The point where most horror movies lately get it wrong is the all-consuming drive to be original before anything else. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing unless being original is all the film has got going for it. What moves you about a story–any story–is how it’s been told. And while Clock did have a dynamite of stakes in the form of a superbly relevant social issue, the entirety of its execution was a reluctantly lit sparkler at best. I was positively worked up for the film, which promised the body-horror-toned plight and fight of a child-free woman in a reproduction-obsessed society. Because if there’s anything body horrors have a high shot at thriving in, it’s the trope of an abused woman blowing up in rage. Going out on a limb and relying way too unfairly on the trope to be sensational enough to make up for the lack of effort is what dooms Clock to oblivion.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘Clock’?
Carrying the generational burden of paying for the horror that her family endured during the Holocaust weighs heavy on Ella. But that hasn’t stood in her way of making a name for herself as an esteemed interior designer known for her fantastic sense of colors and how they play out in a room. The thing about Ella is that in the entirety of her life, she has never felt the urge to reproduce in the slightest. In fact, she is rather uncomfortable at her friend Shauna’s baby shower when Shauna asks her to touch the bump and feel the baby kicking. Why Clock deemed it a convincing move to make the noticeably smart Ella completely oblivious to the fact that she has tokophobia is beyond me. But let’s believe it for the sake of getting through it. Being nagged by her friends, who are implicitly of the notion that life’s only worth living if you’re procreating, frustrates Ella to no end.
And a borderline abusive father who deems her worthless for not furthering the bloodline that her family worked hard to save during the Holocaust does give her moments of wondering if she should just say “to hell with it” and have a baby. Her husband, Dr. Aiden Patel, has apparently bid goodbye to his dream of having a baby with the love of his life considering that she doesn’t want one at all, but there’s something suspicious about the man, who does come off a tad passive-aggressive at times. When Ella goes for a routine health check-up to a doctor her husband recommended, she’s a little taken aback by the healthcare professional’s mention of a biological clock that exists in every woman and may be broken in the case of Ella. At this point, I’m once again exhausted by the patronizing narrative’s attempt at making Ella come off as uncharacteristically naive and trusting of a random doctor’s supremely problematic lecture. When she finds out about a clinical trial conducted by a certain Dr. Simmons on women who are “unnatural” and don’t want children, Ella lies to her husband about going off on a job and takes part in the trial instead. Seriously? We’re supposed to believe that?
What Goes Down At And After Dr. Simmons’ Clinical Trial?
Let’s give it up for Clock for getting progressively unconvincing as the narrative goes on. And let’s back up a bit so I can tell you why it’s getting on my nerves. Ella’s mother dying of cancer has understandably made her wary of taking birth control pills. But when she gets into the trial, she has no problem popping pills that release synthetic hormones into her bloodstream. Dr. Simmons, as a therapist, is as boilerplate as you would expect. Shockingly assured that she can cure Ella’s generational and personal trauma in just a few sittings, Simmons tables a Rorschach test of sorts.
Ella hallucinates a family of dead bugs, a grandfather clock, and an extremely tall woman materializing on the cards—all of which, unsurprisingly, are telling of what truly haunts her. If you’ve ever been to therapy or have the slightest idea about how it usually goes, you’re likely to find Ella’s rapid diagnoses laughable and supremely out of touch with how it works in the real world. After giving her the extremely obvious diagnosis of her tokophobia, Simmons delves deep (not really, but Clock wants you to believe that) into her hallucinations to try to make sense of them. The grandfather clock turns out to be the only family heirloom that survived the Holocaust—a representation of her guilt that she would have no one to pass it down to. The family of dead spiders is a manifestation of her realization that she doesn’t want to bring a child into a world where sophisticated people get approval from society to murder each other. Yet she continues taking the pill. And she perseveres even through the suffocating tank with Simmons’ creepy video playing and the haunting ticking of a clock.
