Esther Woodhouse (Alexia Rasmussen) is almost nine months pregnant and has been at the clinic having an ultrasound scan to check on the baby's progress. The nurse chats away, understanding why Esther doesn't want to be told the infant's gender, and reassures her that all is well, though the mother-to-be mumbles something about being glad when it's over, and the nurse sympathises with that too. Once she has finished with the scan, she heads back home, walking along the street when she turns into an alleyway and an assailant appears from nowhere, hitting her over the head, knocking Esther unconscious. Whereupon the attacker takes a brick and smashes it into her victim's belly a number of times, steals a few dollars from her purse and walks away...
Needless to say, Esther loses the baby, but that disturbing opening was merely the start of a film determined to keep the audience off guard, and if that meant their minds were reeling then so much the better for writer and director Zack Parker in the film that really began to put him on the map after three indie features. You could describe it as a dark drama, move from there to thriller perhaps, possibly horror as well, but whatever it was watching it from a position of not being aware much of what was going to happen beyond the first ten or twenty minutes was preferable, this was one of those experiences where going in cold would see to it that the film worked its unsettling spell to the best of its advantage with both withholding of vital information and deliberately hard to read performances contributing to a mightily off-kilter tone.
Of course, if you really wanted to know what was going to happen, then even being in full possession of the plot would not necessarily assist in fathoming what Parker was expressing. There were hints, with only the last couple of minutes where we finally see into one character's thoughts and understand what is unfolding in their mind do the pieces begin to fall into place; nevertheless, you would really only latch on from watching the film from beginning to end since this was not exactly building up to its big revelation. Indeed, the whole revelation was playing out before your eyes as you gradually (or maybe not so gradually, given how this starts) realise that these people are insane, and more worryingly represent a growing state of affairs in society.
It's all very well being a celebrity for having and employing a specific talent, but not everyone can be so adept at that, so we have to have a certain group of folks who either become well-known through association, or through a particular event that has become part of their lives. It's significant that you cannot imagine many who would suffer a trauma then refuse to go on to the news or into print to discuss it, whether they were in tears or not, as if it was their duty to share their problems with the wider public. Yet Proxy questioned how healthy that was, this compulsion to attract attention no matter how awful the reason, and took it to an extreme, acknowledging there were tales in the media already, often weekly, daily even, that saw "ordinary" citizens made extraordinary by their willingness to let society examine their suffering.
Not that Parker was criticising or blaming genuine victims, as often they need to relate their tales to warn others not to get into the same situations, a public service if you like. No, he was more warning against those who orchestrate their very own traumas or sensational stories so as to make themselves into personalities, whether in a certain circle like a support group or extended network of friends and acquaintances, or on the publicity trail appearing on talk shows and writing books about their own thinly veiled self-obsession. All of those, no matter what the scale, it was argued would feed the same fire of self-worth, even if that was twisted beyond belief as it was here. Again, it was difficult to say much without giving the game away, but the film went to striking lengths to render the characters unsympathetic when with everything the media tells us about their worst experiences we should be feeling very sorry for them, and it was this perverse tension that made Proxy so fascinating. Certainly not for everyone, but if you could take it, food for thought. Excellent orchestral music by The Newton Brothers.