The Brood

I bambini ci guardano... The concentrated preamble lays the foundation for the frightful joke on Seventies psychobabble, Bergman's Face to Face is invoked with therapeutic role-playing on a darkened stage until an eruption of skin boils reveals David Cronenberg's hand. "This is what you do to me inside," cries the patient to the glowering analyst (Oliver Reed), whose studies in "psychoplasmics" profess to cleanse the mind's traumas through physical expulsion. (The Shape of Rage is the title of the Lacanian high priest's manifesto.) Deep in the institute dwells his pet experiment (Samantha Eggar), rocking with suppressed emotional blisters—her wrath whelps monstrous creatures who do her subconscious bidding, her estranged husband (Art Hindle) and tiny daughter (Cindy Hinds) are soon surrounded by bludgeoned bodies. "Bad and fucked-up mommies," appalling and enthralling, the heart of a stunning fable shot by Cronenberg with frigid vehemence amid divorce and child-custody anxieties. A clinical sheen for the deformed feelings of relationships erected on circles of pain, Hitchcock's overhead "guilt angle" for the feeble paterfamilias caressing the chalk outline where his wife's corpse once was. Robert A. Silverman's jolly-caustic turn as a disciple nursing an ornate cancerous growth behind his ascot ("I have a small revolution on my hands"), milk and blood on the kitchen floor (cf. Cohen's It's Alive!), the parka-clad gnomes from Don't Look Now, a whole ward of them. Above all, Eggar's bravura rendering of a matriarch "in the middle of a strange adventure," her gaze quivering defiantly as he lifts her robes to reveal a literally wandering womb, one of the filmmaker's most indelible visions. Zulawski in Possession picks up the line of thought and floors the gas pedal.