I’m not one to try and pass off the opinions/intelligence of others as my own, so I must credit writer Kier-la Janisse (author of the superb “House Of Psychotic Women”) for her presence at Dead By Dawn this year and, specifically, for her introduction to The Brood. Kier-la Janisse took some time to remind the audience about to be treated to a 35MM screening of the movie of the background of the film, both in terms of Canadian horror and the long-running tradition of medical terror that it so often uses in film and in terms of David Cronenberg’s personal circumstances.
I’d seen The Brood many years ago. Cronenberg has long been a favourite director of mine, even before I could start to understand his many recurring themes and the subtexts of his films, but I simply thought of The Brood as an okay, if lesser, Cronenberg film, derivative of both his earlier works and, for obvious aesthetic reasons, Don’t Look Now. However, remembering that it was written after Cronenberg’s difficult divorce and a battle for custody of his child, the film becomes even more affecting and twisted and raw. It’s a painful, angry movie and, yes, it’s classic Cronenberg.
Samantha Eggar plays Nola Carveth, a woman separated from her husband, Frank (Art Hindle). Nola has checked herself in for treatment with the controversial Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed), a radical treatment in which the good doctor encourages people to manifest their emotions and issues in physical form. He believes that leading people to states of great pain, upset and/or anger can then lead to progress as mental blockades are broken down and patients can then begin to heal and move on. Meanwhile, whenever passions run high and anger erupts, people are being killed by small, deformed individuals. Could the two things possibly be connected?
With decent acting from everyone involved – Hindle is solid, Eggar has a lot of fun in the second half of the film and there is particularly great work from Oliver Reed – and some great set-pieces full of disturbing content, this easily sits up there with so many other David Cronenberg movies vying for room on the top tier. As you would expect from the man, the emphasis is on body horror and thought-provoking ideas.
The premise is as intriguing as it is dark, the whole film somehow bleeding out of the edges of the frame as Cronenberg comes as close as possible to the cerebral equivalent of a primal scream crammed into movie form. Watch the movie and it will entertain and unnerve you, but watch it while bearing in mind that context mentioned in the first paragraph and it reaches a whole other level.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: DAVID CRONENBERG
STARS: SAMANTHA EGGAR, OLIVER REED, ART HINDLE, HENRY BECKMAN, NUALA FITZGERALD, CINDY HINDS, SUSAN HOGAN
RUNTIME: 92 MINS APPROX