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Default Brood, The




Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: March 21, 2004
Released by: MGM
Release date: 8/26/2003
MSRP: $14.95
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes



When it comes to contemporary horror directors, few are held in higher regard than Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg. Ever since (literally) bursting onto the horror scene with Shivers, Cronenberg has been consistent in his exploration of bodily horror. In his films, the body stands as a means to physically express elements of the mind, be it of rage, lust or sexuality. In The Brood, his fourth feature-length film, he looks at family crisis and the effects it can have on its members. MGM released the long-awaited DVD of The Brood this summer. Is the transfer mediocre, or is it nice enough to give you bumps?

The Story

inline Image Psychoplasmics, the new standard of psychiatric therapy. Headed by Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed), this radical new therapy method demands that one express their suppressed emotions physically. Under a form of hypnosis, the patient is lead to deal with past traumas, and in dealing with their mind they project their emotions onto their skin. Emotional rage is manifested in the skin in the form of bumps, scabs, aberrations and in extreme cases, even cancer. By physically expressing psychological problems, it therefore allows the patient to overcome their mental problems. Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar) is one of Raglan's patients, and the treatment is working well...too well.

inline Image Nola is in the middle of a breakup with her husband, Frank (Art Hindle), and in between the two is their little girl, Candy. In their custody battle over the child, Nola's mind has become distraught, requiring psychoplasmic treatment. The treatment has been too successful however, because the emotions she has been conjuring have gone on to be more than just little bumps on her body, they've become entities of themselves.

inline Image These little brood children, functioning on the fuel of her rage, have been attacking those that Nola has been speaking out against at her therapy sessions. Her drunken mother, a possible new girlfriend for Frank, and anyone else that has posed a threat to Nola's mental well-being, are victims to her vicious brood. When Candy gets kidnapped by the little hell-mongers, it is up to Frank to confront the family trauma between himself and Nola that he has let run far too long. In a bloody and violent climax, family angst gets blown up into the physical, and nobody escapes unscathed.

inline Image The Brood is a powerful and highly personal work from David Cronenberg. Dealing himself with a faulty marriage and a custody battle over his child, Cronenberg clearly has a tight connection to the material he is working with. Of all his pictures, this remains closest to his heart. Cronenberg has never created characters as personal as the Carveth family, and his endings have never been more tragic. Nola was a product of a broken household, where her parents were drinking themselves through a painful divorce. Candy too is now a victim, both neglected and subject to a vicious custody battle between husband and wife. The chain of dysfunction is a long and painful one, one that Cronenberg sees as never-ending.

inline Image As is typical with Cronenberg, he uses the subtlety of his character's names to demonstrate the theme of conflict throughout The Brood. In Rabid, Marilyn Chambers' character was named Rose, which signaled both her beauty, as well as the "thorn" that would protrude out of her armpit. In a similar bit of symbolism, the daughter's name in The Brood, Candy, demonstrates her sweetness, and the paradox that something so sweet would cause the cavity that eats the family in conflict. The family name, Carveth, also goes on to show how the parents are attempting to carve out the Candy's cavity, as each parent tries to claim her for themselves. All the carving has left the family in a hollow mess, one that is too tough to fill.

inline Image Cronenberg also puts his trademark gore to good use. Although the majority of the film remains without much, save for a little blood and some nasty bumps and bruises, the climax is an explosion of the twisted. It is like a child birth gone awry, complete with bloody fetal licking. Cronenberg is perhaps one of the only director's that can really get away with extreme bouts of bodily gore without it seeming excessive, since the realm of the body plays such a key part in all of his films. Where most films verbalize conflict, Cronenberg often chooses to represent it physically. In Scanners, the climax is a bloody confrontation of two bodies, and in The Brood, Nola's need for fraternal love is expressed through the physical deformities of her body.

inline Image The characters in Cronenberg films are almost always intentionally distanced from the audience. He presents no identifiable lead characters in Shivers to demonstrate how urbanity has made everyone boring in their sameness, just as he makes no character in Videodrome humanistic or even likable in order to demonstrate how technology has removed emotion from people's lives. In The Brood however, the Carveth family is handled with considerable care. Time is devoted to their feelings and their problems, and in presenting them in the middle of a realistic family conflict that Cronenberg was also facing at the time, they are arguably the most identifiable of all Cronenberg characters.

Because Cronenberg develops these characters with such pathos, The Brood is his most emotional and accomplished piece of work. He thoroughly examines domestic problems of divorce and custody that continue to cut through the public consciousness today. Never has a Cronenberg film been so relevant to society as The Brood, it is a personal work that refuses to take the easy way out. It is Cronenberg's best.

Image Quality

MGM gives the film a nice new anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer, and the result is satisfying. While not up to par with the clarity of some of their other budget horror films like Ghoulies or Troll, the print is still clean and clear. The transfer overall is a bit soft, and depth can be a problem in the night sequences at the end. Color reproduction is very strong though, the blood red jumps right off the screen, and those horrible late-70s pastels look as good as they can. Fans of both Cronenberg and 70s horror alike will have no problems with this serviceable transfer.

Sound

English mono is the only track that you will find on this disc. The track is fine and just what you'd expect from a mono track. No hissing or popping or any kind of audible noise, but that is a given for studio product these days. Since it is a more character-driven piece anyway, a remixed track would seem a bit redundant.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Cronenberg has often been overlooked in the special features department, and unfortunately that is the case again with this release. Like MGM's Scanners release, all that is included is a theatrical trailer, which is entertaining in the bad 70s narration sort of way. Hopefully MGM will go back to their Cronenberg titles in the future and give them the special editions they deserve.

Final Thoughts

The Brood is an excellent and intriguing take on the family problems of divorce and custody battle. With strong character development and a gory and heartbreaking conclusion, this stands up as Cronenberg's most emotional and powerful horror film. MGM has done a decent job with the release, with cleaned up audio and video, despite a lack of any notable extras. At only $14.95, this is a recommended purchase, and is the perfect starting ground for those looking to get into Cronenberg's twisted mindset. Externalize your feelings for this great film buy picking up this disc.

Rating

Movie - A-
Image Quality - B
Sound - C
Supplements - C

Technical Info.
  • Running time - 1 hour 32 minutes
  • Color
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English mono
Supplements
  • Theatrical trailer

 

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