Movie Review: The Brood (1979)

Body Horror, Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi

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”The Brood” is a science fiction body horror film from David Cronenberg, and is now widely regarded as a horror classic.  However, upon initial release critics were not too kind to it.  Described as Cronenberg’s ”family” movie, ”The Brood” is the artistic manifestation of a filmmaker exorcising his demons; the product of a man going through a divorce and trying to gain custody of his child.  Like most of his films, there was a message to the madness – and the madness ”The Brood” entails is very unpleasant. Roger Ebert labelled it ”a bore” and ”nasty” in his opposing, but much better written review to mine.  For many, it would be boring; not much excitement happens until the final minutes.  However, with time this film has garnered much more appreciation.  Why is that?

”The Brood” is the story of a marriage in ruins: Frank (Art Hindle) and Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar) are a couple in ruins, with Nola undergoing psychological treatment at the Somafree Institute of Psychoplasmics, where Dr Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed) uses his experimental radical therapy to manifest psychosis through physical symptoms.

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One day, when Frank picks up their young daughter Candice (Cindy Hinds) from a hospital visit with Nola, he’s shocked to find bite marks and bruises on her body.  He suspects his sick wife has been abusing her and revokes visiting privileges – much to the disapproval of Dr. Raglan, who claims it’s a bad idea.  It is.

Through the effects of the mysterious Psychoplasmics and Nola’s ever increasing rage, she starts to give birth to drone children, who then do her murderous bidding without her even knowing.  Once Frank states he’s filing for sole custody of Candice, it sparks a homicidal rage in Nola; she would rather her daughter die than be with him.  So she tries to kill them both, naturally.

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Some criticized the film for being anti-feminist at the time: I see it as more of a statement on the animosity that can occur when a marriage falls apart. Frank’s disgust when he witnesses Nola giving birth to homicidal embryos has been interpreted as a patriarchy seeing child birth as ugly.  When he finally killed Nola, many viewed it as male dominance feeling threatened. To me, I saw Frank’s disgust as a representation of children being used as pawns in a divorce and how it can be damaging to every person involved. The anti-feminism argument may have some merit, but can’t it just be symbolic of resentment towards the one particular woman who was the cause of a stressful time in his life?  This is not a scathing attack of women as a whole; it’s the work of an artist coming to terms with his situation and pouring his soul out on screen.

Cronenberg’s previous work made use of urban landscapes to symbolize society’s growth for the worse; ”The Brood” makes use of rural settings to represent the isolation of its main characters.  The performances from Samantha Eggar and Art Hindle are confrontational and tragic – and the start of Cronenberg’s excellence in working with actors to exude dramatic human prowess in his world’s of science fiction and horror.

The 70’s was also a time of controversial psychological studies.  Cronenberg explores the ethical concerns and potential dangers of them with exaggeration, but he gets his point across in the unsubtle kind of way we know and love him for.

So, to answer my original question.  Why is ”The Brood” now considered a genre classic?  It’s because it’s the beginning of a legendary director finding his voice; an artist at his most open and brave; a filmmaker exploring his own humanity.  It’s also a neat little body horror that’s very entertaining in its own right.  By no means my favourite of Cronenberg’s, but it’s a feature I greatly admire.  7/10

Written & Directed By:

David Cronenberg

Starring:

Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle

Genre:

Horror, Sci-Fi, Body Horror

Running Time:

92 min

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Movie Review: Eat (2014)

Body Horror, Horror, Movie Reviews

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Every so often I watch a movie that leaves me feeling flabbergasted; the impact being so overwhelming, my surprise, shock and awe makes it difficult to gather my thoughts, let alone articulately write them down.  Eat is a movie I feel all horror fans should see; the content might be too much for some to stomach, but writer and director Jimmy Weber has such an great mind for horror that he deserves to be on the radar for years to come. Like I said, Eat might not be for you, but one day he’ll probably make something that is.

Meggie Maddock stars as Novella McClure, a struggling actress in Los Angeles struggling to make ends meet as she chases an elusive dream. It’s been 3 years since her last role, she can’t catch a break without degrading herself to sexual objectification and she faces eviction from her apartment. Furthermore, she’s developed a nasty habit of eating her own flesh whenever she’s feeling stressed.  On top of that, her best friend Candice is an overprotective psychopath with an itchy trigger finger and her love interest also happens to be her therapist.  Novella is on the verge of self-destruction, and her hunger grows as her life deteriorates.

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On paper, Eat bares a strong resemblance to Starry Eyes (reviewed here): both were released in 2014; both protagonists are struggling actresses who can’t handle rejection, trying to find success on their own terms in a seedy Hollywood; both contain elements of visceral body horror.  Furthermore, both explore how damaging it can be to a persons well-being to pursue a dream.  Eat and Starry Eyes share some comparisons, which is coincidental and unfortunate; despite their similarities, they have very different stories to tell.  However, while Starry Eyes has gone on to receive recognition and critical plaudits, Eat has slipped under the radar.  All I’m trying to say is, don’t skip one because on paper it looks like the other.

