Director David Cronenberg is synonymous with the genre of body horror but those only familiar with his most recent output with films such as A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, A Dangerous Method and Cosmopolis may wonder why.
To answer this one must revisit Cronenberg’s earlier horror movies such as Shivers, Rabid, Scanners and Videodrome all made on much lower budgets, all pushing the boundaries of the horror genre and all taking risks to deliver brutally brilliant and highly original visceral cinema.
Added to this batch of blissful bloody body horror is The Brood another classic Cronenberg from his early years which lays bare all the themes and motifs that would be re-played so many times in his other films like Dead Ringers the deeply controversial Crash and even the more commercial and conventional of his movie the remake of The Fly.
The story revolves around Frank (Art Hindle) and his daughter Candice whose mother Nola (Samantha Eggar) has been sent away to live in a remote retreat named the Somafree Institute being treated by renowned charismatic and controversial psychotherapist Hal Raglan (played by the amazing Oliver Reed).
Raglan’s technique named psychoplasmics encourages patients with severer mental trauma to bring out the repressed emotions and physically manifest them on their bodies with distressing and unsettling results.
Already dubious of his wife’s treatment and worried about her ever increasing instability Frank is pushed into action when he discovers bruises on his child’s body after she has spent a weekend with her mother. Determined to win full custody of the five year old he starts researching into Raglan and his methods in an attempt to discredit him and prove his wife will never get better.
However the further he digs the more shocking revelations he finds and when the people closest to him are horribly murdered by a unidentifiable killer Frank realises there is something much more disturbing going on in Raglan’s institute than he could ever have imagined
Scripted by Cronenberg The Brood’s plot is part family drama, part monster horror and part psychological thriller with all the elements working and building together to take you along with Frank from the faintly familiar to the mind melting unknown.
Excellently filmed The Brood is held together by the terrific three sided performances of Hindle, Eggar and Reed who offer up very complicated and deep characters whose motivations and intentions are not as clear cut as first appeared.
Delving into issues such as divorce, child abuse, alcoholism, mental health and childhood trauma the film also explores psychotherapy and the relationship between patients and their doctors shown here as a slavish and dangerously dependent bond where Raglan has become a God like father figure to the people he is allegedly helping get better.
The Brood’s most interesting idea is the therapy of psychoplasmics that Raglan practices which deals with the link between the mental and the physical and giving an actual external form to something that is only felt internally something that although taken to the extreme in the film is a real life area of medical study.
Packing in plenty of scares as well as some truly shocking scenes and an intriguing story line The Brood is a thinking horror fan’s film that has as much to offer today as it did when it was first made and looking just as good on the new Blu-Ray transfer packed with interesting extras.
A master film maker working at his best The Brood is body horror taken into the realms of the mind and beyond, fingers crossed Cronenberg next movie is a horror because after being away from the genre so long it would be wonderful to see him return to it once more.