Thursday, October 16, 2008

#95: The Brood


The Brood
Written and Directed by David Cronenberg
Released May 25, 1979

When you do a search on the Internet Movie Database for The Brood, the first thing that pops up in the search results is a link to The Brady Bunch. This would be like going to buy your niece a stuffed animal for her birthday and walking out of Toys R Us with a dead body. If you know anything about the work of director David Cronenberg (A History of Violence, Naked Lunch, Dead Ringers), you know he's about as far removed from The Brady Bunch as any director in the history of film.

The Brood is about family, and more specifically about the myriad of ways a family can pass along its scars and demons. . . in this case both literally and figuratively. It presents a few classic Cronenberg themes as well, including bad doctors, bad doctors and really bad parents. Oh yeah, and a good bit of physical deformity.

Oliver Reed plays creepy Dr. Hal Raglan, a psychiatrist who has invented some sort of new science called "Psychoplasmics." I'm not quite sure what is entailed in Psychoplasmics as it is never fully explained, but it appears to be the practice of fucking with a patient's head and making them confront their inner demons until their psychological symptoms begin to manifest themselves in physical form.

Raglan's star patient, the one with whom he has begun to focus most of his time, is the wife of Frank Carveth (Art Hindle), a dude who isn't exactly winning any Father of the Year awards by leaving his nearly mute, disturbed daughter with pretty much anyone within earshot who has an urge to babysit. That's because Frank is too busy trying to take his wife to court over custody.

In the meantime, Raglan is making some unfortunate breakthroughs with Mrs. Carveth and some of her enemies are beginning to wind up dead. What's more strange is just how the victims are being done in; let's just say that Nola Carveth has gone beyond scars and sores.

In other words, some of Frank's babysitters are winding up dead. While most of these deaths are relatively tame for the director who brought us the exploding heads of Scanners, Cronenberg gets real Cronenberg-y when he stages a murder in plain view of a classroom full of children. At first you think he's just using clever editing, so as to avoid traumatizing a bunch of kids, but no, there's a straight up murder and a bloody corpse laid out in front of these kids. Classy!

The Brood is a decent film that really picks up in the last 10 minutes, when Mr. and Mrs. Carveth confront each other and Mrs. Carveth reveals her latest, um... production. This is the one real point where it totally feels like you're watching a Cronenberg movie, and it's a hell of a payoff.

In the canon of Cronenberg horror, however, the movie is relatively tame and can't even hope to crack his top 10.

For more on The Brood:
- Movie information at IMDB and Wikipedia.
- Buy the DVD.

The trailer for The Brood:

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