There are relatively normal aspects of life that can be quite frightening in the right circumstances. For some, one of those aspects is pregnancy. It’s a totally natural part of life, but nevertheless, it can be terrifying – and that’s with a normal pregnancy. Now imagine that you are pregnant with something that may not be entirely human. That is the horrifying basis of The Expecting.
The Expecting is a new horror series on Quibi that stars AnnaSophia Robb as Emma, a “down-on-her-luck waitress” who wakes naked and alone in the woods after a night of camping with friends. When she learns she’s pregnant, she assumes the father is her not-really boyfriend (Rory Culkin); however, she soon starts to experience disturbing effects, and she is determined to find out the truth of what happened to her.
Robb and director Mary Harron (American Psycho) participated in Quibi’s “Quick Bites of Fright” panel at this past weekend’s NYCC Metaverse virtual event in order to promote the series, which launched on October 5. I was fortunate enough to get the chance to interview both ahead of the event, however, technology is a godless heathen and therefore I sadly had to attempt to reconstruct the interview using the press release and soundbites from the panel.
“[Pregnancy] is kind of your own personal horror movie,” said Harron on the panel. “Suddenly, your body has a complete life of its own. […] ‘I am no longer in control of myself. I am a host.’ That feeling of being taken over is the basis for a lot of horror.”
During our interview, Harron had talked about how excited she was to explore this aspect of pregnancy, which can be very much a type of body horror even without the paranormal aspects that Emma experiences. Many films that use this premise – Rosemary’s Baby, The Fly – tend to focus on the birth and raising an otherworldly child. The Expecting, on the other hand, concentrates on the actual pregnancy. Emma doesn’t go into labor until episode 11.
Said Harron, “I thought it was great to have a horror film that delved into that, and turned that into a narrative in a very physical way.”
“The story takes a lot of twists and turns,” Robb said on the panel, “and there’s a lot of questioning of ‘is it human’, ‘is it an alien’, ‘is it something nefarious’, ‘can you trust the people around you who are advising you when you are in this vulnerable state’.”
I was sent the first three episodes of The Expecting in advance in order to prepare for the interview, and let me tell you, this is a series that is extremely sinister and unsettling even before you know there is something to be worried about. Starting from the fact that Emma wakes naked and alone in the woods and no one really seems concerned about how she ended up there, and ending with the fact that pregnancy itself is scary.
The score and the atmosphere really highlight the overall feeling of unease, and both do a fantastic job of emphasizing moments that seem completely normal but may not be what they seem.
“What I love about the story,” Robb said, “is that it does feel very grounded. It is a pregnancy. It’s not over the top, but these things are actually horrifying.”
Harron agrees. “[…] it takes what is normal and finds the horror in it, you know, and just amps it up.”
Two particular moments that stuck out to me were Emma’s first ultrasound and a particular instance where she experiences some painful cramps. An ultrasound is a perfectly mundane aspect of many people’s lives, but with the chilling music and the chosen camera angles, Emma’s first ultrasound is just so unnerving. You feel suspicious of the doctor (Mira Sorvino) without any real reason to.
Likewise, there is a moment in episode three where Emma is about to take some prenatal vitamins before she is hit with some cramping, causing her to clutch her stomach and drop the vitamins. The camera focuses on them going down the drain, and though at that moment you have no reason to believe it’s anything other than an accident, that shot makes it seem as though something more sinister is afoot.
“There’ll be points in the story where you’ll wonder what is real and what’s not,” said Harron. “[…] I think, really great horror, you lose your boundaries at times. You’re wondering what’s real and what’s not.”
“Emma’s constantly questioning that sort of shadow side of her experience,” added Robb.
One of the questions I asked was about Quibi as a platform and how that affected the storytelling. For both Harron and Robb, it was more like working on an indie film than anything else, which is an experience that they are both familiar with.
I will say that I was skeptical of Quibi as a platform when I first heard about it, but after watching the first few episodes of The Expecting, I began to see the appeal. The shorter episodes gave opportunities for multiple mini-cliffhangers, which overall makes the story more engaging. I don’t know if I would have sat through an entire movie, but breaking it up like this gets you just interested enough in what’s happening before the episode ends, which compels you to watch the next one.
The Expecting is an absolutely terrifying show, and I only saw the first three episodes. I wasn’t exactly scrambling to have children in the first place, but watching this show just reaffirms that I made the right decision. Actually, the last question I asked before ending the interview was that if working on this show made AnnaSophia Robb not want to have children; she responded that she didn’t think her experience would be nearly as awful as what Emma goes through.
October is spook-central, and if you’re looking for something creepy and unsettling and at times downright horrifying, this is definitely a show you should check out.
The Expecting is currently streaming on Quibi, with the final episode dropping today.
You can watch the entire “Quick Bites of Fright” panel, which also featured the casts and crews of When the Streetlights Go On and 50 States of Fright, below:
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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