Take a Drink: Pregnant? Not pregnant! Pregnant? Not pregnant! (Rinse, repeat)
Take a Drink: for creepy fake babies (all iterations)
Take a Drink: for broken glass
Take a Drink: for weird eye problems
Take a Drink: for uncanny imagery
Do a Shot: for black horses (all iterations)
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
A woman named Helen cares for the disturbingly realistic newborn baby dolls she makes while her husband tries to tolerate it as best as he can. Another woman named Helen is pregnant… or is she? Her performance artist partner/lover wonders. Meanwhile, a meteor strikes and people start to abandon their homes and cars, drawn into the forest. A massive Greek bust floats down the river. A black horse continually appears in stranger locations.
The success of H. is all in its unsettling mood, which directors Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia craft will shrill, atonal sound design, a mix of electronic music and an elegaic and, eventually, grating classical string piece, and more bizarre imagery than you can shake a stick at, from weird uncanny valley babies, to missing people just abandoning their cars, trancelike, to industrially identical clouds and Hellenic marble heads floating down river- it’s all very Magritte.
Ya gotta love Magritte.
What sets all of this strangeness apart, though, is how the directors and the cast, particularly Robin Bartlett as the deeply sad, deeply disturbing baby-making matron, ground the film in something that feels real and lived in. Scenes like Bartlett’s emotional reaction to the mystery being partially revealed give the film a realistic base and psychology to then subvert with surreal plot developments. This is ace magic realism, but it’s a dark magic.
It’s all about the payoff when you set something up this thoroughly, but when H.‘s payoff comes it’s strangely muted. Bartlett’s acting in particular makes it all feel like it means something profound, but the directors don’t give us much closure- just more intriguing questions.
Attieh and Garcia also don’t really bring together the two halves of the film and two couples in any meaningful way. It’s tempting to link everything up through a twisted parenting instincts metaphor or an examination of depression, but that feels reductive- too easy considering the gravitas and mystery the directors cloak their film in.
There has to be a reason to include something as thoroughly creepy as “reborn” babies, right?
H. is an exercise in mood and atmosphere, and a highly successful one at that.