Another David Croneberg cult classic gets High Definition treatment with 1979’s The Brood, a schlocky slasher (or in this case mallet-er) elevated over it’s competition with uniformly excellent performances and an early dose of Cronebergian Body Horror.
At first glance The Brood may appear to be just another film in a long line of 70’s horror. In many ways it is, with a fair amount of schlock and a massively melodramatic score from a young Howard Shore (his first – he would later go on to score a little trilogy about Hobbits and Rings). It is notable however for ascending much of the trash of that era with an absorbing plot and solid acting throughout.
Frank (Art Hindle) has a lot on his mind. His wife Nola (Samantha Eggar) is incarcerated at an institution run by Psychotherapist Hal Regan (the mighty Oliver Reed) for her disturbed behaviour. Regan practices the ridiculously named theory of ‘Psychoplasmics’ – whereby he role-plays with patients in order to free them of their disturbances through physical changes in their bodies.
After Frank picks up his young daughter from a visit to her mother, he notices scratches and bruises and begins to investigate whether Nola is abusing their daughter, and soon he finds himself delving into a world of horror he hadn’t expected.
And then the killer dwarves arrive.
On the face of it, The Brood should be a load of nonsense, and in a less assured Director’s hands, may well have been. Cronenberg’s direction is solid and he effectively sets up several genuinely shocking scenes. By today’s standards, the violence may seem almost quaint, but the impact is still horrifying – particularly a scene which sees a room full of young children witness the murder of their teacher.
Reed is as marvellous as you might expect – although seeing him role-play as a patients Mother may cause some unintended titters. The extras for the disk include an interview with crew members, the most memorable snippets revolve around Reed and his alcoholic antics during filming. Despite what he got up to in the evenings, he appears to have been on-form once the cameras started rolling.
Twist endings are often an inevitability in horror, but The Brood keeps you guessing all the way through – with an unsettlingly odd conclusion that foreshadows some of Croneberg’s wilder body-horror ideas. It’s a worthy addition to his canon of macabre offerings – more so now that it’s available in HD.
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