[Review] Marla Mae Massively Misses the Mark

The idea, at least on paper, is terrifying. A woman, Marla Mae (Lisa van Dam-Bates), who has always wanted an IUD (intrauterine device) but for some reason has never gone to a clinic or seen a doctor, decides to let an old friend whose nickname is “Doc.” but who seems to have no other credentials, insert one in her because he will do it for free.

Flash forward to the first time she has sex with her boyfriend without using a condom and guess what happens? If your answer is “she gets pregnant”, then you are definitely watching the wrong movie. Marla doesn’t get pregnant, but her boyfriend literally explodes beneath her during intercourse. Blood splatters across the walls and across Marla’s naked body. The upper part of her boyfriend’s body quivers beneath her in its death throes; the rest of him is just a puddle of gore.

What the heck just happened?

It’s a natural response to what you see take place on the screen; what kind of a birth control device did “Doc” put in this poor woman and, more importantly, will she be able to get it out before her lethal reproductive system kills again?

Let’s answer the second question first: No. Before Marla Mae is over, two more men will meet the same fate, although it can be argued they both ‘deserve’ to die more than their boyfriend did because they are very bad guys.

As for what is causing them to blow up in the first place, well, that’s tougher to answer because van Dam-Bates, who also wrote the script and directed the film, is frustratingly vague on what is happening to Marla in the movie. While it’s almost impossible for the audience to honestly imagine how they would react if their own intimacy ended in such a grisly fashion, it’s a pretty safe bet they would do more than Marla Mae does. Like call the police or get to the nearest hospital so a real doctor can examine her. Instead, Marla Mae wanders around like a ghost, going blankly through the motions of her life as if what happened to someone else. Granted, she is in shock — who wouldn’t be if what happened to her happened to them? But it feels fake, especially since Marla manages to break through to reality from time to time to nudge the plot forward before retreating to her blank stare once again.

Such missteps could be forgiven — or at least tolerated — if the story had enough drive to make you feel you were heading towards a finish worthy of that original idea, but the plot meanders more than Marla. For example, Marla goes to see ‘Doc’ about what he’s done to her but the confrontation that the audience is hoping for fades as she meekly accepts his condescending advice to just ‘get some rest’. Marla then gets attacked on the way home, killing the would-be rapist with her lethal lady parts, but the experience only makes her act even more spiritless than before.

Luckily, Marla has a spunky roommate named Jules (Katie Hemming) who helps her finally take action against “Doc” to get to the bottom of the IUD issue. Or at least that’s where the story seems to be (finally) heading until it simply runs out of steam. There’s one more blood-soaked murder, followed by an underdone denouement that answers absolutely none of the questions the movie has posed while hinting that maybe what you’ve been watching for the past 90-minutes never really happened at all. It’s supposed to be a final twist, but it feels more like a slap in the face.

  • John Black, Marla
John Black
John Black still remembers his first horror movie, sneaking in to a double-feature of Horror House with Frankie Avalon and a Boris Karloff film he can’t remember the name of but will always remember for giving him his first glimpse of cinematic nudity as one of the actresses moved from the bed to the door without putting on any underwear! (Fond family memory: That glimpse, when discovered by his parents, cased John’s mom to call the theater and yelling at the manager for letting her son see ‘such filth’.) Luckily, John was more impressed by the blood and horror than the bare haunches and quickly became a devotee of the genre.

John has been a professional movie reviewer since 1987, when his first review – of a Robert De Niro film called Angel Heart – appeared in the entertainment section of The Cape Codder newspaper. He’s been writing about film ever since, primarily now as the entertainment editor at Boston Event Guide. Hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t watch at least one movie, which is how he thinks life was meant to be.