Proxy opens with the kind of scene that lets more sensitive viewers know that this might not be the movie for them. After a visit to the OB/GYN, a pregnant woman named Esther is brutally attacked by a hooded assailant and repeatedly smashed in the belly with a brick. It’s a hard-to-watch scene that announces the movie’s intent to go to unexpected, often unsavory places. It should also serve as a warning, that if viewers are not willing to go for a long, twisty, sordid ride, they should probably get out now.
After losing the baby, Esther, who claims to have no friends or family to turn to, begins attending a support group for parents who have lost children. There she bonds with Melanie, a group member who lost her husband and child to a drunk driver. After the two have become friends, Esther spots Melanie in a department store, creating a scene with the security guards about looking for her lost son. When the entire store has gone full Code Adam, Melanie sneaks out to the parking lot to where her son has been hiding in the car, so she can be “reunited” with him in the store. Still unnoticed by Melanie, Esther seems oddly pleased that the person she has bonded with has been lying about her grief.
This is the first of many twists, including a POV shift halfway through the movie that is impressively bold and audacious. As tends to happen in movies that delight in pulling the rug out from underneath the audience, early on the twists are exciting and unexpected, but eventually there are so many that the whole thing starts to wobble like a house of cards. The twist-heavy nature of the film even extends to its tone, which plays out like a somber, intelligent, low key horror film for the first half, but by the time the credits roll, every character is performing in full-on manic mode with the melodrama turned up to eleven and the entire film hinging on character motivations and plot points that make no sense in the real world at all.
The real twist is that Proxy isn’t the arty horror movie it seems to be at first, but instead is an unabashed throwback to the early thrillers of Brian DePalma, right down to liberally “borrowing” famous story elements directly and unabashedly from Hitchcock. Proxy is also likely to be every bit as divisive as early DePalma films; lots of people will undoubtedly hit their WTF threshold at some point and check out completely. Anyone willing to get onboard with a movie that looks sane and serious on the surface but has a hidden core of trashiness and high camp might enjoy navigating the loop-de-loops of Proxy.