January 1, 2013

A Pregnant Pause For Baby Horror

scary baby will kill you
. . . right after you change my diaper.
     I'm not anyone's daddy, and I'm sure that's something for which we can all be thankful.  I'm forty-two years old and I've never changed a diaper.  I know two very special people that are expecting, though, and I'll most likely have a hands-on role in one of those circumstances.  I look forward to the new experience.  I'm also terrified.  What if I break the baby?

      Just like those who fall in love start to "get" love songs, I've found that proximity to a real, live pregnancy has prompted me to consider baby themed horror movies in a different light.  Many of the horrors depicted in movies like Grace (2009), Inside (2007), Baby Blood (1990), and It's Alive (1974) have been purely hypothetical to me until now.  I've never considered the horror of losing a child, the possibility of parenting a child born with disabilities, the extents to which I'd go to protect a newborn, or all of the queasy, Cronenbergian particulars of growing a baby inside one's own body.  Suddenly those worries resonate more, and I'm seeing baby horror in a whole new light.

mom fills a baby bottle with blood in the movie Grace (2009)
     Grace, in particular, seems to push a lot of buttons.  *Spoilers ahead*  Even before now, the notion of losing one's child and then carrying it to term anyway was deeply disturbing to me.  Grace continues to posit a lot of "what would I do?" scenarios throughout.  Like the very best of horror movies, Grace makes the questionable choices of new mother Madeline Matheson (Jordan Ladd) distressingly plausible given that she's just given birth to a "dead" baby for which she still feels the expected motherly instincts.

     Madeline is ultimately driven to kill in order to protect her special newborn and to provide for its needs.  After all, a baby bottle full of blood doesn't just happen.  It's all too easy to empathize with Madeline's circumstance, and Jordan Ladd plays the role beautifully.  Director Paul Solet methodically builds a sense of tragedy rather than going for the easy B-movie scares, and the end result is haunting.  Recommended, but only for the postnatal viewer.

     I've mentioned Inside before on this blog, and the content of this post demands I do so again.  If there's ever been a more viscerally upsetting movie revolving around expectant motherhood, I'm not sure I have the stones to watch it.  *Spoilers ahead*  Of course, Inside is all about a formerly expectant mother who's lost her baby that goes to violent extremes to take the unborn baby of another expectant mother for herself.

beatrice dalle lights up a cigarette in Inside (2007)
     I've never been quite sure if I'm reading Inside correctly, because I've always felt more empathy for the Woman (Beatrice Dalle) than I feel for the expectant mother she's terrorizing.  She just seems a lot more crazily committed to motherhood than her victim.  That final shot of the Woman sitting in the rocking chair cradling the baby, while undeniably chilling, just seems right.

     There's probably something wrong with me, huh?

     The fact that I'm a big fan of the obscure French horror movie Baby Blood probably doesn't say anything positive about my mental stability, either.   In this case the unborn baby in question isn't human, but the woman carrying it is still driven to provide for it and protect it at all costs.  The frightening notion here is that this malevolent alien thing has taken up residence in her womb, and it now dictates (literally, in this case) every single thing the expectant mother does.

arms bursting out of the belly in baby blood (1990)      I'll never know what it's like to have another living thing growing inside of me (except tapeworms, maybe?) but I've seen firsthand now what it's like to be enslaved by the changes wrought to one's body during pregnancy.  It's like your own body is betraying you out of deference to the baby's needs.  I did once give birth to a two foot long sigmoid volvulus, but that's not really the same thing, is it?

mutant baby from It's Alive (1974)
     I believe, though, that the most disturbing of the baby horrors under discussion here is the murderous newborn of director Larry Cohen's It's Alive.  Surely this needy, bloodthirsty, deformed monstrosity represents every parent's worst nightmare.

    "Congratulations, it's a monster - and it's all yours!  Even worse, it's a monster because of the prescription drugs that you took!" 

     B-movie or not, It's Alive plays upon every expectant mother's fear that she's done something during her pregnancy that will have an adverse effect on her unborn child.  One is reminded of the horrific deformities caused by the morning sickness drug thalidomide in the 50's and 60's.  Equally as terrifying is the notion of being responsible for a baby (any baby, not just an abnormal one) that you're not properly equipped to care for.  I can't keep aquarium fish alive, so how can I possibly expect to succeed in properly caring for a newborn baby?

     When I get too scared, though, I just remind myself that having a baby is a completely natural occurrence that happens all over the world every single day.  Nothing to be scared of, right?


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