Sunday, June 23, 2013

Blu-ray Review: THE BROOD (1979)

THE BROOD (1979)
Label: Second Sight Films 
Release Date: July 8th 2013
Rating: Cert: 18
Duration: 92 Minutes
Region Code: B
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Oliver Reeed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle, Cindy Hinds 

Director David Cronenberg poured his personal life into this creepily horrific thriller, having had to forcefully remove his own daughter from the clutches of a cult his nutty wife was involved with, plus a bitter divorce. That personal pain all here on screen in some twisted way and his own personal pain informs the movie quite a bit. 

Frank Cavareth's (Art Hindle, Black Christmas) estranged wife Nola (Samanatha Eggar) is at the Somefree Institute run by psychologist Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed) whom treats patients with mental illness with a controversial therapy that involves intense role-playing regression sessions designed to unleash suppressed emotional disturbances, not unlike the primal scream therapy, only with horrific side effects, we will get to in a bit. It turns out that as a young girl Nola was abused by her alcoholic mother and her father wasn't much help either, now an adult she carries around the mental scars of an abusive upbringing, she's pretty fucked up and her demons are physically manifesting themselves in the material world. 

Nola's five year-old daughter Candice remains with her mother at the Institute and on weekends Frank takes her home to his place. One such visit with his daughter reveals bruising and welts on her backside, disturbed by the discovery and fearing abuse from her nutty mom he threatens to revoke the disturbed mother's visitation rights, which upsets her and Raglan quite a bit. Now things get strange, those whom Nola's has animosity toward are murdered in a series of brutal attacks perpetrated by what appear to be deformed children whom bare peculiar anatomical anomalies. As the attacks continue Frank starts to believes they are somehow linked to Nola and her therapy at Somafree. 

The Brood is a creepy film, it's not exactly oozing with blood and guts but the attacks are quite satisfying, both Nola's mother and father are brutally beaten to death, also murdered is a school teacher whom shows some concern for Candice, two deformed pint-sized killers beat her to death in front of a roomful of screaming students,  which was pretty brave, nowadays it be hard to pull that off and get away with it. The deformed kids abduct Candice which leads to an intense finale at the Somafree Institute with one Hell of a grotesque birthing scene, this is a suspenseful film with some great tension building from the very start, it's Cronenberg so you know to at least expect some potent body horror and the film does not disappoint. 

Cronenberg was fresh off Shivers (1975) and Rabid (1976) and The Brood (1979) was definitely his most polished film to date with some help from cinematographer Mark Irwin, it's a great looking feature. The creepy dwarf killers are caught mostly in quick glimpses but feature some disturbing facial appliances and clawed hands from special make-up effects man Jack H. Young who worked on everything from the Wizard of Oz (1939) right up to Used Cars  (1980), the effects are  somewhat cheap looking but effective just the samwe. There's not a lot of gore for the fiends but that birthing scene towards the end is still a stunner, it's grotesque and gooey. 

There's some nice performances onscreen, first and foremost is Art Hindle (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) as the caring father, his desperate plight to save his daughter from her demented mother is very convincing.  Then there's Samantha Eggar (The Exterminator) as the distressed and unhinged mother, plus Oliver Reed (Burnt Offerings) who's quite intense and brooding, always a roguish leading man he's still quite a presence onscreen as the psychologist treating Nola. 

Blu-ray: Second Sight Films get a second bite at the David Cronenberg apple following their recent Blu-ray release of the director's next film Scanners (1981). The Brood is presented in 1080p widescreen (1.85:1) with an AVC encode and it's quite an attractive region 'B' locked Blu-ray. Sourced for a very nice print the image is strong, colors are robust and black levels are nice and deep. The 1080p upgrade affords it some modest fine detail and some decent depth and clarity, a very nice transfer. 

The English language LPCM 2.0 Stereo audio sounds very nice, dialogue and effects are crisp and well balanced, plus Howard Shore's (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) sounds fantastic, the intense string arrangements really ramp up the tension and atmosphere, very nice.

Special features come by way of Severin Films who did a bang-up job with Second Sight's Scanners (1981) edition and I think they've one-upped themselves here with no only retrospective interview with cast and crew but with David Cronenberg whom was absent on the scanners features. 

First up is the MEET THE CARVETHS (19:48) featuring actors Art Hindle and Cindy Hinds interviewed by Fangoria Editor Chris Alexander at filmed at the Projection Booth Theatre in Canada. It's a fn interview with Hindle recalling working with Oliver Reed and some of his Scotch induced hi jinx both on and off set, Hinds even recalling Reed pilfering her mother's bottle of cognac.

THE LOOK OF RAGE (13:33) is a fun on-camera interview with cinematographer Mark Irwin which looks to be culled from the same interview session as the Scanners featurette. Irwin talks about meeting David while filming the AIP drag racing tribute film Fast Company (1979) and having written a thesis on Cronenberg's early films prior to meeting him. He also touches on working with Oliver Reed and his infamous liquid lunches plus Samantha Eggar whom he recalls turned into a candy sculpture during the filming of the birthing scene.

We get a new interview with producer Pierre David PRODUCING THE BROOD (11:10) also pulled from the same interview session as Scanners. David reflects on that period of time in Canada when investors were falling over themselves to finance Canadian film due to a tax shelter from the Canadian government. he goes into working with Cronenberg on the three films they did together and how that partnership sorta fell apart when he couldn't quite warp his head around Cronenberg's idea for Naked Lunch, he of course also mentions working with wild man Oliver Reed.

CHARACTER FOR CRONENBERG (10:24) is an interview with actor Robert A. Silverman (Prom Night) whom recalls a devastating car accident which left him an invalid and his miraculous recovery followed by a move to L.A. to pursue acting and his subsequent meeting with Cronenberg.

CRONENBERG: THE EARLY YEARS (13:15) has the Writer/Director David Cronenberg discussing his early career following his first two short films, working with adult film distributors turned financiers Cinepix on his first feature length film Shivers (1975) and having a hard time financing Rabid (1977) following a scathing review in Canadian press, plus horror's eternal place in cinema. 

Special Features:
- THE LOOK OF RAGE (13:33) 

Verdict: There's so much great stuff in Cronenberg's filmography and The Brood (1979) gets short shrift compared to Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983) and The Fly (1986). I personally prefer both of his earlier films Shivers (1975) and Rabid (1977) to this, not to knock it, this is still a powerful and creepy little thriller with some strong performances and a very bizarre ending, it holds up. 3.5 Outta 5