance quick reaction shots. They’re driving in to work and they almost hit teenager Caitlin Wachs running through the woods. Wachs was actually a teenager during Pro-Life, which makes the skimpy outfit and the graphic rape recollection even grosser than I’d assumed. That gross gets lost in the other gross when McWeeny and Swan show their edginess by disingenuously both-sidings abortion with lead Ron Perlman talking about clinic doctor Bill Dow being a baby killer. McWeeny and Swan then cop out on the whole thing with Perlman just being a pawn in Satan’s game.
Derek Mears plays the demonic Satan, walking around in a rubber suit thrown out from the original Swamp Thing movie for looking too cheesy. Despite being King of Hell, Mears can’t figure out how door handles work. Or maybe Pro-Life just thinks terrible slow motion breaking through door effects are good, actually. It certainly tries to do its gun porn but it just plays silly. This whole “Masters of Horror” big horror director who at best makes direct-to-video crap returning to their roots continues to instead suggest these guys shouldn’t be renowned because they can’t make movies anymore, not even hour long ones.
The story involves Wachs, raped by Satan, trying to get Feuerstein to abort the baby while dad Perlman shoots everyone dead to rescue her because he’s doing God’s work. He’s got three sons helping him; the nicest I’ll be is not noting their names when trying to determine the worst performance. Partially because, outside Dow as the clinic doctor, the worst performance is easily discount character actor Stephen Dimopoulos. He’s the shitty dad who brought his daughter to the clinic and gets caught up in the demonic siege.
Wachs is bad. It’s unclear how much of it’s her fault, how much of it’s the script, how much of it is Carpenter leering at her. Feuerstein’s less bad but far from good. Perlman’s decent. It’s a thin, bad part, poorly written, poorly directly, but his professionalism puts him ahead of the pack. Biski Gugushe tries the hardest as the clinic security guard.
Presumably Carpenter did this show for the easy paycheck and to get “composer” son Cody Carpenter some gigs with residuals (the music’s terrible).
But it’s insipid work and an objectively good reason to avoid giving anyone involved any attention in the future.