David Cronenberg is a national treasure here in Canada. He is one of the most famous and successful Canadian directors ever with a name that is instantly recognizable around the world. Not bad for a guy that started out making bizarre little body horror short films in the 1960s. He has gone on to not only be a horror icon with classics like Scanners, The Fly, Videodrome and The Dead Zone but also a very diverse and prolific director that has challenged the boundaries of genre itself with films like Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch, eXistenZ, A History of Violence and Cosmopolis. He has even tried his hand at acting a few times including a cult favorite role as Dr. Decker in Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. While he has not returned to traditional horror since the 80s (please do, we would love to see it), his classic horror films are finding new life thanks to the good folks at the Criterion Collection. We already have beautiful Criterion edition Blu-ray’s of Scanners, Naked Lunch and Videodrome and this month we see the release of his 1979 film The Brood.
Frank Carveth (the always wonderful Art Hindle) is concerned about his wife Nola (Samantha Eggar) who is having mental issues and is being treated by the unorthodox Psychotherapist Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed) at the Somafree Institute. Raglan’s methods are radical and when Frank finds bruises and scratches on their daughter Candice (Cindy Hinds) after a visit with Nola he decides to look into Raglan further, especially when a series of murders in town seem to be somehow linked to the Somafree Institute as well.
For me, The Brood is truly one of the definitive Cronenberg works. It has suspense, great characters, a tight screenplay, fantastic mood and horrible murders. And it still has a big link to his recurring body horror theme, although I won’t ruin how here. Art Hindle, one of Canada’s great unsung actors, is excellent here as the distraught husband just trying to get custody of his daughter from his clearly disturbed wife. Samantha Eggar is suitably bizarre and yet very sad as the woman under Raglan’s care, and Oliver Reed is just superb in all of his Oliver Reed-ness. I don’t think the man is capable of a bad performance or an underplayed one for that matter; he is pure kinetic energy on screen. You can also throw in for good measure a beautiful score by Howard Shore, which was only the second score he ever did. But he went on to become one of Hollywood’s greatest composers, won three Oscar’s and composed the scores for all of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films.
The new Criterion Blu-ray for The Brood is a movie lover’s feast. The transfer is a fantastic looking new 2K transfer supervised by Cronenberg himself and it looks great. There is also a brand new documentary about the making of the film and taking a look at Cronenberg’s early film work, as well as some older special features such as interviews and an Oliver Reed appearance on The Merv Griffin Show. But the greatest special feature of all on The Brood and the thing that really makes it worth every penny is they have included another early Cronenberg film, Crimes of the Future from 1970, in it’s entirety and sporting a new 4K transfer! This is just going above and beyond, even for Criterion. The Brood is essential in every way, especially for horror fans. Extremely highly recommended.