In recent years, mainstream horror movies like “Hereditary” and “It Follows” have embraced a seemingly more sophisticated form that unites social and psychological drama with a sleek visual sensibility. But possessing these ingredients does not a winner make. Case in point: “False Positive,” a handsome new Hulu feature that aspires to be a modern version of “Rosemary’s Baby,” but that ultimately lands somewhere between tepid and confused.
Directed by John Lee from a screenplay he wrote with Ilana Glazer, his “Broad City” collaborator and the star of the film, “False Positive” explores the dark side of pregnancy in the age of fertility treatments.
The concept, at least, is promising. After two years of attempting to conceive, Lucy (Glazer) and Adrian (Justin Theroux), a wealthy Manhattan couple, turn to John Hindle (Pierce Brosnan), a debonair fertility doctor with a menacing glint in his eyes. The oddly simple procedure works and soon Lucy is carrying not one, but three babies.
To prevent future complications, however, she is forced to undergo “selective reduction” that will either destroy her male twins or her single girl. Against Hindle’s recommendation and her husband’s desires, she chooses the girl, unfurling what may or may not be a conspiracy to wrest control of Lucy’s pregnancy from her.
That women continue to lack autonomy over their own bodies is indeed a horrifying reality. But Lee and Glazer, torn between the impulse to satirize an upper-crust milieu of would-be parents and the desire to depict a complex mental breakdown, unleash a watered-down and occasionally contradictory critique of, well, just about everything — white liberals, the health care system, the patriarchy.
And despite its vaguely unsettling clinical ambience, very little about the film as it makes its way to an ultimately flat and predictable final twist, manages to feel tense or thrilling. Or even funny for that matter.
Rated R for disturbing/bloody images, sexual content, graphic nudity and language. Running time: 1 hours 32 minutes. Watch on Hulu.