How far would you go for your child? That is the question that The Clinic asks in a most grueling fashion. This recent Aussie import borrows bits and bobs from about a dozen different films, with nods to everything from Hostel to Cronenberg to Cube, yet, surprisingly, comes across as a rather inspired and confidently crafted piece of survival horror.
It’s 1979. Cameron (Andy Whitfield) and his very pregnant fiancé, Beth (Tabrett Bethell), are driving across the dusty back roads of the outback en route to Beth’s mother’s house for the Christmas holiday. Far away from anything resembling civilization, the couple is driven off the road by a beat up old ambulance in a seemingly random act of road rage, and, after calming their nerves, Cameron decide to find a place to stop for the night. They happen upon a rundown, near-abandoned motel run by a greasy little weasel named Hank (Boris Brkic), who takes advantage of his remote location, and charges them triple his per-person rate seeing as how Beth is with child. Cameron, too tired to argue, pays the man, and the couple are soon relaxing “pool side” (the pool’s filled with all manner of detritus), where Beth nods off and has a nightmare involving a crying baby, lots of blood, and a series of Roman numerals. When she wakes, it’s now evening, and Cameron takes her to their room to put her down for the night.
Restless and hungry, Cameron decides to venture into town and look for a bite to eat, but not only does he come up empty handed, he also runs out of gas, and is forced to hike back to the motel. When he returns to their room, Beth is nowhere to be found. At first, he assumes she’s gone off to look for him, but, after a search of the property, a worried Cameron phones the police, only to find himself in handcuffs after assaulting an unhelpful Hank in front of the local constable.
While Cameron is being carted off by the police, Beth awakens in an industrial complex, lying in a tub full of ice. She soon makes the horrifying discovery that her child has been surgically removed from her womb, leaving her with a hastily stitched vertical incision in her belly. She climbs out of her frigid bath, finding a pair of scrubs with Roman numerals emblazoned upon them left neatly folded on a chair in the corner. Beth puts them on and, doubled over in pain and bleeding, frantically tries to find a way out of the maze-like building. Once she does discover an exit, she finds that the entire complex is fenced in with barbed wire; the only gate padlocked shut. Exhausted and seemingly out of options, Beth collapses, but, before surrendering to unconsciousness, she sees three other women, each dressed in the same numbered outfits as she, approaching her.
When Beth comes to, Veronica (Freya Stafford),a doctor, is patching up her wounds while the other two women, Ivy (Clare Bowen) and Allison (Sophie Lowe), look on. Veronica fills Beth in on what little they know about their situation, and, once Beth gets her strength back, the group decides to venture back into the facility in hopes of finding their children. Once inside, they find the body of another woman, her stitches torn open by someone else eager to obtain whatever it was that had been sewn inside. It soon becomes apparent that someone else is hunting them, and the women must work together to find a way to reclaim their children before they’re next.
I have to admit that I wasn’t really looking forward to watching The Clinic. Having seen the film’s trailer a short while back, I expected another in a long series of torture porn films, and, seeing as how this one dealt with pregnant women and their babies, well, I was less than enthusiastic about sitting down to review it. My preconceptions were quickly erased by what was actually a very competently made horror/thriller with a healthy dose of mystery that kept me fairly riveted until the film’s nifty conclusion. I did have a few minor issues with the film, all of which veer too far into spoiler territory for me to cover here (although I will say that a certain key character’s fate is less than clear), but, overall, director James Rabbitts does a fine job with his feature debut, showcasing a remarkably assured and mature approach that’s a welcome relief from the manic style many younger directors employ in this post-Saw era.
The Clinic comes to DVD courtesy of Image Entertainment. The disc sports a crisp, stylistically washed-out 2.35:1 transfer that handles the film’s myriad dark scenes well, while a pleasant sheen of filmic grain lends the image a nice sense of cinematic warmth. The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track is a well-mixed affair, with an immersive surround mix and clear dialogue, but I did find the bass a touch on the weak side.
The disc's sole extra is its theatrical trailer. Otherwise, it’s as barren as the Australian outback.