What’s worse and more ludicrous is that she keeps it to herself even when she repeatedly hallucinates the tall woman. And if you whined through it all to get to the 10th and last day of her trial, I’m sure you were just as dumbstruck as me to see her allow Simmons to insert a device inside her body. The dark days are only beginning for Ella, as she seems to be doing worse every day since she’s been back from the trail and is continuing Simmons’ medication. She’s developed an eerie craving for raw eggs and has somehow become colorblind. Even though it’s an absolute dealbreaker for an interior designer to not be able to see colors, Ella keeps the side effects a secret from Simmons on their weekly calls. What does shock her, however (but not us, of course, because at this point, what could?) is that she is starting to feel the desire to be a mother. The catch is that her love for motherhood is taking form rather alarmingly, made even more worrisome by her continued hallucinations, which at one point even posed a risk to the very pregnant Shauna.
‘Clock’ Ending Explained – Did Ella Die At The End Of The Film?
Not to dismiss Ella’s convoluted emotions about motherhood and pregnancy, but how are we supposed to believe that she voluntarily went through a traumatizing trial just to get the urge to want a kid? Had Clock spent just a little time giving us an insight into what was going on in Ella’s mind or even a substantial introduction of who she is as a person, maybe her actions would’ve made more sense. Unfortunately for Clock, the ambiguity of what really eats away at Ella is only detrimental to the terror the film is trying to make us feel. By now, it’s not a shock that the medication has her going off the rails. Ella not only decorates the nursery at Shauna’s house with all the gore she can conjure but also attacks her when her water breaks and shows signs of a chaotic psychosis. And then we’re supposed to believe that she is stable enough to drive to her father’s place right after being thrown out of Shauna’s house. When she does show up to help out her old father, who has fallen down and can’t get back up, Ella is tormented by the acutely loud ticking of the grandfather clock and ends up taking it apart. Her desire to get pregnant peaks right after and is only stopped when her husband is injured by the device that was inserted by Dr. Simmons.
Now, here’s the twist that we’ve seen coming from a mile away with our eyes closed: When Ella grabs Aiden’s work bag and sees the logo of Dr. Simmons’ clinic on it, Aiden quickly comes clean about subtly manipulating her into going for the trial. Enraged, Ella rushes into Simmons’ clinic and holds her accountable for all she’s going through before breaking down and asking the doctor to help her get pregnant. Seeing another woman hallucinate makes a switch go off in Ella, and she comes to terms with the fact that it’s Simmons’ medication that’s making the patients hallucinate. Moreover, the desire to procreate in child-free women is in itself a hallucination that Dr. Simmons has been causing with her groundbreaking scientific discovery.
When Simmons refuses to remove the device lest it ruin Ella’s chance of ever conceiving a child, Ella takes it upon herself to pull it out with a pair of pliers. Ella’s desperate action mirrors and explains what we’ve seen in the first sequence: a woman bleeding out and killing herself shortly after pulling out the device. As soon as the device is removed, the colors she was unable to see come back into her life. But before she can walk out of there, the cops detain her, and a call from Aiden makes the earth shift from under her feet. For the sake of another twist, which isn’t necessarily all that twisted, thanks to how exhaustingly predictable Clock is, Ella learns that what she thought was her grandfather’s clock was actually her father. She had disemboweled her father right after he apologized for pressurizing her to have a child (because apparently, people just change overnight in the Clock world).
Whether it’s out of her guilt over killing her father or to escape the horror of incarceration, Ella runs from the cops and jumps to her death. Even though the death isn’t forthrightly shown, and the last scene is supposed to leave us wondering about what really happened to her, no one can survive that fall. What we see at the end of Clock is a representation of Ella’s dying thoughts. The fish that crawls out of the water is Tiktaalik, the first fish to evolve and survive on land—something her father incessantly reminded Ella of as he was trying to convince her that a woman’s purpose is to procreate and further her bloodline.