“Misbegotten” is a sleazy, stupid direct-to-video thriller from 1998 playing on the fears and insecurities of couples who have babies via artificial insemination from anonymous sperm donors. What if our child turns out to have been fathered by a psychopath? Or Kevin Dillon? Or a psychopath played by Kevin Dillon? These are the very real concerns of infertile couples, exploited shamelessly by a movie so bad it was unable to secure theatrical release in the same year that had 2,500 screens available for “The Waterboy.”
This is one of those movies where you can tell it’s going to be bad because even the production company logos at the beginning are cheesy. Then we are introduced to Kevin Dillon’s character, a dirtbag ex-con named Billy who makes a living obtaining cars for a chop shop via a careful method of carjacking people and murdering them. His most recent victim is a wealthy musician with the improbable name of Conan Cornelius, and after dumping the body, Billy heads to Conan’s lavish house to engage in further theft and, time permitting, identity fraud. There he finds Conan’s buxom blond girlfriend, Myrna (Kate Luyben), played by an actress likely cast solely on the basis of her willingness to go topless. The rules have relaxed a little now, but in the 1990s, it was against the law for a movie to be released straight to video unless it contained boobs. Billy tells Myrna he’s a friend of Conan’s, and she believes him, on account of she’s dumb, then agrees to have sex with him, on account of she makes bad choices.
But wait! Billy in unable to “perform,” as they say, because he keeps having flashbacks to the time he was raped in prison. That’s right, prison rape! But there’s no need to wonder whether the movie will handle such a sensitive subject delicately, because it definitely will not. Since Billy can’t have sex with Myrna, he kills her instead, as this is something he’s still pretty good at.
“But what does any of this have to do with artificial insemination??” you ask, interrupting me like an impatient child, deserving the smack you get across your rude face. I’m getting to that! Before his untimely death at the hands of Billy, Conan Cornelius had been approved as a sperm donor for a baby-making clinic — not one of those fly-by-night sperm banks that’ll take contributions from hobos, either, but a real classy joint where applicants are screened to make sure they aren’t psychos or Kevin Dillon. Having found the loophole in this system, Billy goes to the clinic, says he’s Conan Cornelius, and provides a specimen. They are not checking IDs at this clinic.
Meanwhile, there is a married couple named Paul (Nick Mancuso) and Caitlan (Lysette Anthony) who cannot get pregnant the normal way* because Paul’s spermatozoa are shiftless ne’er-do-wells. Paul and Caitlan will choose their donor from among the stack of anonymous profiles they have brought home, one of which is Conan Cornelius’, and you see where this is going. I would like to note here that Paul is an insensitive tool. His wife, whom he loves, wants a baby very much. But he’s not sure he can love a child that comes out of Caitlan’s baby factory if it wasn’t manufactured with his own personal sperm. He makes fun of the donor profiles, implicitly mocks Caitlan for participating in the process, and is snippy with the fertility doctor. We will not be at all sad later when Paul gets (spoiler warning) killed.
Everything at a fertility clinic is private and confidential, of course. Donors can’t find out where their seed went, and customers never learn the names of their baby daddies. It’s like an opposite “Jerry Springer Show.” But Billy is able to get Caitlan’s information because he is a charming con artist. I had not been aware of this. Up to this point, I’d had the impression Billy was a dimwitted goon. With his low, guttural voice and Kevin Dillon’s natural facial expression of slightly surprised dumbness — he looks like a handsome monkey — Billy comes across as a dope. But he beguiles everyone he encounters, including the clinic’s lady doctor (Jo Bates). He feigns romantic interest in her, then kills her and finds what he’s looking for in the clinic’s state-of-the-art information storage system, by which I mean a bunch of cards in a Rolodex.
