Content Warning: This article deals with subject matter including sexual assault, forced pregnancy, and forced birth. Be mindful of your triggers and stay safe.
Pregnancy is an extraordinary thing, isn’t it? There’s a person growing inside another person. It’s the most natural thing in the world and also bonkers to think about. For instance, did you know that during development there’s not enough room for the intestines inside the fetal body, so they push into the umbilical cord? Then they squish all down in our abdomen. Something about that just gives me such an uncomfortable feeling, but it’s also fascinating.
Maybe that’s why some of these pregnancy horror films appeal to me. They use such a huge part of life that’s regarded as beautiful to tell darker, more unsettling stories because that’s part of life, too. Here are a few of them.
I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child. To be expecting at the same time would be a roller-coaster, to say the least. These are complicated and difficult things to deal with, and Lyle touches on them in a very real and personal way. Leah and June move into a new home with their toddler Lyle who tragically falls out a window. Leah is already pregnant with their second child and starts to believe something more sinister is happening. You could say this is a modern take on Rosemary’s Baby, but it feels a bit smaller in scale than that.
Was everything all in her head, a reaction to her grief and pregnancy hormones? I don’t know, and I don’t think it really matters. Films leaving you with questions opens up room for dialogue, and I think that can be an extremely helpful tool to work through our own issues. It’s also nice to see a lesbian couple as the main characters and not have it be the focus of the plot—it’s just part of who these people are. Representation is important in all movie genres, and I’m glad to see it.
Based on the novel by Dean Koontz, Demon Seed is a lot more stylish and Sci-Fi oriented than its title may suggest. Dr. Alex Harris develops the most sophisticated artificial intelligence known to man, named Proteus. He gives the system to the sum of all human knowledge and because of this, it eventually wants to have a child. Hacking into a computer in Dr. Harris’s home, it barricades his wife Susan inside. Rightfully, she is terrified and fights against Proteus, who uses an old robot to move around the house (as well as watch her from the many cameras).
Using some of her cells to create spermatozoa, Proteus impregnates her to create a human form to interact with the world. There’s the forced pregnancy angle to this that makes it really disturbing. Susan eventually relents and goes along with the plan, it’s obviously horrible to think about. Forced pregnancy from a force beyond our comprehension…Yeesh. She has a super accelerated pregnancy, giving birth to the child after one month. While this is quite a terrifying concept it’s mostly a very slow film with a pretty climactic ending.
Susan gives birth and the baby is put into an incubator before she’s able to even see it. Dr. Harris and the team finally figure out something is wrong and he returns home. Since Proteus can be anywhere it’s connected to, it made a fake video of Susan to ward off visitors, and Haris isn’t really a great husband so he never noticed anything amiss. He and Susan attempt to destroy the incubator and a giant, horrifying metal baby comes out of it. Turns out this is the incubator, and a totally normal clone of their dead child emerges, speaking in Proteus’s voice. I don’t really get the impression is an evil entity, just disconnected from humanity because of its origins and this is a way for it to become truly human. I feel like maybe this would be looked back on more fondly if it had a different title. Demon Seed feels a bit more satanic than the end product.
This one is a specific scene and it haunts me to this day. Sam is abducted by aliens and returns several years later as a horrible alien-human hybrid (which itself has become a famous gif used generally without even knowing the film) and apparently in need of a womb to be reborn, or something. It sneaks into a woman’s house and assaults her, depositing something into her mouth reminiscent of Alien. The creature puppet isn’t the best but what comes afterward is nothing short of nightmare fuel.
She wakes up groaning in pain, the dead body of the alien nearby. Stumbling into the kitchen and collapsing as her body stretches and you can hear snapping and straining coming from inside her stomach. She screams and we cut to her laying on the floor bloated to massive size as a fully grown man emerges from her headfirst. He squirms free and bites through his umbilical cord before washing blood off his body in the sink and I turn the movie off, traumatized for life.
Often thought to be derivative of both Alien and Demon Seed, I think Inseminoid stands out due to the fact that after our main character Sandy is inseminated with alien eggs, gains super strength, and goes on a rampage. She resists sedation and mutilates everyone. For good measure, she also cannibalizes the other crewmates after killing them. I assume since this is a super accelerated pregnancy she needs that extra energy. After destroying a part of the airlock with a harpoon, it’s revealed she can also breathe the alien atmosphere with no problems.
After her alien twins are born, Sandy is finally killed. Later we see her babies eating her flesh, which is pretty messed up but also reminds me that some creatures do this for that super important first meal. (For more on this see Matriphagy) As well, Sandy’s pregnancy lasts 28 days, a clear reference to the menstrual cycle.
This is a hell of a debut film. Part of the New French Extremity movement in the mid-2000s, directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo come out of the gate swinging with the tale of a pregnant widow, Sarah, as a mysterious woman breaks into her house and literally tries to steal her baby from inside her. Obviously being heavily pregnant is an extremely vulnerable position to be in but Sarah does not hesitate to fight back with everything at her disposal. Needles, scissors, household appliances? We’ve got it!
This and a few other films brought forward new and terrifying ideas for horror with female characters at the forefront. I’m happy to see over a decade later this trend has continued.
Horror always astounds me with the variety of stories you can tell through the genre. While a lot of films revolve around death, you can make (however twisted) stories about the beginnings of life as well.