Masters of Horror was a horror anthology series that aired on Showtime from 2005-2007. Horror directors from around the world were invited to create original one hour horror films with seemingly no restrictions. An unexpected act of censorship at the end of season one forever changed the course of the series.
Pro-Life is intentionally one of the most ridiculous episodes of Masters of Horror. It takes a kitchen sink approach, dealing with politics, religion, demons, home invasion, medical horror, feminist horror, and a slew of other styles. It is also a piece of media criticism about Masters of Horror presented as an episode of Masters of Horror.
As I’ve discussed here already, the season one finale of Masters of Horror never aired in the US. Takashi Miike’s Imprint was censored by Showtime for dealing with abortion. This did not sit well with a lot of people connected to show, ranging from viewers to creatives. John Carpenter reteamed with screenwriters Drew McWeeney and Rebecca Swan to intentionally push Showtime’s buttons and call them on their bluff. Would they so easily censor another episode about abortion if an American horror director created it?
The answer is no, and that’s its own issue. John Carpenter’s Pro-Life aired with no censorship or restrictions from the network. The episode stands as a testament to the hypocrisy of the network, inconsistently applying restrictions based on who created the episode. Remember that the only other episode that was edited at all was Dario Argento’s Jenifer, trimmed around some of the more violent scenes before airing on TV. The optics of 2/3 of the non-American/non-British directors having their work censored are not great.
Is Pro-Life any good? That’s a complicated question. It is over the top, loud, utterly ridiculous, and intentionally stupid. It’s offensive and controversial to be offensive and controversial. The technical filmmaking is good, but the screenplay is intentionally edgy.
Pro-Life is the story of a protest at a reproductive health center, straight up called an abortion clinic in the film. A family of protestors are trying to break their way into the facility after their daughter runs away to have an abortion without their permission. The family believes her child is the second coming, while she wants nothing to do with being a teenage mother and wants the procedure to help her heal from trauma. A bloody standoff with guns and a variety of weapons happens for the next hour until the twist ending that surprises no one with the slap you in the face level of political satire happening in the episode.
This episode was questionable in taste in 2006 and is downright offensive now. Just looking at the language used regarding reproductive health and bodily autonomy is horrible. It is a purposeful rhetorical device that backfired. Without the context of the season one finale drama that you had to actively seek out when the series was airing, this is all shock value, no substance.
It was not uncommon or even unexpected for John Carpenter to layer in political and social commentary in his work. The problem here is that in punching up against Showtime he chose to punch down against real world issues, creating a gross out horror film about a teenager fighting for her right to control her life and her body. This was a struggle to rewatch for this series.
Content warning: gore, sexual assault, violence against women, reproductive health, surgery, religious content, foul language
Up next: S2E06 “Pelts,” directed by Dario Argento.