by Jason Coffman
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It’s always a pleasant surprise to find the proverbial diamond in the rough where direct-to-disc/demand/etc. horror films are concerned. Too much of these films are faceless and forgettable, making it a rare occasion when one is actually worth a watch. The Clinic, feature debut of writer/director James Rabbitts, is one such film— a solid, surreal and unsettling little thriller that delivers where most films in its class fall flat.
Very pregnant Beth (Tabret Bethell) and her fiance Cameron (Andy Whitfield) are on their way across Australia to visit Beth’s family for Christmas. Somewhere approximately near the middle of nowhere a truck runs them off the road and they decide to find a hotel and finish their trip the next day. The couple comes across a small town that appears to be little more than a hotel, a Chinese restaurant and a police station and bed down for the night. Cameron leaves late in the night to find something to eat and returns to the room to find Beth missing. The local authorities prove less than helpful and Cameron soon finds himself cuffed in the back of a squad car.
Meanwhile, Beth is subjected to a twisted version of a well-known urban legend: she wakes up in a bath tub full of ice water, and her baby has been surgically removed from her body. She finds clothes and stumbles out into the daylight, where she discovers she is not alone. Three other women, all of whom had identical experiences to Beth’s, band together to find out where they are and what has happened to their children. The search becomes increasingly strange as the women make their way through the facility, and the tension mounts when they realize someone or something is also out to kill them.
The Clinic sets up its premise quickly and moves at a quick clip, alternating between Beth and the other women exploring the bizarre facility in which they find themselves and Cameron’s attempts to find where Beth has gone. The pieces of the puzzle come together slowly, and if the final explanation is a bit of a letdown, that still does not mean getting there is any less interesting. It’s genuinely unsettling when these characters are in danger, each woman having some personality that automatically makes them more interesting than the typical slasher cannon fodder. The Clinic is definitely worth a look, and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for what writer/director James Rabbitts does next.
Image Entertainment released The Clinic in unrated (reviewed here) and R-rated DVD versions on 9 August 2011.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org as well as contributing to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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