Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Clinic (2010)

Australasia has produced many great horror films over the last thirty-five or so years. They range from the lyrical terrors of Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) to the more graphic splatter of Braindead (1992) or Black Sheep (2006). Actually, Black Sheep isn't that good but it's silly and fun and much better than the film under review here.

Set in 1979 ("before DNA testing"), The Clinic tells the story of heavily pregnant Beth (Tabrett Bethell) who is travelling across Australia with her fiancĂ©, Cameron (Andy Whitfield) to see her parents just before Christmas. After the couple are run off the road by a dangerous driver they decide to stay in a seedy motel for the night. As Cameron can't sleep he goes into town in search of something to eat. When he returns he finds that Beth has gone missing and it seems that the motel owner knows more than he's letting on. 

Beth wakes up in a bath filled with ice and finds that she has had a caesarean-section and her baby is missing. Trying to escape the facility she comes across three other women in the same situation. It soon becomes clear that there's a fourth woman on the loose who is intent on killing Beth and her new companions. The race is on for the women to try and find their babies and escape before they all end up dead. There's also the mystery of the couple who watch every move of the mothers on CCTV and who seem to have a keen interest in who will live and who will die. 

The director, James Rabbitts, makes good use of the New South Wales landscape and sets up an air of suspense with the scenes at the motel. However once we get inside the clinic (which looks like an abattoir in the middle of nowhere) plausibility gets thrown to the wind as we are asked to accept that five women consistently make bad choices for themselves and for their newborn children. 

The Clinic is an uneasy mix of medical, slasher and backwoods horror, cutting from scenes of women in peril at the facility to Cameron's investigation into his girlfriend's disappearance. Plotting is all over the place, with one major character disappearing abruptly with a third of the picture to go. The film culminates with a huge info dump as the child-snatchers plans are revealed. You'll gasp, but not in a good way. There's also the obligatory nightmare sequence that's kind-of explained in the end, but just confuses the issue even further. 

There's not much more to be said without giving the plot away for anyone who wants to actually watch the damn thing. Suffice it to say that, as usual in contemporary horror films, there's a twist in the tale. But this one relies so heavily on coincidence that credulity is stretched to breaking point. At least the acting is OK.

Not recommended.

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