Wednesday, October 2, 2013

THE BROOD (David Cronenberg, 1979, Canada)


Possible homage to Nicolas Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW? Seemingly inspired by labyrinthine alleyways and the murky canals of Venice to the inner demons of anguish and guilt, stalks the tiny deformed killer in a red jacket, one of a demented progeny born of their mother’s primal rage. Writer/Director David Cronenberg takes us on a journey through the looking glass and into the bloody tangled womb of horror where the inner child dwells, abused and enraged, where it is birthed into a cruel world without consent and imbued with a survival instinct that transcends moral boundary.

A terrible custody battle between Frank and Nola leads to this brutal conflict, as her childhood trauma (both imagined and real?) is born into flesh and blood offspring who carry out her sadistic unconscious desires. She is kept isolated at a retreat while undergoing Psychoplasmics: a counseling technique that is ultimately responsible because it’s not a cure, only an exacerbation of her condition. Cronenberg builds the gruesome tension through sound and editing; each death-scene a grueling exercise in suspense as we know what’s coming….until he reveals the horror in shocking fashion. The violence is brutal and unforgiving, the effects upon Candice and the other children frighteningly realistic, and this adds an element of vile realism to this brooding narrative.


Cronenberg films one of the most horrific murder scenes ever reduced to celluloid: two enraged dwarf progeny, clad in their red winter jackets, bludgeon a teacher to death in front of terrified children. This isn't a trick of editing because the scene builds in long shot, children gathered around their communal tables drawing and finger-painting with the beautiful young teacher interacting with their activities. As the two creatures approach the table, Cronenberg cuts to medium shot, children clearly in the frame, as the imps begin beating her to death with wooden hammers. Reaction shots of the children screaming and blood spattered across their faces only heighten the terror. Finally, Cronenberg cuts to an exterior shot as one bloody child rushes through the door in panic. It makes the viewer nervously aware that the child actors may have been truly traumatized by this scene. However, it is so awfully realistic that it becomes pure artistic genius, allowing for a solid foundation to build suspension of disbelief upon so the final reveal is accepted without hesitation. 

Howard Shore’s eerie score evokes Bernard Herrmann and adds a psychotic pathos to the story, a subliminal thrum that creates frisson by making an ordinary scene unnerving and expectant. When Frank confronts his wife, she reveals a pulsing sac which expunges its fetid fetus and she licks clean its afterbirth. This is absolutely disgusting and perversely wonderful. Now that Frank's daughter is safe and they drive into the night, Cronenberg zooms into close up on Candice’s arm showing two bulging welts, then extreme close up to her tortured eyes. Will Candice continue the cycle of domestic abuse, birthing her own maternal malignancy?


Final Cut: (B+)

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