Clock is a terrific psychological horror film with layered themes of gender socialization and inherited trauma that’s quite visceral.
We review the 2023 Hulu film Clock, which does not contain spoilers.
The Hulu psychological thriller Clock explores using the female body to incite overwhelming anxiety about something oddly terrifying and quite visceral. This ominous view of a woman’s biological clock comes from an exciting new voice in the horror genre, one that isn’t afraid to patiently provoke the viewer’s fears in eye-opening ways.
Clock review and plot summary
The story follows Ella (Dianna Agron), a flourishing designer who enjoys her childless existence. She’s married to an adoring husband, Aiden (Jay Ali). After an evening with her father (Saul Rubinek) gaslighting her, Ella feels immense guilt about keeping the family lineage from going extinct.
Her physician pulls some strings and enters Ella into a cutting-edge clinical trial with Dr. Elizabeth Simmons (Melora Hardin, terrific here). The good doctor wants to help Ella spring her dormant biological clock back to life.
Clock, written and directed by Alexis Jacknow, is a psychological thriller and her feature debut, adapted from her short film of the same name. It establishes an unsettling tone and imagery with a hypnotic power that’s transfixing.
She then balances this with a deliberate wicked sense of humor in the first act to prevent the viewer from being overwhelmed. Every detail is purposeful, creating a relatable and instinctual psychological horror experience that’s hair-raising because it’s so relatable.
Jacknow manipulates the viewer masterfully with imagery that includes multiple ticking clocks, hidden “eggs” in plain sight, and subtle depictions of multiple characters fertilizing plants. You even have Ella in a sensory deprivation tank in the shape of a sterile ovum.
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You’ll note the editing, which cuts up footage of the “miracle of childbirth,” feels like something ripped from a Ridley Scott film. Even the device implanted into Ella looks exactly like a nickel-plated count wheel, which appears three stunning times.
However, Clock has a stunning “holistic” way of combining various psychological horror types, not just through images and tones but also by incorporating themes of inherited trauma, socialization, and hostile sexism.
Ella’s family carries the weight of being survivors of Birkenau because of horrifying family scars. This allows Jacknow’s film to work on multiple levels of horror, like psychological and terror, but all seamlessly.
Clock has clear inspiration from great modern streaming documentaries of late—for example, Hulu’s Aftershock and Netflix’s The Bleeding Edge.
Looking at Hardin’s character, Dr. Simmon’s is a cynical and monetary view of medicine, the type of view that profits off of groups that are discriminated against, like women and other protected classes.
Is Clock good or bad?
Hulu’s Clock is a good psychological thriller. The overall tone and imagery create enough visceral anxiety-ridden horror to cover up a few minor storytelling cliches. While the film lacks some true jump scares, it gains momentum as Ella unravels.
However, be forewarned this movie could be triggering for anyone dealing with fertility issues or involuntary childlessness.
Is Clock worth watching?
Clock is worth watching, especially for Agron’s best performance to date. You practically see her mind coming apart at the seams as society applies pressure and manipulates Ella into gender roles and social constructs.
There’s a real sadness here around the horror bluster of internal and external conflicts that Agron’s character deals with.
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