The Unborn Child (2011) vs. Gosnell (2018)

Who wears a dress shirt to bed?
Who wears a dress shirt to bed?

Gimme an "A"! Gimme a "B"! Gimme an "O"...

Posted: Dec 8, 2018 4:52 PM
Updated: Dec 8, 2018 4:57 PM

Sex and violence are staples of American pop culture. When the two are combined in the form of abortion, however, the nation’s storytellers seem to develop a bit of stage fright. They either dance around the subject with the daintiness of a virgin spinster or tell the same two morality plays over and over. It’s either a tale of the misery faced by women who want abortions but can’t get them or the regret and discomfort caused when old abortions come to light. But for a subject that has roiled American politics for over half a century, there has been precious little entertainment which grappled with either the reality of or metaphysical questions posed by abortion.

This edition of KIMT’s Weekend Throwdown will consider two movies that approach the issue from each side. One is a foreign flick that mines its existential ugliness for some low-key horror thrills and the other is a crowd funded U.S. production that seems almost afraid of its unvarnished truth. It’s “The Unborn Child” (2011) vs. “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer” (2019) in a contest to see if horrible truths make the best horror movies.

Did her mother cut her hair with a broken bowl?

“The Unborn Child” is a film out of Thailand that claims to be based on a true story of a woman who claimed the ghost of her aborted baby was haunting her. So…”true” might be pushing a little. It follows the vaguely interconnected stories of a teenage couple who just got pregnant, a middle class professional couple with a young daughter, a hard-bitten abortionist and her baby-corpse disposing partner, and an actress facing a slumping career and an unwanted pregnancy. It’s one of those Asian ghost flicks where 90% of the action revolves around the characters reacting to scary sounds and something standing behind them that only the audience can see.

Presenting us with a Thailand where abortion is heavily restricted and even more heavily stigmatized, there are elements of “The Unborn Child” that will be strikingly pro-choice to American eyes. It is brutally honest about the awful dilemma facing young women who get pregnant before they are ready and the even more awful lengths they will go to free themselves from that maternal burden. The black market abortion practices displayed in this movie are more horrifying in their implication than a thousand gallons of fake blood and viscera. No one of good conscience would ever want a woman to have to go through that.

I think I know where the guys who did the CGI for "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" wound up.

Yet “The Unborn Child” also endorses in no uncertain terms that abortion is as much an anathema to traditional Buddhist morality as it is to traditional Christian teaching, showing it as the taking of innocent life and justifying the supernatural revenge of its victims. The abortionist and her undertaker partner are clearly defined as evil but neither is portrayed as inhuman, particularly when we see their rationalizations and excuses shatter when they are confronted with the magnitude of what they have done.

What is more interesting about “The Unborn Child” is how it demonstrates the power of cultural imperialism. It shows us four different levels of Thai society. There’s the high school kids who have no money or resources of their own. There’s the working class nature of the abortionist and the undertaker. There’s the middle class success of married professionals. And then there’s the actress living the lifestyle of the still rich and famous. What’s fascinating is that the higher you move up the socio-economic ladder, the more Americanized the characters become. The poorer characters look and talk and dress like they’re from a foreign land, but the richer characters would fit in fine in San Francisco or Des Moines. Though they’re the same nationality, they might as well be from different worlds.

"What kind of a gumball machine did THIS come out of?"

For its part, “Gosnell” may be one of the most disturbing non-horror flicks ever made. It’s a story that touches one electrifying issues after another, from race and sex to exploitation and willful blindness to atrocities, yet the producers had to LITERALLY go begging for money to make it. Hollywood just made a second big screen version of “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” the umpteenth version of Robin Hood, a remake of “Papillon,” and a film about the 1970s tennis rivalry of John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. But a black doctor in inner city Philadelphia who was accused of not only killing an adult patient through medical incompetence but of murdering possibly thousands of babies after they were born alive? NO ONE in show business thought that would be a movie worth making?

Based far more faithfully on the actually true story of Kermit Gosnell, this motion picture is surprisingly restrained given its subject matter. I mean, a medical zealot killing scores of innocent children over decades while letting his medical office and home turn into something out of the TV show “Hoarders?” It’s like if “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” actually happened. But this movie goes out of its way to avoid visual excesses or gross emotional manipulations. Partly, I’m sure that’s because they didn’t have the budget for anything too fancy. But I believe the tone of this film is mostly a deliberate decision to approach it more as an historical document than sensationalized propaganda. It is entirely accurate to say the investigation, arrest, and trial of Kermit Gosnell is something that mainstream American media and American popular culture wanted very much to ignore. Just go see the difference in results from your favorite search engine between “Kermit Gosnell” and “George Tiller.” The people behind this motion picture wanted to be sure this story wouldn’t be flushed down the memory hole.

And somewhere, Bill Cosby breathes a sign of relief that he's no longer the kindly old black guy with the worst secret life.

But I also suspect the makers of “Gosnell” were a little afraid of pushing things too far. This is perhaps the biggest, wettest, and reddest bloody shirt the pro-life movement could ever wave and I think the filmmakers avoided being as explicit as they could, even when presenting the pure and unadulterated truth, because they feared the backlash. Not just having a film business and media go from refusing to distribute, promote, or talk about “Gosnell” to actively trying to destroy the careers of everyone involved with it. I would guess they were also concerned a movie that makes “The Passion of the Christ” look like romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks would not appeal to the folks most interested in the film’s inescapable message.