Eat, like all good body horror should be, is an endurance test that may induce vomiting; the scenes of self-cannibalizing aren’t pleasant to watch. Why should they be?  A woman eating herself isn’t supposed to be easy to stomach.  Even if it does make you a little hungry and want to try it home because biting your fingernails just isn’t cutting it anymore.  Moreover, those sequences are matched with an unpleasant industrial score and voice overs that remind us of the harsh words that drove her to it.

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The score deserves special mention: in moments of quiet it’s very soothing; sometimes even beautiful.  But when things take a turn for the bad, it changes to an audio sledgehammer to the senses that perfectly compliments the disgusting cannibal carnage on screen.  The movie ends with a track called, ”They See Me”, a beautifully haunting, dreamy piece of music that’s been on shuffle for me since the end credits rolled.  It’s a perfect piece to end the movie on, and one that plays in your head as you contemplate what’s just transpired over 90 minutes.

Eat is a gruesome and disturbing move; it’s also a movie with moments of beauty spliced through the grim.  On top of being a gory delight, it’s rich in social commentary and layered main character played excellently by Meggie Maddock, who, unlike her character, will never struggle to find roles due to her angelic beauty and undeniable talent.  Jimmy Weber, like I said earlier, has a mind for horror.  Eat is a well informed reflection of society with an original concept.  It’s a gem of a movie that deserves to be acknowledged, but right now I’m just happy I discovered it.  8/10.

Written & Directed By:

Jimmy Weber

Starring:

Novella McClure, Ali Francis, Maru Garcia, Jeremy Make

Genre:

Horror

Running Time:

92 min

Movie Review: The Human Centipede III: Final Sequence

Body Horror, Horror, Horror Comedy, Movie Reviews

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The final installment of Tom Six’s infamous ass-to-mouth franchise was met with critical scorn as soon as it entered pre-production: In all of my years as a horror fan who spends a lot of time on the internet watching movie geeks get their panties in a twist over everything, never have I seen a series receive as much scathing hatred as The Human Centipede.  Dismissed by many without even watching it due to its premise. it might just very well be the most offensive film to ever ingrain itself in mainstream pop culture. That being said, it’s not without its fans; those of us who are in with Six on the joke can’t help but laugh at the commotion.  And in The Final Sequence laughter is aplenty.

Is Tom Six a troll?  A cheap shockmeister?  A pervert with a poop fetish? He’s been called every name under the sun, but for us fans he’s a twisted mad genius with a knack for satire.  The first Human Centipede concept was born from a conversation Six had with a friend on how to punish pedophiles: he jokingly said their mouths should be attached to the arseholes of fat truckers, then realized it would make an interesting concept for a horror movie.  Whether you love or hate it, there’s no denying there’s been nothing else like it.  However, many horror fans were critical of the first movie for being too tame; therefore in the following sequel, he went to the extremes by giving them more than they could handle.  Was he punishing his audiences, or just shocking his way to the bank at our expense?  Either way, he made one of the best black comedies in recent memory.  With The Final Sequence, Six shows no signs of becoming family friendly anytime soon; there isn’t a distasteful topic that isn’t joked about and the centipede has multiplied by hundreds – and once again, Mr. Six has given his haters more reason to hate him, and his fans more reasons to love.  So keep on crying, you’ll only make his dick harder (his words).

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The Human Centipede 3: The Final Sequence takes place in a maximum security prison where a sadistic warden (Dieter Laser) – who feasts on dry clits from Africa and the castrated testicles of his own inmates – struggles to keep his prisoners in control.  The prison needs to cut costs and deter criminals from wanting to commit crime ever again; with an election coming up, Governor Hughes gives the warden 2 weeks to turn things around – or else he’s fired.  At the suggestion of his right hand man, Dwight Butler (Laurence Harvey), they eventually decide to conjoin the inmates in a 500 person centipede and let them eat each others shit for the duration of their sentence.  After consulting Tom Six to determine whether it’s medically possible (Tom Six himself), they go forth with the plan and set in motion the one thing that might just save America one day.

The warden, who goes by the name Bob Boss, is a vile creature; not only does he feast on genitalia, he also sexually harasses his secretary (Bree Olsen), undoubtedly giving every critic the ammo of misogyny to add to the films shit list.  Furthermore, he chews scenery in every frame he’s in, spouting off racist outbursts and rolling his tongue like a lizard.  It’s a mad cap performance; completely unhinged, with the volume turned Nic Cage loud.  There’s even a scene where Boss breaks the hand of an inmate played by Tommy Lister while calling him an ”ape nigger.”  It’s very in your face and every race of humanity gets a slur thrown in their direction at some point; but when the motto of your film is ”100% politically incorrect” then what do you expect?

