by @holocronGeorge for @horrornecronom
It’s difficult to talk about False Positive without referring to Rosemary’s Baby given the stark similarities between the two films. In fact, enjoying False Positive for what it is really requires a bit of distance from Rosemary’s Baby, or at least an acknowledge that these two films are strikingly similar. Nonetheless, False Positive is a tense and compelling cerebral horror film of pregnancy and paranoia that, despite falling apart in its final act, is an interesting new addition to the horror genre.
False Positive stars Ilana Glazer, who also co-wrote the screenplay with director John Lee, as a woman struggling to conceive. Her and her husband, played by Justin Theroux, visit a renowned fertility specialist brought to life wonderfully by Pierce Brosnan. However, it’s not long until Glazer’s character Lucy begins to feel like something is off with her pregnancy and the people around her.
As stated before, False Positive is very similar to Rosemary’s Baby. The films adopt essentially the same structure for their entire duration and really place you inside the lead of our lead protagonist. Largely due to Glazer’s commanding lead performance, Lucy is a deeply compelling character to follow. As a viewer, you’re constantly on board with her suspicions and aware that something is wrong with this whole situation, but, like Lucy, can’t put your finger on it.
The film really excels in its first two acts by capitalizing on these growing suspicions and tensions with a slow-burn approach. This is not a horror film overpopulated with jump scares or cheap thrills. It takes its time throughout, which helps build an intense urge to find out what’s really going on behind the scenes. In large part, False Positive works because of this pacing and Glazer’s performance carrying us through all the moments of mystery and intrigue. Unfortunately, it’s when some of these mysteries become a little more explicit that the film trips up.
False Positive relies quite heavily on the horror trope of: is this real or is this fantasy? Glazer’s character often sees or hears things that may or may not be there. And the film does an excellent job putting us in the shoes of Lucy as she navigates the horrors of her reality seemingly collapsing around her. The problem is that, by the film’s third act, it’s difficult to keep everything straight. This may have been the director’s intention to make the audience feel like they’re going insane as the lead character does, but, ultimately, the slew of hallucinations or dreams really detract away from what was a tense and horrifying story of pregnancy earlier on in the film. And, unfortunately, the film dissolves in its final moments with a series of underwhelming and rather predictable reveals.
False Positive draws heavily upon Rosemary’s Baby to deliver a slow-burn, tension filled film of the horrors of pregnancy and paranoia. Carried by an excellent lead performance from Ilana Glazer, False Positive excels by putting the viewer inside Glazer’s character’s head as her suspicions intensify, but deteriorates with excessive hallucinations and an underwhelming finale. Nonetheless, False Positive is an enticing 21st century rendition of Rosemary’s Baby that fans of cerebral horror will enjoy.
Images courtesy of Hulu & A24