Pregnancy horror can be very hit-or-miss depending on who’s writing and directing. It’s undeniable when one of the most intimate women experiences is written by a man, and it’s hard not to feel disappointed with the lack of nuance. John Lee’s False Positive, now available on Hulu, tries to channel Rosemary’s Baby in a current setting, but its frequent on-the-nose dialogue makes it feel more like a caricature than a fleshed-out character study.
Ilana Glazer (who also co-wrote the screenplay) plays Lucy, a woman desperate to get pregnant and do more than take lunch orders at her marketing firm. Her husband, Adrian (Justin Theroux), brings her to a colleague’s fertility clinic for artificial insemination. On the outside, the clinic looks like a sanitized utopia: white furniture, photos of happy mothers and their babies on the walls and blonde hair, blue-eyed nurses who look like Stepford Wives.
The clinic head is Dr. Hindle (Pierce Brosnan), a seemingly perfect doctor who wants nothing more than his patients to walk out with their “greatest desire”—a child. When Dr. Hindle grants Lucy’s greatest wish, she starts to feel something is not right with her future child, and Dr. Hindle may have had something to do with it.
False Positive isn’t the first failed pregnancy horror film, nor will it be the last.
The first half of False Positive starts strongly—particularly when it focuses on the microaggressions that Lucy deals with daily. Her boss constantly holds a promotion over her head while making her take lunch orders for the whole (all male) staff. Her husband is a hotshot surgeon who prefers to gaslight his wife. At one point in the film, Lucy excitedly realizes that she could have it all: the perfect career, a baby, and a supportive husband. The fact that women still have to pick and choose rather than incorporate all three could have been excellent topics to spotlight.
But by the second half, it devolves into a typical horror movie. There are the usual hallucinations, the new friend who is a little too friendly, and hellishly erotic dreams. But none of these scenes or plotlines add up to anything scary or exciting. It’s a shame because there is potential to explore Lucy’s traumatic past, but Lee never dives past the surface.
False Positive isn’t the first failed pregnancy horror film, nor will it be the last. But in 2021, I think it’s appropriate to ask for stories that dig deeper into motherhood rather than using hysterics (or “mommy brain”) as the crutch of the film.
False Positive is now available to stream on Hulu. You can watch the trailer for the film here.