“Cynthia” (2018) DVD Review
by Bob Freville
Those of us who were alive during the latter half of the 20th century can remember a time when babies were the focus of a wave of excellent and, oftentimes, atrocious horror movies. 1974’s It’s Alive!, 1982’s Basket Case and the respective follow-ups to each of those titles introduced us to the perils of postpartum aggression and fetal abomination long before antinatalism penetrated pop culture.
Like Larry Cohen and Frank Henenlotter before them, writer/producer Robert Rhine and co-directors Devon Downs & Kenny Gage mine parenthood and pregnancy for satire. One would think that Cynthia‘s indie budget and the relative inexperience of the above the line creative team would result in a sub-par rip-off of the aforementioned films. Instead, they make it work to their advantage by going their own way.
This is not another tired bad seed movie of the kind that Hollywood keeps churning out. Rather it is a raucous dark comedy with heart that masquerades as an exploitation horror movie. Sure, an ancillary character is disemboweled mid-coitus and yes, a stark naked victim thinks nothing of attempting to escape from her predator with her tits out and her underwear hanging off…in a professional setting.
But Cynthia is much more than some bloody B-movie, it is a well-written and well-acted tragedy of sorts, a picture which spends more time on the human condition than it does on creature effects or bloodshed.
Halloween‘s Scout Taylor-Compton and Masters of Sex’s Kyle Jones are a young couple who have been struggling for some time to get preggers. After repeated fertility treatments fail, they are shocked to find that their very last shot took. They are going to have a baby at long last…but their baby has some odd company in the womb.
Their unborn child’s companion is eager to greet the world and it’ll stop at nothing to be with its new family. What follows is something quite different than what most viewers will be expecting.
The film is at its best when it’s lampooning the idiotic and selfish reasons why certain people want to have children. It also deftly explores the frustratingly clinical approach many couples take in order to bear fruit, so to speak.
The best scenes in Cynthia have little to do with what most die hard horror fans would consider the hallmarks of the genre. Robert Rhine hands in a script brimming with memorable dialogue, brilliant transitions and likable characters…even when they are being absolute shits.
What pic manages to illustrate is just how easily humans can disregard each others’ feelings when it comes to satiating their own desires and needs. Nowhere is this more clear than in the way the filmmakers make us empathize with the flick’s negligent father-to-be.
Earlier I mentioned antinatalism, but it bears mentioning again since Cynthia may be the first of the mutant baby movies to properly elucidate the suffering of the child who didn’t ask to be born. When Taylor-Compton’s Robin goes looking for her missing infant daughter in an air vent and discovers her with the hideously deformed Cynthia, her mutated offspring lets out a guttural whimper that effectively conveys the agony and yearning which are our birthright as humans.
If genre fans need added incentive to see Cynthia they can count on the always game Bill motherfuckin’ Moseley (Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, House of 1,000 Corpses) for a bizarre cross-dressing cameo and Moseley’s Devil’s Rejects co-star Sid Haig as a sleazy cop to rival most of the grotty punks he played in the Seventies.
Check this picture out today if you like genre films that have more on their mind than gore and one-dimensional throwaway victims. If I was prone to giving things a rating, this one would easily earn four bloody diapers.
You can watch Cynthia now on DVD and Prime Streaming.