Nick Searcy's look when someone suggested his next film be about the founder of the North America Man/Boy Love Assocation.

“The Unborn Child” takes a long time to get to its big ending, which is then slightly spoiled by CGI effects which look like they were cooked up on somebody’s old Commodore 64. That makes it easy to give this Throwdown to “Gosnell,” which is quite nicely done by everyone involved. But I think they both go a long way toward showing why abortion isn’t such fertile ground for horror flicks and why TV and cinema keep recycling the same safe and predictable abortion plots over and over again. I mean, it’s not like there are a bunch of horror movies about the Holocaust…are there?

The unwritten rule for all cop partners...always color coordinate!

The Unborn Child (2011)
Written by Poj Arnon and Thanadon Nuansutthi.
Starring Somchai Kemgland, Pitchanart Sakakorn, Chinaradi Anupongphichart, Chudapha Chanthakhet, Peerawit Boonark, Arisara Thongborisut, and Gathinda Chaang.

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (2018)
Written by Andrew Klavan, Ann McElhinney, and Phelim McAleer.
Directed by Nick Searcy.
Starring Dean Cain, Sarah Jane Morris, Nick Searcy, Michael Beach, Cyrina Fiallo, Earl Billings, Janine Turner, Paula Jay Fairbrother, and Alfonzo Rachel

Dagny Taggart?

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 604509

Reported Deaths: 7638
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1249671779
Ramsey52513897
Dakota46840471
Anoka42774458
Washington27428291
Stearns22557225
St. Louis18138313
Scott17551136
Wright16379149
Olmsted13399102
Sherburne1202095
Carver1067448
Clay826192
Rice8202110
Blue Earth762644
Crow Wing681795
Kandiyohi667985
Chisago619952
Otter Tail585884
Benton582998
Goodhue483874
Douglas475581
Mower470533
Winona461351
Itasca459763
Isanti440064
McLeod430661
Morrison424762
Beltrami407861
Nobles407650
Steele397816
Polk389072
Becker386755
Lyon363853
Carlton353056
Freeborn347033
Pine334923
Nicollet331245
Mille Lacs311854
Brown307840
Le Sueur297326
Cass286232
Todd285633
Meeker263443
Waseca238023
Martin235332
Roseau211221
Wabasha20793
Hubbard196641
Dodge18783
Renville182446
Redwood176539
Houston174616
Cottonwood167124
Wadena163323
Fillmore157610
Faribault154719
Chippewa154038
Pennington153820
Kanabec146828
Sibley146810
Aitkin138937
Watonwan13579
Rock128719
Jackson122712
Pipestone116726
Yellow Medicine114920
Pope11306
Murray107110
Swift106918
Koochiching95418
Stevens92411
Clearwater89016
Marshall88817
Lake83220
Wilkin83213
Lac qui Parle75622
Big Stone6044
Grant5948
Lincoln5853
Mahnomen5669
Norman5479
Kittson49022
Unassigned48193
Red Lake4017
Traverse3775
Lake of the Woods3453
Cook1720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 371101

Reported Deaths: 6053
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58263640
Linn21221339
Scott20308248
Black Hawk16157312
Woodbury15240230
Johnson1462385
Dubuque13510211
Dallas1129199
Pottawattamie11228174
Story1071648
Warren583791
Clinton561593
Cerro Gordo554095
Sioux517574
Webster515894
Muscatine4882106
Marshall486976
Des Moines467672
Wapello4338122
Buena Vista426940
Jasper421172
Plymouth403181
Lee382356
Marion366076
Jones300957
Henry294637
Bremer288461
Carroll287152
Boone268634
Crawford268240
Benton259855
Washington257351
Dickinson249344
Mahaska232651
Jackson225242
Clay216727
Kossuth216166
Tama212071
Delaware211143
Winneshiek198735
Page194522
Buchanan194033
Cedar192423
Hardin187544
Fayette186643
Wright186040
Hamilton181951
Harrison180073
Clayton171057
Butler166335
Madison164619
Mills163824
Floyd163442
Cherokee159338
Lyon158841
Poweshiek157036
Allamakee152952
Hancock150334
Iowa149824
Winnebago144531
Cass139255
Calhoun138913
Grundy137233
Emmet135841
Jefferson133535
Shelby131837
Sac130920
Union130035
Louisa129649
Appanoose129049
Mitchell126643
Chickasaw124917
Franklin123523
Guthrie123332
Humboldt119626
Palo Alto113623
Howard105022
Montgomery103638
Clarke100924
Keokuk96732
Monroe96431
Unassigned9540
Ida91535
Adair87332
Pocahontas85822
Davis85225
Monona82931
Osceola78916
Greene78011
Lucas77923
Worth7618
Taylor66812
Fremont6269
Decatur6169
Ringgold56424
Van Buren56318
Wayne54423
Audubon53311
Adams3444
Rochester
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 53°
Mason City
Partly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 46°
Albert Lea
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 52°
Austin
Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 50°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 46°
More storm chances this week
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events