The Brood Blu-ray Review
Written by Joel Harley
Blu-ray released by Second Sight
Written and directed by David Cronenberg
1979, Region B/2, 92 minutes, Rated 18(UK)
Blu-ray released on 8th July 2013
Oliver Reed as Dr. Hal Raglan
Samantha Eggar as Nola Carveth
Art Hindle as Frank Carveth
Henry Beckman as Barton Kelly
Nuala Fitzgerald as Juliana Kelly
Cindy Hinds as Candice Carveth
One of the mighty David Cronenberg's lesser remembered works. That's not really the director's fault though – with an oeuvre which takes in such classics as Scanners, Dead Ringers, The Fly, Videodrome and (my personal favourite) Shivers, it's inevitable that some will fall through the cracks. It's certainly no Existenz either, which is a mercy.
The first thing you'll notice is that The Brood possesses the same uncomfortable, oppressive sense of sterility as many a Cronenberg film. Opening with the typically great Oliver Reed bullying a poor chap – and the audience – into submission, it reminds us that not for nothing does Cronenberg have an adjective named after him. The Brood is very Cronenbergian, even for a David Cronenberg film. Add the occasionally terrifying Oliver Reed to the mix, and you have yourself the perfect recipe for brooding (brooding, geddit) body horror.
A typically scary Reed plays Dr. Hal Raglan, an angry, unconventional psychologist who uses some very interesting new techniques to treat his patient. Like House, except with even more trauma. When stressed dad Frank Carveth discovers strange bruises on his daughter's body following a visit to her institutionalised mother, he begins to wonder just what games Raglan is playing here. In a doctor's set list which involves a brood of mutant children and shouting abuse at his patients, Raglan's methods would make even House MD think twice. Well, what else would you expect from the erstwhile Bill Sikes – the man responsible for the most terrifying musical of all time. Consider yourself traumatised.
It's not Ollie who's responsible for the real horror of The Brood though – at least, not directly. No, that would be the titular brood, a gang of horrible children (or dwarves) who run about the place like mini Don't Look Now or Phantasm rejects, battering old ladies and innocent school teachers to death, smearing blood all over the staircase as they go. Most entertaining of all is their first murder – an old lady who winds up battered to death with a hammer, splattered all over a packet of Shreddies. Now, there's nothing amusing about murdering old ladies, but something about her being murdered while lying on a pile of spilled Shreddies is inherently hilarious. Those 'knitted by nanas' adverts would be so much more tolerable with a gang of dwarven children running amok with hammers and bright red jackets. David Cronenberg doesn't direct enough cereal adverts for my liking.
With powerful performances from Reed, Samantha Eggar and Art Hindle, and great direction from a masterful auteur almost at the height of his powers (yes, 70s-80s Cronenberg is my favourite period of the man's work) The Brood is an excellent piece of old school sci-fi horror. “Are there really people who want to see reprehensible trash like this?” asked the late, great Roger Ebert in his review of the film. Well, actually, yes.
Video and Audio:
A fine Blu-ray re-release. That Cronenbergian sort-of-hospital feel is captured perfectly. It's all very sterile and chilly – and I mean that in the best possible way.
The film's Blu-ray debut comes packed with a whole host of informative, interesting extras. Meet the Carveths, The Look of Rage, Producing the Brood, Character for Cronenberg and Cronenberg: The Early Years all come loaded with interviews, history and insight.
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