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As for the gross out moments, we witness boiling water being poured over a man’s face, castration and a man’s guts being raped by an angry prisoner. Of course that’s me just scratching the surface: it might be a far tamer film than the previous installment, but it’s certainly not for the squeamish.

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Final Sequence proudly dwells in the gutter and if you feel like you’re above this vile excrement then so be it; we don’t need you to feast on the crap with us.  Once again Mr. Six has disregarded the boundaries of good taste to play yet another practical joke; so either laugh with it or accept that its laughing at your disgust.  8/10.

Written & Directed By:

Tom Six

Starring: 

Dieter Laser, Laurence Harvey, Bree Olsen, Eric Roberts

Genre:

Horror, Comedy

Running Time:

104 mins

Movie Review: Society (1989)

Horror, Horror Comedy, Movie Reviews

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As a lifelong horror fan, I don’t think the genre gets the credit it deserves: when it comes to making statements about the world we live in, it’s rare you’ll see a horror movie praised for its themes outside of the community of us weirdos who love them so much.  The reality is: horror has always looked at society through a magnifying glass and created true-to-life social commentary as a result. Of course, many of the classics have garnered acclaim and legacies by the general consensus over time, but most of the time horror is dismissed as nonsense. The reason I’m bringing this up is because movies like Brian Yuzna’s Society don’t get the credit they deserve as more than camp, disgusting body horror.  Granted, when it’s all said and done you’ll sit there for 20 minutes afterwards wondering what the hell you just watched; some of you might even laugh out loud at its obvious intended humour; others might even feel sick to their stomach.  However, what Society does do is provide an excellent satire on the unfairness of social class structures and how the rich exploit the poor.  Whether our political or sociological views agree with this ideology is irrelevant; but there is no denying it gets its own point of view across effectively.  Intellectual Mumbo Jumbo crap aside, Society is a hilarious, twisted and downright bizarre 80’s gem.

Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) lives in a Beverley Hills mansion with his rich family consisting of his 2 parents and sister Jenny (Patrice Jennings).  He has a hot girlfriend, he’s a star player on the school basketball team and he’s in the running for class president.  However, he’s never been able to shake the feeling that he doesn’t quite fit in.  In fact, he’s convinced that he’s adopted.  His sister is on the verge of adulthood, therefore she’s about to join the neighborhood society of the elite upper class; this sets off a series of bizarre events and Billy finds a disturbing recording of his sister and parents having an odd conversation to say the least.  Soon things start getting weirder – and Bill is about to make his contribution to the society.

Society is part coming of age drama, part suburban nightmare: as teenagers we all felt out of place occasionally, and here it plays on this idea to paranoid effect.  It also employs incestuous undertones between Billy and his sister, and overtones between his sister and parents, making for one of the most dysfunctional families in the history of cinema.  As Billy’s paranoia increases, so does danger.  He finds out the truth about the secret society his family, peers and neighbours are a part of – and it results in a climax I can promise you’ll never forget.

The core theme of Society, however, is the gulf in power between classes and how the rich exploit the poor.  Billy represents the working class and the sole reason he was adopted by rich parents was for the gain of their secret club.  That’s all I’m going to say about that because I don’t want to spoil the treats; just know that their plans are demented and unlike anything a movie has ever shown – or will show again for that matter.

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Society doesn’t offer much in the way of gore and splatter; but fans of the gruesome stuff need not fret because there’s enough disgusting melting and  grotesque body transmogrification to put you off eggs for a fortnight.  The special effects were courtesy of Nick Benson, who worked on classics such as Tremors (1990) and The Blob (1988).  Brian Yuzna movies are always good for beautifully disgusting imagery, but Society is his pinnacle.

If you want to see a movie that’s odd, sick, hilarious and fucked up, while being entirely unique at the same time, then Society is for you.  I think all horror fans should see it at least once, but those who fall in love with it will keep going back to it just for that final 20 minutes of… something else.  An underrated classic from the 80’s and one of my all time personal favourites.  It makes for an excellent triple feature with Parents (1989) and Pin (1988) for a night of weird family festivities.  10/10

Directed By:

Brian Yuzna

Written By:

Rick Fry & Woody Keith

Starring:

Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards, Patrice Jennings

Genre:

Horror, Comedy

Running Time:

99 mins

Movie Review: Thinner (1996)

Horror, Movie Review

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Thinner is a 1996 body horror movie based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, which was directed by Tom Holland, who brought us the beloved classics, Fright Night (1985) and Child’s Play (1988).  On paper, King and Holland is like a match made in horror heaven, but critics weren’t too kind to Thinner; many felt it was too immoral, for a start.  Whereas others felt it was a great idea with poor execution like much of King’s big screen translations.  Furthermore, the fact that every character was a horrible human being didn’t sit too well with those looking for someone to root for.  What’s wrong with movies about awful people doing awful things to each other?  Don’t you like it when the bad guy wins?  I sure as hell do; especially when it’s as entertaining as this baby.

