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{The Overlook Film Festival 2023} Clock

Perhaps echoing the greater anxiety surrounding a shrinking population. Maybe it is the relentless attack on women’s reproductive freedom. I don’t know it, could also be that many young people look at having kids in this world the way I look at warm tuna salad. Whatever the cause, there is little debate that we are in a cycle of pregnancy horror. No surprise in a post-Roe environment. 

From the festival darling Huesera: The Bone Women to the Hulu original False Positive the horror world seems obsessed with pregnancy. Who wouldn’t be? Anyone who has been through a pregnancy or witnessed what it did to their partners (this guy for sure) can testify to the body horror that takes place during those ten months.

Hulu is back on the scary side of gestation and this time with Clock a movie that manages to situate itself within the expanding subgenre while including generational trauma and guilt into the conversation. The result is a well-polished if relatively cold story about the pressure on women to have children and the lengths that they will go to to get pregnant.

As I grew into young adulthood I was surprised by the pressure from other family members to start our family. Almost from day one of my wedding at 23 aunties and uncles wanted to insert themselves into our bedroom routine.

Clock is brave enough to examine the immense guilt that comes along with choosing to wait or not to have children at all. Diana Agron plays Ella who along with her husband Jay (Aidan Patel) find themselves getting older while questions over how big their family will get louder. Eventually, Ella finds herself visiting Dr. Elizabeth Simmon (Melora Hardin) about getting pregnant and the good doctor recommends some medication and an implant. Once the implant takes, things start getting weird.

The medical ethics of pregnancy are pretty slippery. Clock does not shy away from those conversations and the movie works hard to highlight how a women’s body autonomy is drastically impacted almost immediately after they get pregnant. It is during one of these moments that Ella starts to see visions of an impossibly tall woman who seems to be stalking her. The creature design here is absolutely bonkers. Using a bit of imagery from the Slender Man mythology when we gain perspective on this monster we are hit fully in the face with just how uncanny it feels.

Writer and Director Alexis Jacknow captures the coldness and bureaucracy of the modern medical establishment in a way that makes the entire film feel sterile. This sterility is occasionally punctuated by Saul Rubinek who plays Ella’s Jewish father. He is her connection to the past and also a source of warmth in a movie that feels very cold. Which makes the tonal shift towards the end of the movie even more brutal.

The final act is swift, violent, and not without some ambiguity. That being said it is clear Jacknow wants to have a conversation about the expectations society has of women. Moreover, Clock wants to examine the role of women in reifying some of this pressure. After all the biggest pushback Ella receives about being childless comes from the women in her life even her doctor who uses an almost cult leader-like presence to try and shape her response.

The screenplay is sharp moving quickly between its scares. It is also quite smart in that, unlike some other horror films about being pregnant, Clock works very hard to center the story on the women who are trying to conceive and the female doctor trying to “help” her. All of the men are supporting roles in this film and the production is clearer and more focused as a result.

Jokingly my father once told me our ancestors did not survive the potato famine for me to not finish my vegetables. I didn’t finish my broccoli but I have always remembered that silly connection to the past. What kind of sacrifices did my ancestors make for me to be here? Clock in a cold meditative fashion answers that question and ultimately argues the sins of our fathers and mothers shouldn’t be used to make a new generation of mothers and fathers. I saw Clock at The Overlook Film Festival. You can check it out on Hulu April 28th.