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: Nightbreed: Director’s Cut (2014)

Fantasy Horror, Horror, Movie Reviews

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Let’s face it: As wildly imaginative and wonderful as the 1990 theatrical cut of Nightbreed is, it feels like a rushed effort that’s been more chopped and skewed than a Lil John album.  Despite being a film you can watch repeatedly, a black cloud hovers above it suggesting that it could have been so much more.  Upon it’s original release, the studio didn’t know how to market it and it suffered as a result, but there was enough fantastical beauty to make it a cult classic and make us wish that Midian was a real place.  Now, thanks to Scream Factory, we get to see Clive Barker’s tale the way it was originally intended to be without pesky studio meddling.  The question is: was it worth the wait?

You better believe it was.

In case you aren’t familiar with Nightbreed, it’s a film adaptation of Clive Barker’s novella, Cabal.  It stars Craig Sheffer as Boone, a troubled young man plagued by nightmares of a sub-cemetery community known as Midian, where monsters and creatures dwell.  Meanwhile, there’s a serial killer on the loose murdering families, and Boone’s ex-psychiatrist, Decker (David Cronenberg) convinces Boone that he’s the culprit and must turn himself in.  That night, Boone is hospitalized and he hears a mental patient talking about Midian, and said patient tells him how to get there.  Once he arrives, he’s chased out and shot dead by police, which was Decker’s plan all along so he could locate Midian for his own sick agenda.  Later that night, Boone rises from the dead and gains entry to Midian, but his girlfriend tracks him down and gets into a spot of bother with Decker, causing Boone to rush to her aid.  However, Decker escapes and brings the authorities and angry locals along to wage war on the creatures of Midian, and it’s up to Boone to save the day.

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When Nightbreed was released the studio didn’t know how to market it and missed the point entirely: If you’ve read Barker’s work, you’ll know that that he sympathizes with outcasts.  The monsters in Nightbreed were never intended to be the baddies: the real villains were the humans for trying to destroy what they didn’t understand.  Midian was a peaceful community, governed by law and hidden from the living world.  The humans on the other hand were all savages who wanted to kill the monsters just for being monsters.  It’s a metaphor for prejudice, but the studio wanted the monsters to be predators and not the victims.

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Thanks to the Director’s Cut, the backstory of the creatures of Midian has been fleshed out and they’re portrayed the way they were originally intended.  Furthermore, the relationship between Boone and his girlfriend is given more time to flourish.  While still retaining strong horror elements, the new version of Nightbreed is more of a fantasy love story, and if that puts you off, you might just find yourself missing out on a wonderful film.  Most of Clive Barker’s work is difficult to categorize due to the depth of it all: Nightbreed is his most transcendent movie to date and unlike anything else your bound to see.

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Boasting fantastic practical creature designs, striking cinematography and an epically menacing otherworldly score by Danny Elfman, Nightbreed is the type of escapism that sucks you into a world you’ll get lost in.  Clive Barker wanted this to be the, ”Star Wars of monster movies” and with this cut, he gets his wish: Although Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) might have something to say about that… Regardless, Nightbreed doesn’t have to be compared to anything because it’s a rare original beast no other movie has ever come close to being comparable to.  Pure cinematic gold. 9/10

Directed By:

Clive Barker

Written By:

Clive Barker

Starring:

Craig Sheffer, David Cronenberg, Anne Bobby, Doug Bradley

Running Time:

122 mins

Genre:

Fantasy, Horror, Romance