Saturday, October 1, 2011

They're Waiting...For You!

The Brood(1979)
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle

The Brood is one of the most disturbing horror films ever made. David Cronenberg's fascination with the fears of the flesh, manifest themselves onscreen in some of the most repellent and interesting scenes in cinematic terror. Cronenberg was undoubtably the most original and least homage obsessed of his generation of horror filmmakers and always produced some of the more intelligent pictures in the genre. Like most of his work, The Brood will likely not be for everybody, but for those who can stomach it's graphic violence, it's a rewarding and captivating experience.

The story follows the work of a brilliant psychologist's unconventional therapy techniques. Dr. Hal Raglan(Oliver Reed) has developed a way to channel a person's psyche and make them manifest their inner demons. This is taken to literal extremes, however, when his star patient, Nola Carveth(Samantha Eggar) begins to form child-sized demons from within her that go and murder those she feels antagonism towards, including her parents and the teacher of her young daughter, Candice(Cindy Hinds), whom she believes is hooking up with her husband, Frank(Art Hindle). Frank is determined to see her, but is granted no admission. As the murders mount and the police become involved, Frank and the police discover one of the things and a creepy diagnosis confirms that it was never born. After the teacher is killed, in a shocking scene in front of all her students, Candice is taken captive by them and brought to her mother, who is staying in a remote cabin, where Raglan has kept her. Frank follows and runs into Raglan, who begins to realize that his experiment has gone too far and offers to help Frank, convincing him to make Nola believe that he wants to stay with her. The couple have been seperated, since Nola's madness has been increasing and she has become more violent, so it proves difficult for Frank. Raglan, armed with a revolver, goes into the cabin to extract Candice from the Brood, but Nola's anger towards Frank, incites them and Raglan is murdered by the Brood. Nola reveals to Frank a womb-sack on her stomach which she tears open, licking the blood clean from her "child." Disgusted by the act, Nola directs her anger through the brood to kill they're child, but Frank manages to strangle Nola, killing the Brood and saving his daughter. As the film ends, lesions are seen on the daughter's arm that may indicate she might inherit the same power from her mother.


The Brood is an acquired taste for sure, but for those that can take it, one of the most brilliantly handled of the 70s terror pictures. Taking in a Cronenberg picture, one can realize what set them apart from the rest of the gore crowd. His films often feature some remarkably gruesome and stomch churning moments, but the true terror is in the psychological and emotional edge that he gives his pictures. The Brood is a genuinely terrifying film and a very bitter one as well, Cronenberg reflecting on a custody battle he was having with his divorced wife at the time. In some ways, this film becomes almost like a splatter movie version of Kramer vs. Kramer.
The performances are all first rate, though Eggar and Reed deserve the lion share of attention here. Eggar, who has portrayed quite a few weirdos, was never better than she is here, even managing to bring some sympathy to her genuinely insane character. While she is the villain of the piece, she also becomes alternately, the victim of her own fragile mindset, exploited by Raglan, who has pushed her to the breaking point.

Reed is a perfect mad scientist-type, coming across as both radical and mad, yet fashionable and charming, exuding a calm exterior, that hides genuine intensity, a trademark of the actor's work. His character also, as in many Cronenberg pictures, is still not painted in black and white, realizing his error and attempting to redeem himself by trying to save Candice, which ultimately costs him his life, being destroyed by his own creation. Oliver Reed has a slew of excellent screen portrayals, but i'd have to rank this among his best and more complex. Study the opening few minutes for how subtly effective he can be, as he has a "session" with one of his patients, and notice how both disturbing and poignant it is. It's a tribute to bother actor and director.
Croneberg is also aided by Howard Shore's terrific, moody score, the first of many classic scores that the great composer would create for the director(this was actually his first for a motion picture). The effects team really outdid themselves here as well, creating some truly disturbing images, expecially the birth scene towards the end, that has to be one of the grossest moments of any horror movie ever made.

David Cronenberg is one of my favorite directors and his explorations into the deepest and most complex fears have always made his films rewatchable and fun probing for the film enthusiast. The Brood is one of his best works, being both disturbing and though provoking, while employing some wonderful characters and memorably horrifying scenes. In a year that was ripe with great horror(Alien, Dawn of the Dead), The Brood stands apart as being unique and creepy. This is rightfully deserving of it's cult following and has a place on my list of the 125 greatest horror movies.

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