Stream to Scream: “PROXY”Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
If there’s anything that can definitively be said about a horror film like PROXY, it would be that the film is not for everyone. For those who appreciate more scare-based, supernatural outings, PROXY is not the film for you, and will likely test your threshold for transgressive content. On the flip side of the coin, those whose horror obsession filters down to chasing the dragon that is shocking content, PROXY might be a bit too far into the contemplative, artistic side for those merely expecting bloody viscera. However, for those whom PROXY does latch its claws onto, the film is a mesmerizing, poetic experience that few films can rival, provoking ideological thoughts and a jaw-dropping narrative that you otherwise might not find in even the majority of independent fright fare.
For those unfamiliar with PROXY, the film follows an expecting mother who suffers a tragic attack at the hands of an unseen assailant, losing her unborn child and nearly her life in the process. Soon after, she begins attending grief counseling and support groups, from which she meets a widowed woman in the latter. However, as she soon learns, things aren’t quite as they appear as these two women’s lives are propelled into one another as their secrets unravel with unexpected consequences.
By beginning PROXY with a violent, unflinching attack on an unconscious pregnant woman, director Zack Parker sets a dangerous, unpredictable tone for the story at hand. Yet what makes PROXY work so well is how often it remains unpredictable, taking a patient route of misdirection that ultimately delivers far more dread and unease while allowing its impactful moments of violence to be few and far between. By the time PROXY shows its hand and the true subject matter at play, the viewer is too far into the world, as misanthropic as it may be, to turn back, and there’s something masterful about compromising the audience in such an emotional way. And even scarier is the lengths at which Parker goes to keep PROXY grounded in reality, which makes the characters and their motivations all the more terrifying.
On top of the bold, unique narrative from the minds of Parker and co-scribe Kevin Donner, PROXY also features some fantastic craftsmanship from start to finish. Perhaps most memorably, PROXY sports a fantastic score from the Newton Brothers, which adds this bizarre juxtaposition of class to the visceral proceedings. However, the strength of the score doesn’t discount the spectacular visual work of cinematographer Jim Timperman and Parker’s precise, atmospheric editing choices. And the special FX work by James Ojala is nothing short of phenomenal, especially considering the grim, macabre places that serve as the showcase for his talents.
PROXY is also a film largely dependant on the quality of the performances, from which the majority of the horrific concepts would never translate in the hands of a less capable cast. Alexia Rasmussen is undeniably excellent as Esther, making the most of her screen time in a role that carries a ton of emotional weight and careful duality. Meanwhile, Alexa Havins is absolutely riveting as Esther’s foil, Melanie, and is given an exceptionally brilliant twist that gives the actress a chance to craft a multi-dimensional character from a morally complex role. Furthermore, both Joe Swanberg and Kristina Klebe spin exceptional performances in their supporting roles, which are best left to mystery for those who haven’t seen the film in lieu of further analysis.
Overall, PROXY isn’t going to win over casual audiences, and any potential viewer who can get past the unsettling attack sequence might be surprised by the elegant treatment of the disturbing narrative. But PROXY is the kind of film that pushes boundaries in the best way possible, making films that sell themselves as shocking excursions into depravity seem relatively weaker by comparison. In fact, PROXY is the kind of film that, if stripped of its genre elements, could have swept the fascinations of film festivals as an art house psychodrama. Yet PROXY unabashedly is a horror film, and one that reminds viewers that one doesn’t need jump scares, creatures or nightmare logic to leave a viewer shaking in their seat.
PROXY is currently streaming on Netflix Instant.