Billy (Robert John Burke) is an obese attorney who specializes in protecting his towns small time mafioso from going to jail; not that he needs to do anything as the law and judge are all corrupt.  One night, while driving home, his wife decides to give him oral pleasure, and while distracted, he hits an old gypsy woman and kills her.  Dead.  Not coming back.  His case is quickly dismissed, causing the gypsies to deliver their own brand of ”gypsy justice” in the form of a curse that causes Billy to rapidly shed pounds until he wastes away completely.  How will Billy get out of this pickle?  Hope the sookie sookie was worth it.

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Let’s be honest: Billy deserved to be cursed.  Not only did he run over an old lady, but he never showed any remorse for his actions because he knew he was getting off.  Thinner had all the makings of a morality tale where Billy showed remorse for his actions.  But he’s a lawyer, and the message is lawyers are evil men who are above the law.  So, instead of accepting his fate, Billy hires his mafia pals to threaten the gypsies with violence in order to remove the curse.  For Billy to break the curse, he must pass it on to somebody else by having them eat a pie with his blood in it; a morality tale it is not, but an entertaining piece of mean spirited pie it most certainly is.

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Thinner is one of the better lesser known King adaptations and my personal favourite Holland flick; if you’re stuck for something to watch and want to switch your brain off for 90 minutes it’s perfect popcorn absurdity.  Some of the performances are cheesy and the dialogue is there for an extra sprinkling of cheddar, but overall it’s solid in all aspects.  7/10

Directed By:

Tom Holland

Written By:

Stephen King (novel), Michael McDowell, Tom Holland

Starring:

Robert John Burke, Joe Mantegna, Daniel Von Bargen

Genre:

Horror

Running Time:

90 mins

Movie Review: Starry Eyes (2014)

Arthouse, Body Horror, Horror, Movie Reviews

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While horror has always been an acquired taste for film fans, Starry Eyes is sure to polarize even the most ardent lovers of the gruesome and the macabre.  Taking inspiration from David Lynch and Roman Polanski, as well as the Satanic cinema boom period of the 70’s – and the body horror of David Cronenberg, Starry Eyes is an ambitious effort that revels in its own nihilism; thus making it a stylish, unpleasant watch that explores the dark underbelly of Hollywood and the lengths people are prepared to go to if it means getting their face on the big screen.

Sarah (Alex Essoe) is a waitress and wannabe actress who can’t catch her big break; that’s until she gets an offer of a lead role in the upcoming production of a horror movie by a reputable film company.  However, with fame and fortune comes a price, and achieving a dream means compromising your values and making a deal with The Devil himself.

If Mulholland Drive (2001) taught us anything, it’s that Hollywood is an evil place where corruption reigns supreme.  Starry Eyes runs with this notion and applies it to a Faustian psycho drama that is sure to give conspiracy theorists a field day, and horror fans a fresh take on a tale as old as celluloid itself.  In the film, the producer of the movie our protagonist is chasing how it’s an exploration of the darker side of the human condition: Little does she know that she’s about to become a pawn subject to such moral degradation; sexual exploitation; and far more sinister forces at work.

The film focuses on how far one goes to chase a dream: even if it means risking the stability of your survival.  Sarah has a steady job that helps pay the bills, but her obsession makes her feel above it; and her delusions of grandeur are so great she suffers from disturbing nightmares and panic fits during her daily life.  We often hear of those who succeeded after taking a chance, but Sarah is a prime example of the thousands of actresses who become victims of it.  Not too dissimilar from the girls you see on casting couches on Pornhub.

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Starry Eyes has occult/Illuminati overtones, which as I said earlier, is sure to give conspiracy theorists a field day.  I love movies that explore dark underbellies and secret societies, and Starry Eyes pours fuel on the fire of the possibility of such sects existing among Hollywood’s elite.  However, more than anything, this is a middle finger to studio systems and the mechanics of Hollywood.

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Starry Eyes is occult arthouse body horror with satirical overtones and it’s easy to see why it’s garnered so much critical acclaim: It preaches without becoming propaganda and never compromises story or scares to enforce its message gratuitously.  This is a grounded horror film set in an alien world, with strong characterization and enough visceral violence to turn your stomach.  For me, this is horror at it’s finest.  8/10

Directed By:

Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Wydmier

Written By:

Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Wydmier

Cast:

Alex Essoe, Amanda Fuller, Pat Healy, Noah Segan

Run Time: 

96 mins

Genre:

Horror