Three young women wake up, confused and terrified, in a room that looks like a cross between a normal hospital room and the creepy underground lair of some mad scientist from a horror movie. A video screen flickers on and a creepy older man, looking a bit like Academy-award-nominee Robert Loggia, appears on it, telling the women that he’s their “jailer.” The women, you see, had all been getting abortions when their jailer’s shadowy accomplices kidnapped them and brought them to this strange prison, where they will be forced to live for the next seven months until they gave birth. “You were all on the operating table, all ready to commit murder,” announces a mysterious doctor. “Your babies will be given life just as God planned.”
This is the premise of a new horror film called The Life Zone, which recently had its world premiere at the prestigious, er, Hoboken International Film Festival, a festival that was, perhaps not coincidentally, founded and chaired by the film’s writer and producer, Kenneth del Vecchio. In case you think I’m making all this up, here’s the film’s trailer, which makes The Life Zone look a bit like an equal-parts mixture of Saw, Human Centipede, and The Handmaid’s Tale, with Robert Loggia in the role of Jigsaw/Dr. Heiter/The Commander:
Now, if you thought that something seemed really … off about that trailer, well, you’re not alone. For the film is not, as you might have assumed from my description, a warning against the fanatical misogyny of many in the anti-abortion movement.
No, the film – produced by a pro-life former judge, crime thriller author, and Republican New Jersey state senate candidate – is meant as pro-life propaganda. As the offical press release for the film’s premiere put it:
The film, which appears to cut right down the middle [of the abortion debate], examining the topic from both sides, offers a powerful, anti-abortion climactic twist. Del Vecchio and the cast invite pro-lifers to come to this historic event.
During the months the three women are held in captivity, you see, they are exposed to a barrage of films and books intended to, er, educate them about abortion –what their attending obstetrician Dr. Wise describes as “an abortion think tank.” Two of the captive women do indeed convert to the pro-life side; apparently we in the audience are supposed to develop Stockholm Syndrome along with them. The third, as we see in the trailer, tries to induce a miscarriage, which doesn’t go quite as planned.
And this sets us up for the final twist, which I’m just going to go ahead and reveal: once all three women have given birth, Dr. Wise tells them she’s going to sew them all, mouth-to-vagina, into a Human Abortion-pede!
Actually no: the twist is that the “life zone” the three women in has actually been … purgatory! All three “captives,” you see, had died on the operating table while getting their abortions. (Apparently they went to the world’s worst abortion clinic, as first-trimester abortions don’t involve anything more surgically invasive than the insertion of a suction tube; the risk of death from a legal surgical abortion is 0.0006%, one in 160,000 cases, making the procedure many times safer than childbirth itself.) Their time in the “life zone” was a test: the two women who changed their minds were whisked up to heaven, while their miscarriage-attempting, stubbornly pro-choice companion is sent straight to H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks. Dr. Wise, despite being on the right side of the abortion question, also goes to hell for committing suicide. And, oh yeah, their jailer – Loggia – was Satan. Why Satan and a hell-bound doctor were the ones trying to convert the abortion ladies to the pro-life side I can’t tell you; del Vecchio’s theology is evidently more sophisticated than I am.
The real twist here? As Jersey Journal writer Alan Robb notes:
The Life Zone went viral across the internet [last] Friday after blogs The Frisky and Talking Points Memo picked up on the film’s trailer. … But despite garnering more than 20,000 hits on YouTube in the last four days, only fifty people – including the film’s cast and producers – attended this weekend’s screening, and even those who starred in the movie didn’t know how to interpret its twist ending.
It’s impossible to tell from the trailer if the film is bad in a so-bad-it’s-good way, or if it’s just plain awful. I will try to get hold of it when it hits video, and will report back with my results.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for a good horror film set in a creepy hospital, try renting Infection, a Japanese film from 2005. Or, if you’ve got a longer attention span, try Lars Von Trier’s supernatural soap opera The Kingdom, a darkly comic miniseries which takes place in what one might call, paraphrasing Bill Murray’s character in Tootsie, “one nutty hospital.” Both are conveniently available on Netflix instant watch, so you don’t even have to leave your pregnancy dungeon to see them.
EDITED: Added some info on the minimal dangers of abortion procedures.