Thursday, October 18, 2012

Psychobabble's 150 Essential Horror Movies: Addition 18

Every day this October, I'll be adding a film to Psychobabble's 120 Essential Horror Movies to bring the list up to 150. Today’s addition is:

98. The Brood (1979- dir. David Cronenberg)

Horror films are often spawned from anger, whether it’s Romero’s political angst or Hitchcock’s barely repressed sexual aggression. Few are as upfront about their anger as The Brood. While fighting for custody of his daughter, David Cronenberg conceived this nasty item in which an abusive mother (Samantha Eggar) falls under the thrall of Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed), a therapist peddling half-baked regression methods at his prison-like compound. Even as his followers declare him a genius at his absurdly theatrical public sessions (which foretell talk show therapists like Dr. Phil), his former patients range from the pathetically dependent to the physically ravaged. His masterpiece of misguided psychology is Nola Carveth, who literally gives birth to anger, which manifests as monstrous, murderous mockeries of the young daughter she abused. The Brood is troubling both for the usual horror elements of violence and monstrosity and for Cronenberg’s livid jumble of ideas. He lays waste to cod therapists and the toll of custody battles, coming to the precipice of misogyny in the final showdown, a recent divorcee’s wish-fulfillment indulgence. With his absurd science, monster toddlers, and climactic Grand Guignol birth scene, he also flirts with outright silliness. Yet the blatantly personal nature of the film keeps it rooted and makes clear that Nola is not a representative of her entire gender. Any silliness is also resoundingly quelled by Cronenberg’s punishing pessimism, as he examines how one troubled person can emit waves that destroy the people closest to her or him and how the cycle of abuse persists over generations.  

See this piece in context as part of Psychobabble’s Essential Horror Movies of the 1970s here.
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