Saturday, October 25, 2014

31 Days of Horror-Day 25: The Brood (1979)

(dir. David Cronenberg)

*First time viewing

     In The Brood, David Cronenberg explores the psychological and physical body horrors that would come to define his career. Not content with making a straight horror film, The Brood combines elements of horror, pseudo-science, psychology, and melodrama to create a well-delivered allegory exploring the link between mental ailments and physical abnormalities. The story centers on Frank Carveth, a father trying to care for his daughter, Candice, while his wife is undergoing psychoplasmics (a form of psychology that allows patients to release their psychological trauma through physical manifestations.) When deformed and genderless children start murdering those close to Frank, he fears for his daughter’s safety and seeks out the truth behind psychoplasmics.

      The Brood, similar to Scanners, utilizes a brilliant concept that causes a bit of slowness and heavy exposition in the first half of the story, but allows for a tremendous climax. While the film isn’t quite as visually competent as some of his subsequent films, the final scenes (featuring an impressive and disturbingly unconventional birth-scene) do contain some of the most wildly horrific images of Cronenberg’s career. Beyond visuals, the film is held up by an imaginative story about the manifestations of rage and the fallout of childhood abuse. Like most of Cronenberg’s films there is a sense of isolation, as if the characters were hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world, making the consequences more personal and the events more frightening.

     The acting is oddly emotionally detached at times for a story so centered on the power of emotions (the exceptions being Samantha Eggar who plays Frank’s disturbed wife Nola, and Cindy Hinds who plays Candice). It’s difficult to tell if this was intentional (the fact that Eggar and Hinds are the most emotive actors in the film does fit the theme) or if it’s just a result of acting quality. While the acting does make some moments of the film humorous when they should be otherwise, it does add an interesting wrinkle to the ideas that Cronenberg is communicating.

Scare Factor: 2/5 The Brood is effectively eerie and while parts of the film drag, the body horror that’s delivered in the end makes the whole thing worthwhile. It’s a gloriously nasty piece of work and you can see Cronenberg flexing his muscles for the visions of his later films. While it’s clearly the work of someone in the early stages of his career, The Brood is essential Cronenberg.

**Available to watch on Hulu Plus

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