The Brood – David Cronenberg – DVD – This essentially dull film, interspersed with psychopathic dwarfs wielding steak tenderizers and laughably clumsy dialogue, left me disappointed. Following a similar structure to his later (and more entertaining) film Scanners, The Brood maintains a solemn tone of suspense in which the audience is left waiting for a cathartic sequence of drama or climactic shock. Unfortunately the final sequences really don’t merit the badly acted, badly scripted and frustratingly absent ‘bodyhorror’ FX that Cronenberg later pioneered (at their best in Videodrome, The Fly and Naked Lunch).
Following the therapy sessions of an unstable mother, manipulated by the sinister presence of stern therapist Oliver Reed, it is revealed that [Spoiler] our erratic female protagonist has spawned a homicidal clutch of, pretty pissed off, dwarfs. The eponymous ‘brood’ exists in correlation to her moods, becoming increasingly murderous if she gets angry. The psychosomatic spawn live in Oliver Reed’s attic, in what looks like a budget boarding school dormitory, leaving only to avenge the mental turmoil of their frizzy haired and melodramatic mother: jumping from cupboards, wandering into school with murderous intent and scrabbling from under the bed. The problem being (overlooking the immature pseudo psychoanalysis and awkwardly blundering portrayal of complex emotions) that The Brood never delivers the horror of its potential. Mutant children enacting the repressed desires of a mother loosing her sanity, the sinister encouragement of a dubious therapist and the vulnerability of the mother’s original and ‘normal’ child, could conspire to create a disturbing epic.
Instead The Brood is a yawn inducing and highly unsatisfying missed opportunity. The only elements that hint at the film’s true potential manifest in the commanding presence of Oliver Reed and the final scene [Spoiler]: the mother lifts up her top (a bizarrely Roman-esque diaphanous gown) to reveal her warted body and the bulging amniotic sack that protrudes, in alien fashion, from her stomach. Her externalized womb, drooping like a diseased tumor, is then torn open freeing a motionless and bloodied fetus. She then begins, oh so naturally, to cradle the wee brood baby and lick the blood from its body. This shocking moment seems to align the maternal figure with a nightmarish deity; she kneels surrounded by pillows, the wings of her gown spread like ceremonial robes drawn apart to present the majesty of her creation. Or perhaps even a vampiric nuance, with the blood licking and bat-like sleeves. Either way it is an inventive and memorable scene that, rather than justifying the weakness that precedes it, reminds us how brilliant Croneberg can be and, consequently, how disappointing the film is. For more Cronenberg fleshly freakery seek out Videodrome and Naked Lunch. Although both of these films also struggle with dialogue, the effects and imagery are enjoyably innovative and make the stunted human portrayals worth enduring. 3/10