With a loose narrative, lack of suspense or scares, and an untidy script, False Positive ends up being an uninteresting thriller.
Film studio A24 has previously delivered great horror-thrillers like The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), Climax (2018), and Saint Maud (2019). Most of them had a unique touch in terms of style, innovation, and substance. The Killing of a Sacred Deer dealt with cosmic punishment and fate, Climax showed what could go wrong when someone spikes a sangria with LSD, and Saint Maud fused religion with identity and delusion. Meanwhile, their latest entry False Positive does not have a single speck of authenticity or creativity.
Lucy (Ilana Glazer) and Adrian (Justin Theroux) are a couple who desperately want a child, but their particular situation has made it difficult. They find high hopes thanks to an eminent fertility doctor, Dr Hindle (Pierce Brosnan). When Lucy gets pregnant, she starts sensing something ominous, something eerie behind Hindle’s allure. She now goes out of her way to uncover his secrets.
False Positive has been compared to and referenced as a modern version of Rosemary’s Baby (1968), and on paper, you can see that this film may have taken notes from it. Rosemary’s Baby is one of the best horror films of all time, and many have taken inspiration from it. It elevates its horror element through claustrophobia, a sense of dread, and the demeanour of strangers. When the credits for False Positive roll, you begin to question those comparisons.
The film fails to bring even a small dose of horror to the mix. Its opening expresses a sense of eeriness and is quite engaging; unfortunately, that interest only lasts for the first few minutes. When the film’s plot begins to develop, it loses itself rapidly. It feels like it does not have a sense of self, and satirical at times. False Positive can be many things, but interesting and scary are not one of them.
If there is a reason to give this film a chance, it might be the performances. Ilana Glazer delivers a good performance in her first run at a horror film, but it is weird seeing her in something that is not a comedy. Comedy is her strength, and she sneaks a couple of funny moments into the film serving as co-writer alongside director John Lee, but those moments don’t help. However strange, it is great to see her expanding out of her comfort zone.
Pierce Brosnan as Dr Hindle is the standout of the small bunch. He starts charming his way out of questions and decisions with a detestable and foul demeanour. On the other hand, Justin Theroux may as well be missing from the entire film; he does not bring any energy to his performance, and by the end, you will forget he is even in it.
The film falls on the brink of the in-between. It feels satirical, but it does not have enough dark comedy or self-awareness to be one. It has a slight sense of unease and dread, but it still lacks the main elements of a horror film. False Positive has its purpose, and it could have gone to darker territory. Unfortunately, it is too messy and hasty.
Justin Theroux’s character is named Adrian. Adrian was also the name of the baby fathered by Satan in the 1967 horror novel Rosemary’s Baby and its 1968 movie adaptation.