Movies are a powerful medium. What people take away from a film is important. And if your market is 18-24 year olds, you wield major influence. Which is why an L.A. Times article highlighting an anti-abortion thriller opening the Hoboken International Film Fest got my full attention.
The pro-life sub-genre is aiming to make films that carry a morality message they say Hollywood won’t. But, as the Times piece reminds readers, Hollywood has generally stayed away from both sides of the issue. Hollywood may be pro-choice, but hardly, as the pro-life movement would deem, pro-abortion.
Films like Vera Drake, The Cider House Rules, Dirty Dancing, If These Walls Could Talk - not one of them glamorized or diminished the magnitude of such a decision. But they all reminded audiences of a time before Roe v. Wade, before women had the right to make decisions about their own bodies. A past that may soon become the present.
In just the last weeks, Ohio passed the “Heartbeat Bill,” Kansas clinics fought to keep their doors open, and Wisconsin cut funding to Planned Parenthood, which offers so many vital services beyond abortion. The number of state bills presented to ban abortion are triple that of last year (470 to 175), and the year’s not over yet.
Ken Del Vecchio, writer and producer of the pro-life thriller, The Life Zone, is a New Jersey Senatorial candidate. A former judge. He runs the trailers for his films on his campaign page. And also happens to run the Hoboken film fest where Zone debuted. (He left his position as a municipal judge after an ethics panel found it a conflict given the subjects of his films.)
In Del Vecchio’s Zone, which The Village Voice calls “an anti-abortion twist on the Saw franchise,” three women are kidnapped, taken from clinics where they were to have pregnancies terminated, and kept in a dungeon-like lab. In lockdown, they are visited by a doctor (remember Molly Ringwald’s big sis in Sixteen Candles?) who tells them they will stay there until their babies are born. And a man, calling himself their “jailer,” speaks to them via video and loudspeaker. (Raspy-voiced Robert Loggia, who seems hardly as likeable as he was in Big, playing “Heart and Soul” alongside Tom Hanks.)
Creepy? It gets creepier.
MAJOR, COMPLETE, TOTAL SPOILER ALERT.
One of the women thinks she can break free of her captors by ending the pregnancy herself. She’s been held prisoner in this purgatory for months. Only she doesn’t know it’s actually purgatory. The jailer? He’s Satan. The doc? Stuck in purgatory herself. The other two girls have their babies and go to heaven. But girl number three? She’s going to hell.
A reporter from The Jersey Journal describes dream sequences had by the women in the film as “… dreams of death and despair - montages of swarming bees, swirling tornadoes and speeches by Hitler one night, African-Americans and foreigners shouting "abort me" in foreign tongues the next…”
OK, SPOILER OVER. YOU CAN OPEN YOUR EYES NOW.
And Del Vecchio tells the Journal, "I think the audience will walk away not knowing what the filmmaker's position is, it gives both sides of the coin."
He also told The Daily Beast, “…the two most powerful functions for change in the world are the media and the arts. They shape people’s views.” And LA Times that “The clear message I’m sending as the filmmaker is that abortion is evil.”
So much for the coin metaphor.
Young, horror film-loving audiences unwittingly being fed political agendas with their Red Vines is not cool.
As Stephen Colbert, the faux Conservative that somehow Conservatives mistake for an actual neo-con, put it best, “Young people are brainwashed by pop culture all the time…If this movie works, why stop at abortion? Horror movies targeted to youth audiences can promote all our traditional values.”
Here's the trailer:
What do you think? Is Del Vecchio taking horror to new heights?
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