Following Dianna Agron’s career post-Glee has been a whirlwind of fascinating big-screen roles. Clock marks Agron’s first major horror appearance since 2011’s Hunters. How is it possible that Agron has already graduated to playing a thirty-seven-year-old mother when it feels like just yesterday she lorded over the streets of McKinley High in her Cheerios garb? Writer/director Alexis Jacknow injects a much-needed female perspective into the doomed-pregnancy tropes that have persisted through media since the 60s, when the pearl-clutching terror depicted in Rosemary’s Baby set a golden template. Clock has a bit of a twist on a tired formula, and yet, it still stumbles irrevocably in execution and especially in resolution.
Ella has built a career around designing and making people happy, with her newest project centered on building a nursery in the home of her very close friends, Shauna (Grace Porter) and Janet (Jacknow), for their upcoming baby. Despite everyone around her—father, friends, gynecologist, and even her hunky boyfriend, Aidan (Jay Ali)—desperately wanting her to have children, Ella has absolutely no desire. Ella’s biological clock appears to be broken with no signs of recovery. Still, Ella tries to force the idea of having a child to appease those around her. Her womb considered “geriatric,” Ella becomes convinced to have a baby simply out of obligation. Aidan, however, refuses to stop using condoms until Ella is absolutely sure she wants to start a family.
To sway her mind, Ella’s gynecologist suggests a new hormone trial that could mean serious progress in the way Ella views pregnancy. Mysterious, well-spoken Dr. Simmons (Melora Hardin) promises to “realign” Ella to her “natural state” using a newly engineered synthetic hormone and intensive cognitive therapy. In just ten short days, Ella’s fertility issues will be laid to rest, and her attitude entirely converted. It all seems too good to be true, and this being a horror film and all, indeed it is. Weird recurring imagery of spiders, stomach-turning depictions of difficult births, and a bloody baby dangling out of Ella‘s body to the tune of a clock’s pendulum haunt Ella from the second she begins these trials.
Where Clock makes major missteps is in its alleged central baddie, a tall slender neck-snapping woman that evokes the titular character of 2013’s Mama, and all other manner of similar CGI-depicted villains. We have seen this type of horror time and time again, oftentimes in far more interesting ways. While Clock wisely never fully explains or spoon-feds the film’s curiosities, it also fails to properly explore them. As a result, we are left with a variety of half-baked ideas and mismanaged concepts. Agron is terrific as Ella—if only her arc matched the strengths of her performance.
Clock is a mixed bag of squandered potential with occasional glimmers of excellence. Genuine pregnancy fears and the lack of a drive to have children will doubtless be a relatable prospect to many people. Dianna Agron in particular remains the sole reason to check this one out. I could not help wishing that there was a bit more metaphorical meat on the bones of this rotting grandfather clock, but nevertheless, Clock is probably worthy of at least one go round its oddball orbit.
Time is running out—pay close attention to the ticking of the Clock when the film debuts exclusively to Hulu subscribers on Friday, April 28th. The movie screened at 2023’s Overlook Film Festival.
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