Sunday, October 18, 2009

October Horror Fest #18: THE BROOD

David Cronenberg found his first real success with The Brood. After underground cult favorites Shivers and Rabid, this film would cement his status as the godfather of "body horror".

Inspired by a bitter custody battle for his daughter at the time, The Brood explores subjects like parthenogenesis, psychotherapy and telepathy. Pretty high-concept for a horror movie, but Cronenberg is a master of balancing intelligent ideas with the bloody visceral thrills horror fans seek out. In this case, a woman under the care of an experimental psychotherapist (Oliver Reed) expresses her negative thoughts and desires through evil spawn-children she breeds in a secret facility.

This film works well on two levels. First and foremost, it is truly frightening to watch. Scary kids in horror movies these days are completely played out, but the titular little devils in The Brood aren't some little Asian ghost kid in an elevator. They're more like tiny devil Terminators, created and driven by a single force. Imagine the manifestation of all your deepest, most diabolical thoughts in the bodies of a group of 7-year-olds. That's scary.

Second, the film forces you to dwell on some uncomfortable thoughts, like what your mind's potential really is. A patient in the facility develops lymphatic cancer as a result of his deep self-hatred. Another breaks out in welts all over his body, a manifestation of the pain caused by his father's abuse. Thirty years after this film we still have only a limited understanding of what our brains are capable of. Are these ideas so far-fetched?

The film drags a bit here and there, but overall it's an excellent example of Cronenberg's talents. You'll find yourself cringing whenever a character enters a dark room, knowing an evil creature that's almost a child is hiding somewhere inside.

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