The Brood 1979 ★★★★

It's been interesting following Cronenberg's career from its beginnings, fascinating to see him find his feet and a means of expression that suits his thematic and stylistic leanings. Having discovered a personally-tailored cinematic sensibility that best reflects the issues that most fascinate him and honing his craft with some low-budget genre fare, he delivers here his first truly great film, a spectacularly dark and measured work of effective horror that gives way to a surprising reflection on the disintegration of relationships and the effect on the children caught up in the middle. No doubt hugely influenced by Cronenberg's own messy divorce and custody battle occurring at the time, the central idea of a marriage's decline and the impact upon the couple's daughter finds immensely effective expression in a harrowing tale of bottled rage and haunting violence. The hideously disfigured children of the title reminded me of the figure at the conclusion of Don't Look Now, and frightened me just about as much; with these Cronenberg creates externalised physicalisations of psychosomatic trauma, playing on the parental fear of deformed offspring as a means by which to show the dangerous effect of a relationship breakdown like this. At the same time, they function as a (more heavy-handed) expression of inner rage and misdirected anger. The film has clear protagonists and antagonists, but it's interestingly open in its sympathies, in a way lamenting the loss of love and the devestating fallout more than consigning blame to one party or another. A shocking, effectively scary horror movie, it makes the most of Oliver Reed and Art Hindle, not to mention an excellent Howard Shore score, to create a surprisingly sad rumination on those poor kids caught up in the crossfire.

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