Thursday, February 3, 2011

Because No Baby Shower Is Complete Without Existential French Parasites

Fetuses are small, right? What about ancient parasitic fetuses that crave human blood and discuss French philosophy with their ambivalent mothers? Still under 5’, yes?
That’s a glorious truth, because otherwise, how could I fairly include 1990’s Baby Blood in February’s Attack of the Vertically Challenged Villains?
Quick Plot: Meet Bianca, the assistant lion tamer for a dingy French circus and abused wife of its sour keeper. Her unhappy life changes one day when an African leopard is brought into the act, dying gruesomely when an ancient parasite eats its way out of its spotted chest. See, the parasite finds its way into Bianca’s vagina, which is pretty much the biggest reproductive inconvenience since Maryam D’Abo’s XTRO fate. Before you can say morning sickness, Bianca packs up and moves on to be alone with her well-spoken fetus and its hunger for human blood.

From there, Baby Blood (or the slightly better titled The Evil Within) just roams for the next few months of Bianca’s pregnancy, all the while watching her discuss everything from murder to existentialism. Men are killed along the way, sometimes brutally and with intent, others, as mere accidents that get caught in the good samaritan crossfire. Throughout each trimester, Bianca and her fetus try to figure out who and what they are to each other. Will she miss him when he’s born? Is she happier now being the slave to something inside her body than she ever was as an undervalued wife?
Baby Blood is not a typical film, and in complete honesty, I have no idea if it’s any good. Made in 1990 by Alain Robak, it’s hampered a tad by its time (nothing says sexy like a puffy ‘90s jacket) and dubbing, particularly when a character speaks a foreign language (scripted as Portuguese, but actually, the original French soundtrack) only to immediately slip back into perfect American English immediately after. Moments like these made it hard to truly gauge the film’s quality.

At the same time, Robak executes his story with a distinctively European and perhaps even feminist attitude. Little lines littered throughout the film hint at how Bianca is always under the power of a man, whether it’s her cruel husband, dastardly fetus or hitchhiking driver all too willing to strand her at a gas station for a laugh. In her conversations with her unborn baby, Bianca also demonstrates the complicated relationship I imagine many women have with their soon-to-be children, one wherein she feels used in both parasitic and beneficial ways. As an exploration of pregnancy, Baby Blood is surprisingly thoughtful.
This doesn’t mean the film is perfect or even a joy to watch. The plot doesn’t really follow a strong line, though at least we have a ticking due date to help keep us focused. While the parasite is certainly chatty, we never really learn enough about him to sense its importance in the larger world, and Bianca’s motives are hard to read when even she doesn’t know how to feel about what’s inside her. 

So Baby Blood. Hm. It sure makes you think...
High Points
Robak does some innovative tricks with his camera, often using the point of view of his victims to great effect
It’s hard to judge Emmanuelle Escourrou’s performance under poor dubbing, but she does convey an interesting and eventually, sympathetic sadness with her unusual face

Low Points
For as much as Baby Blood is Bianca’s story, it certainly would have behooved the film to give HER a clear ending or ultimate arc
Lessons Learned
French people can’t resist investigating vehicles parked in odd spots

When giving birth, one can expect the following:

You’ll push and push
There will be a little head
Then you push again
Then something emerges, just like a baby dolphin
Oh, and finally, you’ll cut the cord yourself
Football players in London are known for raping whatever comes their way, especially when it’s covered in blood

As I sit back to write about this odd little foreign film that fell on my radar due to the concept of a parasitic fetus, I think I’m deciding that I liked it. It’s strange and oddly pensive, even if the plot seems unfocused and mood, completely uncertain. Perhaps it will work better with its original French soundtrack and English subtitles, where the mood should (I imagine) read a little clearer. Sadly the DVD is bare of any other special features, but this is still a film worth renting when you’re looking for something different, particularly if you’re hoping said something different contains female nudity, male bloodshed, and Cronenbergian dream birth sequences that should serve as sufficient birth control. 


  1. This is one I saw a long time back, and remember being kind of freaked out by the "interior monologues" (see what I did there?). I also remember it being pleasingly bloody. A wild one for sure, and a great addition to the Shorties project!

    Talking of which, I have one for you that I hope to write up next week--my only fear is that it might already be on your docket, since it is a Netflix streaming thing. On the other hand, you can never have too much talk about Evil in Small Packages, imo. ;)

  2. I'm both fascinated/terrified/baffled by what must go on inside the womb, more so for the mother-to-be than anything else. I know billions of women hold babies inside their bellies and all, but I still think the process is worthy of a much larger subgenre of horror than it has. The more I thought about Baby Blood, the more I liked it for that reason. mind is jumping to manitous and devils within her and so much more Instant Watch goodness! It may be on my docket, but that doesn't mean the world doesn't deserve MORE about it!

  3. It's interesting to think that France has done a film about a killer fetus and a film where a pregnant woman is in peril. Crossover time? I'd see that movie- wouldn't you?!?

  4. Without question Tim, without question whatsoever.