Cast: Ilana Glazer, Justin Theroux, Pierce Brosnan, Sophia Bush. Directed by John Lee.
There’s something innately scary about our bodies, perhaps because we don’t fully know everything about ourselves, and our bodies frequently betray us without warning. Horror has always had a fascination with pregnancy, in particular, as the idea of growing another human in your body is both miraculous and terrifying in equal measure.
False Positive follows advertising exec Lucy (Ilana Glazer) who along with her husband Adrian (Justin Theroux), decides to turn to acclaimed fertility doctor – and Adrian’s former teacher – Dr. John Hindle (Pierce Brosnan), to help them get pregnant, but this is not without its issues.
Glazer, coming off the end of her time writing and acting in hit comedy series Broad City, clearly has a passion for this psycho-thriller come horror film. She writes along with director John Lee, and stars as Lucy. There’s no denying the passion with which Glazer fills her role, throwing herself fully into the psychological distress of the leading woman.
While the support around her is perfectly fine, Theroux doesn’t get much to do, and roles for Gretchen Mol and Sophia Bush are fairly thinly written with the air of still being on the first draft side. It’s really down to Brosnan’s ripe turn as Hindle to ramp up the fun. He plays the role as if he’s seconds away from looking directly into the camera and cackling. He gets the measure of his role, affable in a totally untrustworthy way.
Lee directs with a sure hand, melding dream and reality in a way that gives the film an off-kilter vibe. There’s a grace to a lot of his composition, even if the film never goes into the sort of hysterics it promises it will. It’s very repressed, never fully leaning into the paranoia it needs to.
The film is also slightly problematic when it comes to its treatment of midwife Grace (Zainab Jah). Despite a moment of self-referentiality, a character saying they aren’t a “magical negress” doesn’t detract from the film making her that role and then not doing anything else with it. It also doesn’t help that by the time it gets to the end, the climax opts for the laziest and most under-explained explanation. It just about works, but only because Brosnan and Glazer really go for it.
It might be a Rosemary’s Baby rip-off, and not nearly as fun as the little-seen Prevenge, but False Positive still has moments of genuine dreamlike tension, and is held aloft at all times by two-game performances and a sometimes knowingly silly script, even if it can’t properly get into the ridiculous nature that would have made it an over-the-top classic.