February 1, 2010

Justify My Netflix: The Brood

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

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Today's movie: The Brood, 1979 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this was the first non-underground hit in the career of "body horror" director David Cronenberg; and regulars know that I'm trying to become a completist these days of Cronenberg's work. (See for example my previous reviews of Eastern Promises and Dead Ringers; today's movie now makes it eleven Cronenberg titles I've seen, out of the seventeen feature films spanning his entire career.)

The reality: Wow, talk about the ultimate ex-wife revenge movie! Because for those who don't know, Cronenberg has admitted in interviews many times that this was largely inspired by a bitter divorce and custody battle he went through with his own ex in real life, which turns this into a sorta sickening horror version of similar '70s divorce classic Kramer vs. Kramer. See, it's all about this controversial psychologist (Oliver Reed, always good for a little scenery-chewing) who's invented a new therapy technique called "psychoplasmics," in which the negative emotions we store up over our past literally manifest themselves as physical ailments through the process of intense roleplaying; typical manifestations are things like the welts that a childhood abuse survivor develops or the lymphatic cancer that a self-hating weirdo gives himself, but in the case of our antagonist Nola Carveth, her psychotic rage over her current divorce and custody battle causes her to literally give birth to these horrible little monstrous creatures of pure evil, which then get loose and wreak havoc in the streets of '70s Toronto. (Oh, and just wait until you get to the scene near the end where we watch her actually birth one of these creatures, one of the early catastrof-cks of Cronenberg's career which was to so securely establish his reputation among horror fans.) As such, then, The Brood is not just an inventive metaphorical film but also accidentally a great historical document concerning loony countercultural psychologists, the dubious self-esteem group "encounters" from that period, and incidentally '70s urban architecture -- why, just the shots of the funky, Helvetica-covered, wood-and-glass compound serving as the doctor's clinic is worth the rental price alone. A great genre exercise if not a guilty pleasure, and pretty much direct evidence of the misogyny charges Cronenberg has regularly received throughout his career.

Strangest piece of trivia: This was the first film to be scored by Howard Shore, who of course would go on to create the Lord of the Rings soundtrack.

Worth your time? Yes, although you may watch half of it with your eyes covered

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:32 AM, February 1, 2010. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |