Canada 1979, 92m, Canadian Film Development Corp/Elgin/Mutual
Blu-Ray: Second Sight (UK) - Cert 18
Psychologist Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed) has developed a controversial technique called Psychoplasmics, in which the patients' personal traumas manifest themselves as physical bodily mutations. Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar) is something of a star patient, and when her husband Frank (Art Hindle) becomes concerned for her welfare, he decides to investigate Raglan's operation. Meanwhile, their daughter Candice (Cindy Hinds) may be in danger, as a group of mutant children carry out a series of brutal attacks...
Like David Cronenberg's earlier Shivers and Rabid, his ongoing fascination with bodily transformations is a key ingredient of The Brood, but the increased budget enables him to realise his vision more fully than previously. He also cranks up the tension quota another notch or two, and delivers what was his most accomplished effort thus far. Throw into the mix Cronenberg's own views on psychoanalysis, along with a difficult custody battle going on in his own life at the time, and this is possibly his most personal film. It's also a bridge between his early, more experimental work and his most commercially successful period.
Both Reed and Eggar give intense and unnerving performances. However, despite their top billing, the bulk of the film is carried by Art Hindle and child-actress Cindy Hinds, and they carry it well. Hinds in particular is impressive, with what must have been hard work for an eight-year-old in a very uncompromising film.
Whilst arguably not quite as well structured or paced as Cronenberg's very best work, The Brood remains claustrophobic, creepy, fascinating, thought-provoking and at times quite disturbing. It's also quite economical with its use of extreme visuals, but when they do come to the fore they are unforgettable. A key scene in a school classroom still packs one hell of a punch.
Blu-Ray Notes: A very pleasing transfer on this Second Sight release, and a nice set of extras too. An interview with Art Hindle and Cindy Hinds is particularly interesting, and David Cronenberg discusses his early career. Additional chats with producer Pierre David, cinematographer Mark Irwin and actor Robert A. Silverman round the package off very nicely. A recommended release.
Original Trailer (complete with unnecessary hyperbole at the start)