Hulu’s latest horror movie, “False Positive,” is a gory disappointment whose real terror comes from the film’s treatment of abortion.
In the film, Lucy (Ilana Glazer, who also wrote and produced) and her husband Adrian (Justin Theroux) have been struggling to start a family for two years, when they reach out to a fertility doctor and Adrian’s former mentor (Pierce Brosnan). They finally conceive. But something suspicious is afoot, as increasingly bizarre and frightening occurrences begin haunting Lucy throughout her pregnancy.
As a horror film, “False Positive” is tedious, confusing gore, provocative imagery, and oppressive music cues with actual scares. The acting is tepid and uninspired across the board. No one is distractingly unbelievable, but everyone feels wooden and shallow, with the exception of Brosnan, whose charm and underlying sinister edge serve as the film’s sole saving grace.
The twists are predictable, leaving the film to over-rely on shock value to compensate for a lack of organic tension. The disturbing imagery ends up feeling hollow, as shock for shock’s sake, rather than provoking anything other than surface-level disgust and discomfort.
The area in which this frustrating treatment of horror is most apparent is in its treatment of abortion. Glazer has a history of producing content that aggressively and unsubtly supports abortion, from an episode of her sitcom “Broad City” to pulling production on a film she was producing out of Georgia due to their legal protections for life. “False Positive” is no different, treating the termination of an unborn human life as quotidian, while using babies and their deaths as props for shock value, a sentiment somewhat undercut by the conclusion.
The abortion itself is depicted, not in graphic detail, but as a monstrous mess of blood that takes on an eerie face and provokes nightmares. It is one of the more effective horror moments in the film. However, a far more brutal and disquieting sequence had just taken place moments before, one not even intended to be frightening.
After a successful round of IVF, Lucy and Adrian are informed that she is pregnant with three babies, twin boys and a girl. The couple is then asked to decide which of their unborn children is allowed to live.
On the advice of the doctor, Adrian advocates for the healthier boys while Lucy wants a girl. Hearing the couple dispassionately discuss which of their children to kill is horrifying, but treated in the film as mundane. The only narrative push behind the conversation is Lucy’s offense at the fact that Adrian has an opinion at all, even as she engages in what can only be described as a sex-selective abortion. Had the sexes been reversed, a feminist outcry would ensue.
After the procedure, a supportive nurse suggests that Lucy not tell others about the “selective reduction,” due to “judgment and misinformation,” while the warm doctor casually explains the procedure she just underwent. Lucy doesn’t care about the twin sons she just killed, only worrying about her daughter. For how dark and gruesomely the abortion was portrayed, the narrative seems desperate to convince audiences that it was not a big deal.
As the film winds to a close, the narrative takes a sharp turn that thoroughly contradicts the established tone, unintentionally undermining the film’s messaging on abortion. In a disgusting and intentionally provocative scene, Lucy mournfully cradles the body of her aborted child, heartbroken at her death.
This scene, paired with countless discussions about pregnancy, demonstrates the clear acknowledgment that the unborn babies are humans, loved and alive. No matter how hard the film tries, “False Positive” is unable to ignore the lives of unborn children and the inherent horror of abortion. The scariest part of the film is that its characters, creators, and story attempt anyway.