Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Brood (Criterion Collection Blu-ray)

With the David Cronenberg Criterion Collection connection having been established with works like Videodrome, Naked Lunch and, most recently, Scanners, fans of Canadian Horror movies are living in a dream world where we get to enjoy the finest offerings from one of the most talented directors in the genre with complete releases, maximum extra features and exquisite packaging. The Brood is no exception to this rule and is pure Criterion with a great package, novel, controversial cover artwork and a transfer that will make you demand therapy from Oliver Reed himself (even though he’s dead). Let’s dig into this one.

The quality level achieved by Criterion for their transfers is undeniable and with the The Brood we see a release that is full of bright, wintery scenes combined with low level light interiors that haunt. Both low light and bright outside shots are preserved beautifully with rich blacks, appropriate contrast and correct color timing. The feature is displayed in the correct aspect ratio. The details in this particular movie is quite excellent with good grain structure providing the backdrop for some gnarly effects work. For a movie that grosses out many viewers, you get the maximum amount of image on screen. The audio presentation is powerful. The Brood is a movie that like to go from quiet to loud quickly with volume changes used to emphasize scares, but more importantly to convey dynamic emotions in therapy. Watch any of the scenes where Oliver Reed is offering therapy to a patient and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The movie itself is my favorite Cronenberg feature. I love the sense of broken family and almost cult like quality to the therapeutic method devised to help it. In that regard the importance of strong cast is imperative to sell the dysfunction. Family Horror can be tricky. This will sound coarse, but you have to NOT hate the kid. So often the kid in a horror cast is an oversight. Not in this picture. Cindy Hinds delivers a strong performance as a little girl who is being physically torn between two parents with a number of violence antagonists right on her heels.  Samantha Eggar and Art Hindle truly embody their torn relationship and the feeling is almost too real. You spend the entire picture trying to figure out if Hindle is a bad husband and father; if Eggar is simply a flighty broken down mother or whether there is a real psychological affliction that demands new scientific method.

As a kid my father used to quote Oliver Reed’s characters all the time. He would speak in his voice, loudly and boldly and would always end it with some kind of strange British accent. Then I saw him in Tommy, and sort of understood where it all came from. The Brood made me love Oliver Reed, a love that carried over to Burnt Offerings. His quiet, reserved demeanor is perfectly passive aggressive and is only overshadowed by his heroic stance as the mad scientist who must face the monster later in the picture. A brilliant casting choice. When you listen to the interviews and making of featurette, the stories surrounding Reed will stand out as will his appearance on the Merv Griffin Show.

When you hear the word “psychoplasmics” you know you’re in a Cronenberg movie. The effects derived from this therapy create such vivid and memorable scenes that it almost sets the standard for what MUST be in a Cronenberg movie. The effects we see in The Brood are the reason that Videodrome and The Fly will become so successful later. The whole mess is gooey and delicious with plenty of absurd violence that involves “children” that gives Bloody Birthday and Island of the Damned a run for their money.

In terms of extras, the new making of featurette is truly special for fans of the release. It walks through the whole process placing the picture in context and showing where the creation of this film took Cronenberg’s career. I strong recommend this for fans of any Cronenberg picture. I enjoyed the interview held by Chris Alexander with Art Hindle and Cindy Hinds. I’m a big fan of his style and care for the Horror genre, so his moderation is always appreciated. I will say that while it wasn’t overly illuminating, the Oliver Reed appearance on the Merv Griffin Show was fantastic based on the interactions between Reed and Orson Wells. Such fantastic tension (I hope it will last). The newly commissioned cover art for this release is bold and disturbing. It has put off some fans who prefer the traditional artwork. For those of you who have only seen the new key art online, I urge you to see in person and tell me that it isn’t perfect. It’s more disturbing in your hands. This feature comes with a poster with a reverse side essay. The poster is in the style of the new artwork and features some of the smaller, devilish attackers from the picture. It’s a great presentation and appropriate to this release.

An amazing release by Criterion that preserves all the gooey goodness on screen while providing a solid background for this important Horror release is what you get from The Brood. There’s plenty to enjoy on screen and a variety of ways to enhance your experience with extras. Don’t try psychoplasmics at home!

You can order The Brood from the Criterion Collection now.

From Criterion:

A disturbed woman is receiving a radical form of psychotherapy at a remote, mysterious institute. Meanwhile, her five-year-old daughter, under the care of her estranged husband, is being terrorized by a group of demonic beings. How these two story lines connect is the shocking and grotesque secret of this bloody tale of monstrous parenthood from David Cronenberg (Scanners), starring Oliver Reed (Women in Love) and Samantha Eggar (The Collector). With its combination of psychological and body horror, The Brood laid the groundwork for many of the director’s films to come, but it stands on its own as a personal, singularly scary vision.

1979 • 92 minutes • Color • Monaural • 1.78:1 aspect ratio


• New, restored 2K digital transfer, supervised by director David Cronenberg, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• New documentary about the making of the film and Cronenberg’s early work, featuring actor Samantha Eggar, producer Pierre David, cinematographer Mark Irwin, assistant director John Board, and special makeup effects artists Rick Baker (Videodrome) and Joe Blasco (Shivers and Rabid)
• New, restored 2K digital transfer of Crimes of the Future, a 1970 feature by Cronenberg, supervised by the director, plus a 2011 interview in which the director discusses his early films with Fangoria editor Chris Alexander
• Interview from 2013 with actors Art Hindle and Cindy Hinds
• Appearance by actor Oliver Reed on The Merv Griffin Show from 1980
• Trailer and radio spot
• PLUS: An essay by critic Carrie Rickey

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