THE BROOD (October 27th)


I should really appreciate The Horror Channel a bit more than I currently do. With so many streaming platforms, it's sometimes easy to forget that I have a TV channel dedicated basically to the genre. I think part of the problem is that I have a relatively big TV and as the Horror Channel don't broadcast in HD, the picture quality can be a little VHS like. And when you have blu-rays, Shudder, Netlflix and Prime – you get used to the HD thing. But the fact is, they show some decent stuff on there. They aren't ones for showing ultra recent releases but titles that are a couple of years pop up there quite often. However, their overall programming is an eclectic mix and it's a great way of catching some older movies that have passed you by over the years. During this challenge I have seen both Pet and Flatliners and tonight I watched something that I had recorded a couple of nights ago. Another film that I had never seen but knew was quite highly regarded amongst my fellow genre fans. That film was David Cronenberg's The Brood (1979)

The film opens with what at first, I thought was a rather intense stage play. However, it's really a demonstration of a new psychotherapy technique called Psychoplasmics, where patients release their suppressed emotions in a physiological way. Basically, their inner turmoil in externalised. The head of the institute is a guy named Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed), who has a particular interest in one of his patient called Nola. She's in the middle of a marriage break up and a custody battle with her husband Frank for her young daughter and has a lot of issues to work through. However, when Frank discovers that their daughter has cuts and bruises from her last visit to the institute to see her mother, he begins to suspect that her mother is hurting her. Hal Raglan denies this is the case but when a series of savage and bizarre murders begin, Frank starts to suspect that these are somehow connected to his wife and the institute...

Written after the collapse of his own marriage (and custody battle), this feels like perhaps Cronenberg's most personal movie, yet like a lot of his work there is a cold detachment to it. There is a discussion to be had about its relevance to the role of fathers and mothers and the victims of family break ups but I've got no real intention to go into all that here. It's definitely all there and worth discussing – just not right now! I like to keep these things relatively brief!

Cronenberg is the king of combining both psychological and body horror and creating something that taps into relatable human fears and anxieties. The Brood is the perfect embodiment of that. It is literally about what would happen if the 'bad' stuff that was lurking inside of us existed as an external threat. And let me tell you, when that comes in the shape and form of freaky looking kids in raincoats, it can get pretty unnerving and weird. The Brood actually starts out pretty restrained and for the first half of the film, it's barely recognisable as a horror movie. There's lots of talking and therapy and science but Cronenberg gradually puts his foot on the pedal and things just get progressively weirder and more violent. Visually it's a really odd film too. It's very bright and stark and clinical and there seems to be an obsession with the colour yellow – although this seems to fall away in the second half of the film. It's odd that the guy who made The Fly, a film that's got a deep emotional core can create something as unfeeling as this too. Because although much of this film is about a father trying to protect his daughter from a largely unknown threat – it's difficult to warm to any of these characters or care much about the. Strangely, it kind of works though because this is clearly a stylistic choice rather than an oversight and it sort of makes things feel a little bit more disconcerting and off kilter. Part of this is because we have a central character, Frank (Art Hindle) who is largely inactive during the story. He doesn't really do very much. He's also just not really that interesting either. Oliver Reed is the most interesting character in the film by quite a distance actually, playing the creepy psychotherapist like he's some kind of cult leader or something.

Of course, The Brood is best known for it's finale. Rightly so, I might add – because it's completely bonkers and brilliant. There's a moment where my jaw literally dropped open in shock (as did one of the central characters). In a film that is largely restrained, it acts as a bolt of lightning and sets off a frantic few final minutes that leaves things on a bit of a high. We also don't really get too much in terms of exposition or explanation which again, works to the films benefit because trying to explain any of this stuff would be an uphill task. Sometimes things are just best left to the imagination.

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