Shortly after her ultrasound, expectant mother Esther Woodhouse walks down the street to her bus stop. Unfortunately, before she can there, a hooded stranger knocks her unconscious with a brick, and drags her into the nearest alley. The assailant then proceeds to strike Esther’s giant belly repeatedly, before running away. After losing her child, Esther seeks comfort in a local group for mourning mothers, where she meets Melanie. Melanie is a bright-eyed widow, who seems to still have a little spunk in her, despite the loss of her child and husband. Esther latches on to her new friend desperately, hoping to find some relief. To her surprise, Esther discovers the secret that’s driving Melanie’s happiness is a lie. Now, Esther must figure out why her new acquaintance has betrayed her, and how it will affect her life.
The style in which PROXY is shot is utterly unsettling. Director Zack Parker’s slow camera movements and interesting angles create vivid imagery and alluring cinematography that plays out really well against the depressing subject matter. His use of slow-mo beautifully unleashes each moment of bloody despair with an air of professionalism, and his patience gives the characters some breathing room, allowing more dialogue and development. Like a throwback to the days of black and white pictures, Proxy spends most of its time providing build up and growth before the big finale. Films like MATCH POINT and BURN AFTER READING come to mind when watching the movie, as the characters’ lives interweave and collide with destructive force. I loved how the stories came together, and the anticipation that led up to the final act. In the end, you couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for all of the characters involved in these tragic situations, because they had all shown that they could be redeemable people.
Another intriguing aspect of the film was the range of emotions that each character underwent. As each person changed in the face of trauma, I bounced back and forth between feeling empathy for the person, and hating them. I was confused as to what the exact relationship was between Esther and Anika, which was bothersome, but not completely relevant. In the end, all you really need to know is that the two are lovers, but I personally would have preferred a little clarification.
PROXY is heartbreaking and shocking from start to finish. The effectiveness is due in part to the terrific acting by everyone involved, especially Alexa Havins, Alexia Rasmussen, and Joe Swanberg. I was so moved by Swanberg’s performance as the hardened husband, driven mad by his wife’s secrecy, sure to fall apart at any given moment. It was a light I had never seen him in before, and it was a wonderful display of his range and talent. However, it was the dynamic between Esther and Melanie, played by Rasmussen and Havins, that really stole the show. Together the women displayed such chemistry that their characters seemed to simply understand each other, making their attraction to one another all the more convincing.
All of these elements compounded to create one of the best horror films of the year. One thing is clear: director Zack Parker has some serious potential.