Movie Review - Proxy
Zack Parker's Proxy is painted with splashes of both Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick, seamlessly blending the aesthetic of a modern indie-horror film with the classic thrillers of the past, in a film that will keep you guessing until the very last frame. It delivers surprise after surprise, with a new twist at every turn, and absolutely nothing here is as it seems. The film boasts one of the most insanely disturbing moments since Gasper Noe's Irreversible, and that's just in the first five minutes. This movie is truly unsettling, diving deep into the damaged psyches of each of the characters to show us what lies just beneath the surface, and what we find there is absolutely depraved.
While walking home from the doctor, a pregnant Esther Woodhouse is brutally attacked and her unborn baby is killed by an unknown assailant. All alone, and looking for some solace, she seeks the help of a support group where she befriends Melanie. Esther believes she has found a truly kindred spirit in Melanie. However, we quickly learn that no one is who they say they are and everyone has something to hide.
The title may be a reference to Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, which is defined as "A psychological disorder in which a parent, typically a mother, harms her child (by poisoning), falsifies the child's medical history, or tampers with the child's medical specimens in order to create a situation that requires or seems to require medical attention." But even the definition of the word itself, "Power or authority that is given to allow a person to act for someone else" also sums up parts of the film fairly well. The subject matter seems nearly unthinkable, but the director manages explore it extensively, all the while using it to emotionally manipulate both the characters and the audience.
Parker's shooting style is effectively disorienting: sometimes showing reality, and sometimes reflecting the reality that exists within the characters heads. It makes for an effective storytelling tool, and at the same time leaves the viewer questioning whether they can tell the difference between the two. He lets scenes dissolve slowly, letting the audience breathe for a second before twisting them off in a direction they couldn't possibly see coming. The score by the Newton Brothers (Oculus) is pitch perfect, and Parker weaves it into the fabric of the film masterfully, making it feel like the classic films it pays homage to. This director is willing to take risks, and it really pays off in Proxy.
The acting of the entire ensemble is strong, as they manage to create three dimensional portraits of these extremely flawed people, and even manage to evoke empathy at times. Alexia Rasmussen is stone-faced, leaving the mystery of Ether to slowly unravel from a tightly wound coil that gradually comes undone. Alexa Havins does an amazing job of making Melanie appear tranquil and together on the surface, but her eyes convey the turbulence that lies within. Joe Swanberg is at his best here, almost sleepwalking through the film in a daze, a lost vessel drifting between the waves and slowly sinking. And Kristina Klebe is absolutely terrifying. Even when she isn't speaking, Anika is physically intimidating and her icy stare could bore holes through steel.
This film is an absolute shocker and should not be missed. Hats off to Zack Parker and the entire cast and crew for creating an indie-thriller that never becomes predictable. I would recommend you try to see this in theaters if possible, but if not Proxy is available on iTunes and VOD now. Go check it out, and prepare to be surprised!
- Leo Francis