We jump ahead. The words on the screen say “3 months later.” Caitlan says she’s seven months pregnant (ugh, come on, movie). Billy has been stalking her, taking pictures, being a creepy loner: standard Kevin Dillon stuff. He sends her flowers with the words “for poetry’s sake” on the card — a phrase he knows she’ll recognize from Conan Cornelius’ donor profile. Caitlan asks Paul if he sent the flowers, but he didn’t, so she furiously marches right down to that fertility clinic to find out just what kind of shoddy operation they’re running here, giving out Caitlan and Paul’s address to their donor. The remaining doctor, the one who didn’t get lost in Billy’s dreamy eyes and then killed, assures Caitlan that there’s NO WAY the donor could have gotten this information, and it MUST have been her husband who sent the flowers. It takes the doctor about 20 seconds to completely pacify Caitlan and convince her that nothing is amiss. Either he is very, very good at damage control, or Caitlan is an imbecile.
Turns out it’s the second one. Turns out everyone in the movie is kind of stupid. Billy isn’t a charming con artist; he’s a dumb con artist who succeeds because everyone around him is dumber. His next move is to send Caitlan a creepy letter, and Caitlan’s reaction is to develop a deep desire to track down and meet him — not turn him over to the cops, but hang out, get to know him. Who wouldn’t want to meet the father of her unborn child, especially after learning he’s the kind of man who sends mysterious gifts and behaves furtively? She gets a hold of his (Conan’s) phone number, calls him, has a tense conversation, and agrees to meet him, even though she is afraid and it’s an objectively bad idea and no good can possibly come from it.
When she arrives at Billy’s (Conan’s) house, she is stunned to see she recognizes him. Why, it’s the good Samaritan who jumpstarted her car a couple weeks ago! (Billy arranged that, naturally.) “You’ve been following me!” she says, accurately yet without the fear and panic such a realization should induce. She makes no effort to leave. Billy says menacing, possessive things to her about wanting to be a father to the child, and Caitlan says, “I am not interested in ANY kind of relationship with you!” — yet still she doesn’t leave. “You belong to me now!” Billy says. “YOU BOTH DO!” That’s when it finally dawns on Caitlan that maybe this clearly insane person is insane and she should leave at once, but still she dawdles long enough to let Billy touch her belly and issue vague threats against her husband.
Now, if Caitlan does the logical, sensible, obvious thing and goes directly to the police, the movie is over. Fortunately for the movie, Caitlan is as stupid as a sack of batteries. It does not even occur to her to alert the authorities, even after she gets more weird phone calls from Billy. We begin to wonder: Is “Misbegotten” set in a parallel universe in which there are no police? Did human society in this universe evolve exactly as it did in ours, but without the concept of law enforcement? We want to be fair here. We can’t blame Caitlan for not calling the cops if the cops don’t exist, if indeed the very notion of “the cops” is foreign to her species’ way of thinking.
But it turns out that the police do exist and Caitlan is a dummy. When Paul finds out she’s being bothered by this lunatic and gets mad at her for contacting him, THEN she offers to call the cops, only to be told not to bother, Paul will go handle this himself. He handles it himself by going to Billy’s (Conan’s) house and being murdered by him. Then Caitlan’s baby shower is interrupted by the arrival of a gift box containing Paul’s severed head. I swear to you, it does. And THEN the police finally get involved. The film is set in a parallel universe in which there are police, but you don’t bother them for anything less than a decapitation.
The film ends in a veritable flurry of stupid people being stupid: Caitlan decides she hates the maniac-spawned baby inside of her and tries to coat-hanger it out; she is subdued and hospitalized, then kidnapped from the hospital by Billy, who gets the drop on the police officers guarding her with minimal effort; there is a hostage situation that ends with Billy single-handedly taking out an entire SWAT team; and at last Caitlan has to shoot and kill him herself, because she’s the hero of the movie, I guess, by default. Every character in the film is incompetent at their job, and Caitlan is incompetent at life, but we couldn’t very well root for Billy, could we? The man’s a vicious murderer and psychopath, not to mention Kevin Dillon.