Culture Trips

False Positive and the dramas that expose our primal fears

Before in vitro was a reality, fears about pregnancy and birth in films more often took the form of a devil-baby. The adopted demonic child Damian in The Omen (1976) now looks like an influencer, inspiring sequels and copycat films. The Demon Seed (1977), in which a computer with artificial intelligence impregnates Julie Christie’s character, may have been ahead of its time in using pregnancy to express fears about new technologies.

Truly chilling

The classic example of a pregnancy horror-film, of course, is the still-chilling Rosemary’s Baby (1968), to which False Positive owes a huge and knowing debt. Both movies feature a lying husband, an evil doctor, the gaslighting of a trusting wife, and supposedly supportive but possibly duplicitous friends. But the new film is also notable for the way it veers away from the strict horror genre, focusing on more realistic threats.

Director John Lee, who wrote False Positive with Glazer (Broad City), deftly blends Lucy’s nightmarish fantasies with credible scenes from her privileged life with her husband, Adrian (Justin Theroux, who finds the right uneasy balance between attractive and sinister). The first scene shows a stunned Lucy in a blood-soaked shirt slowly walking down a dark, empty street. The police cars and ominous music that follow suggest she has been involved in something horrific. But the story then flashes back to ordinary life, where we see her disappointment at the latest negative pregnancy test. Adrian convinces Lucy to see his old mentor, the famous Dr Hindle. Pierce Brosnan plays the doctor, smoothly condescending to Lucy.

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