All About Tad: The Factory (2013)
By Dom Sinacola· Apr 12, 2013
I don’t get this movie. I don’t understand how it was made, or what it’s made of, or why it was even put together in the first place. I ask myself, “Why is this?” The more I ask myself the less I can answer. It’s totally dumbfounding, this thing, which I suppose is a movie, but movies are only as valuable as the extent to which each and every one of us assigns value, so I don’t really think this is a movie. I mean, it seems like one, but fuck if I know what’s happening here.
The Factory is thoroughly, wholly sad. It’s filled to the seams of its viscera with it. Bats are eating at its toes and maggots settle in its ventricles. It’s sad that it was filmed in 2008 in Montreal, but didn’t have a release date until late 2011, which was then pretty much ignored for a desultory mass release about a month ago. It’s sadder that it sports a pedigree of dependable talent, but it’s supposed to take place in Buffalo, and it’s about two detectives (John Cusack and Jennifer Carpeter) searching for a mega-creep who’s been abducting prostitutes, and who the fuck knows what to do with a movie—erm, thing that I watched—about all that? Buffalo?
But what’s saddest is that it’s an ugly thing: dour, dull, hushed, and bleeding stupidity. It’s both an excuse and a solid decision on my part that I’m including very few screencaps with this review, because only once or twice does The Factory glimpse, briefly, a panning shot or a perfectly edited beat that bears anything pretty or even interesting. A snow-palmed street slides by and I’m instantly smitten, because for the other hour and forty-two minutes of all this sad, dark-souled shit, I’m willing to accept one single moment of grace as enough of a reason to stick around.
I’m going to spoil this for you. I’m going to tell you everything, and if you have any sense in your head, you’ll keep reading on instead of stopping because I’m about to ruin The Factory’s surprise twist for you. And it doesn’t matter. None of this matters.
John Cusack continues to slowly and painfully, publicly die before our very eyes as Mike, a detective with the Buffalo police force who’s obsessed with a case involving a number of young prostitutes disappearing, a few of them turning up not long after in pieces. Mike’s partner Kelsey (Carpenter) is a young, vigorous, by-the-books officer who dreams of having children, but can’t. Mike’s wife assumes Kelsey can’t have kids because Mike won’t let Kelsey have a social life by sucking her into his workaholic ways, but the audience knows, via catching the titles of a few books on her desk at home, that she’s infertile. Who knows what Mike thinks; he doesn’t even appear to notice.
Why he’s so encumbered by the case may have to do with his having a 17-year-old daughter, Abby (Mae Whitman), who acts like every 17-year-old girl I’ve ever known, which is, mostly: getting pissed at her parents. They won’t let her spend Thanksgiving with her college boyfriend Tad, they won’t let her go see Tad, they want her to set the dinner table instead of talking to Tad on the phone—mostly she’s pissed because of Tad. Tad is Abby’s sole thought, pulsing steadily within her intensely emotion-heavy head.
The Factory implies that Abby’s inherited her destructive single-mindedness from her father. Fitting, because Mike is chasing a serial killer, a man named Gary (Dallas Roberts) who is obsessed with fathering children, which he attempts to do by kidnapping child prostitutes and storing them in his basement, raping them repeatedly between injecting them with drugs to keep them alive and their muscles from deteriorating from inactivity. This nightmarish scenario we discover once, of course, Abby is kidnapped after she gets into a fight with Tad. Fucking Tad.
Gary is especially loathsome, introduced in the very first scene of this thing as a squint-lidded sociopath who, upon recognizing that a prostitute he’s solicited is transgendered, thereby unable to potentially house his undoubtedly awesome babies, skewers her against the wall with a fireplace poker.
Brutal, senseless, and physically improbable, the extremity of Gary’s first actions are buttressed by the most ludicrous of all, the title card:
Thus follows Abby squirming around in pure terror in Gary’s basement while up on the surface her dad goes 48 hours without sleep, mostly sitting around coffee shops glowering at notepads. A third of the way into The Factory, Mike meets Gary at the hospital, because Gary works there as a line cook. Gary knows who Mike is, stuttering and profusely sweating as he makes lame jokes about how fat the nurse is whom Mike came to the hospital about in the first place. Then blood begins to pour from Gary’s head, he jitters even harder, noticeably terrified, and Mike just keeps slobbing down shit coffee, never once blinking at how fucking absurd this cook is being.
So when Mike finally figures out Gary’s the psychopath, like an hour later, it’s after Mike learns a bunch of obvious clues in the case, like how a prostitute escaped the serial killer by hitting him in the head with a bottle, and never once does Mike make the fucking connection that a guy who worked at the same fucking hospital as the prime suspect in his case, who started bleeding from his fucking head like it was some sort of animalistic panic response, could possibly be worth thinking motherfucking twice about.
What’s even sadder than the hour spent pointing your face at a character sleepily flailing from one grim landscape to the next is that The Factory serves nothing and no one. It is a filthy, nihilistic thing: its twist is that Kelsey, Mike’s partner, was in cahoots with Gary the whole time, because Kelsey can’t conceive, and so was planning to raise the babies the enslaved prostitutes were having at the mercy of Gary’s revolting seed. Baby Factory! Get it? If you didn’t, a cop—following the confrontation and betrayal which leave both Gary and Mike with shot-out guts—remarks that they’ve stumbled upon a “baby factory.” Get it? When around the beginning of The Factory I realized that Gary was obsessed with making babies, I thought, “Oh, baby factory, I get it.” I didn’t get it. But then the cop actually came out and said it.
Kelsey’s the real monster here. For some reason. She kills Mike and escapes with the three babies culled from her hostages’ loins. As we follow her candy-red SUV down a coastal highway, she leaves a message at Mike’s bereaving household, telling Abby she’ll be a wonderful mother. You see, Abby was actually all emotional about Tad because she was pregnant! Get it? And although Abby has no proof that Kelsey murdered her dad, she knows something’s going on. While she’s finishing up the message, one of Kelsey’s not-babies makes an adorable cooing noise, which is caught on the butt-end of the answering machine tape. This part of the message Abby replays, over and over, staring with hate at the charging station of her household landline (I suppose it was 2008).
And then Kelsey’s not-baby’s gurgling haunts the last shot of The Factory, which is this:
I don’t understand. Is this a threat? Am I being challenged? To be a parent? To take responsibility for the darkness in me or something? Is there a little bit of Tad in all of us? The Factory ends on a new virus of obsession for Abby and the sinister triumph of Kelsey. The Factory is like Crash for sufferers of OCD. I don’t know what that means. It is only suffering and those of us wiling to sit through it, or sit in it. There are no character arcs to behold, emotional rewards to glean, or moral misconceptions to vitiate; if this is about growing up, it is a vile lesson it leaves us with. Welcome to the Ass Factory, folks. Business is boom booming.