Surrogate (Review): Putting the Phantom in “Phantom Pregnancy”
Though Surrogate ’s premise may feel familiar at first, David Willing’s slow burn thriller is extremely effective.
Surrogate opens with a ninth birthday celebration for Rose Paxton (Taysha Farrugi). Afterwards, when it’s time for bed, the young girl asks her mother Natalie (Kestie Morassi) to check for monsters around her room. This is seemingly a routine between the two, and Natalie once again reassures her daughter that monsters are not real.
Natalie is a single mother who appears to do well for herself and her daughter, as she has a career as a nurse. However, soon Natalie begins to worry about Rose once she misses her father more and more, and reports that something has been keeping her awake and restless at night by pinching her.
Stress grows even more for Natalie when one night she suddenly wakes up in immense pain, and begins to bleed abundantly. At the hospital, she is told she is very fortunate to be alive, especially since she had just recently given birth. Natalie, taken aback by this comment, tries to argue that she did not just have a child and that it wasn’t even possible that she could be pregnant. Despite her attempts to defend herself, child services get involved, and agent Lauren (Jane Balder) is convinced that Natalie did in fact give birth, and has done something horrible to her baby.
As Lauren delves more into the issue, she ends up decided on giving Natalie a home visit. She discovers bruises on Rose’s back, and is even more convinced of Natalie’s guilt. Meanwhile, Natalie begins to wonder if something supernatural is affecting her daughter.
Surrogate has quite a few familiar story beats: a single mother scared for her child, a young child affected by the unknown, a possible phantom pregnant and haunted house. Despite this, the film still remains very much effective. This is in part due to the slow burn nature of its storytelling, building up intensity slowly and unraveling clues little by little rather than all at once. While the pace is a bit slower than the typical horror flick of its kind, none of the film feels at all wasted. From the beginning viewers are thrown into a whirlwind of mystery and animosity that’ll leave them guessing until the very twisted and dark ending.
Another aspect of Surrogate that makes it well worth the watch is the performances, as every actor seemingly fits their roles very well. Morassi plays a sympathetic mother that we know is on the right side of things very well, while on the other side of the coin Balder embodies her character’s ruthless mentality perfectly, and Farrugia is convincing as the confused and afraid little girl stuck in the middle of everything.
There aren’t too many kills or gross out moments so viewers who tend to look out for those sorts of things may find themselves disappointed. The few that are there, though, actually happen to be very impactful, and will definitely get some winces and jumps out of the audience.
The film may not be for those looking for an action packed or quick jump-scare filled horror, but the performances, intense subject matter, and overall well told story make Surrogate an entertaining genre fare worth the watch.
Surrogate is now available to rent on Amazon Prime Video and will be released on Tubi and GoogleTV via Indie Rights on September 16, 2022.