Friday, December 4, 2009

The Unseen #16: The Brood

Why’d I Buy It: It was Cronenberg. Five Dollar Cronenberg. Five Dollar Seventies Cronenberg. I rest my case.

Why Haven’t I Watched It?:
I bought it right before a disasterous move that left me unable to access half the shit I owned for a few months. By the time I got to it I found out it was playing at The Aero’s annual horrorfest, which I make a point never to miss and decided to wait.

How Was It?: Good. That Cronenberg sure knows how to make films…. Oh what you want some more?

I like seventies Canuck Cronenberg. It’s a bit rawer then his American work in the 80’s, Not so much that he settled down, more like he found the precise place to hurt you. Here as in Shivers and Rabid, he’s a tad bit more unsure, and thus is unafraid to shotgun blast a little.

The Brood begins effectively with a contextless scene of Oliver Reed berating someone, as only Oliver Reed can, the man begins to whinge and cower, before finally tearing off his shirt to show that he’s covered in lesions, a fact that seems to please Reed immensely. And scene, we start following around a guy at a construction site appropo to nothing. Buckle up kids cause it only gets more disconcerting from here. As openings go it’s not quite as eye popping as Scanner’s exploding head, but its just as disorienting.

The film follows Frank a man going through a nasty divorce, whose taking care of his daughter while his estranged wife receives treatment at “psychoplasmics” clinic. Branded as a extreme form of psychiatry, it follows the Cronenberg rules (IE if you don’t understand it, and it has a spooky name, fate is standing right behind you with a strap on). The basic idea is that it causes negative emotions to take on physical form. That’s all well and good until Frank starts investigating and realizes that those forms include Cancer, Physical Wounds, Grotesque Mutations, and little Murderous Dwarves who burst out of his wifes Growth Sac to murder the people she’s pissed at.

As you can imagine this last one might pose a significant problem to someone going through a divorce. People around Frank, His inlaws, his childs teacher, start to die, people his wife thought unkindly of. And as Frank investigates the dark secrets of Psychoplasmics he discovers that universal truth, just because your paranoid doesn’t mean that murderous dwarfs, birthed from your wives rage aren’t out to kill you, (see also Don’t Look Now).

If you can’t tell already The Brood is full frontal Cronenberg, weekend warriors who thought that Eastern Promises was kind of cool but a bit on the violent side need not apply. This one’s right up there with Videodrome on the disturb-o-meter, it even had me looking away a couple of times.

The cool thing about the film, is that it retains this feeling while beings so minimal. It doesn’t have the prosthetics that Cronenberg would so artfully apply in Drome and The Fly, its effects are pretty minor, and the one truly gloopy The Wife’s birthing sac is even on the cheesy side. But the ideas and merciless style are so creepy in themselves that its almost beside the point.

The film’s powered by a great completely reasonable and mad performance by Oliver Reed, and an operatic one by Eggars as the mother of The Brood. The actor playing Frank is a bit bland, but then again he is going for an everyman thing here I suppose. Also worth noting, it’s the first time that Cronenberg and Howard Shore collaborated, he gives a great score his first time out.

All in all a strong horror film, and a prime slice of Cronenberg.

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