Hello everybody. New installment here in a pretty odd week in terms of writings and just structure. The week was pretty heavily weighted in movie watching towards the end of the week, an usual way of doing it for me. And the writing is odd because I rewatched two Bond movies and ended up linking them to two other works. So, yeah. Odd. So while it may not look like I wrote all that much in total for the week, this may have been the most I have done, at least in a good long while. And we got a new release in the mix too, something that can be seen on VOD. So give that a go, as it became my number 2 movie of the year thus far. Plenty of variety in the mix and some interesting stuff all around. Give it a read and share it with the world.
The Brood (October 18th, 2015)
Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Art Hindle, Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, and Cindy Hinds
Whenever I think of Cronenberg, it’s usually in a negative context. “Oh, he’s not that great. He’s just ok.” But I really don’t know why I think that. Yeah, he’s fallen off a bit in recent years with his last 3 flicks varying in quality from mediocre to downright awful. But of the movies I saw in his timeline before his last good movie, Eastern Promises, I only disliked one and it was his erotic car movie Crash. The problem may have been his rep as a thinking mans director within the horror genre, something that clicks in my mind as automatically being boring. But that’s not really the case with the man, and he always managed to mix intelligence and entertainment value pretty well for the most part. Not as well as Carpenter in my mind, but he had the right stuff going. And even when he started to move out of the field, it yielded some interesting stuff even if I hated (see Crash). And my favorite of his work is a non sci fi horror movie, A History Of Violence. He’s a good director to represent horror in the Criterion Collection, and when The Brood was released on Blu-Ray, I just had to have it. So I sat down and gave it a look, and boy did it not disappoint.
This is a movie that’s got 36 years in its rearview, but I really don’t wanna spoil a lot of it. But because it’s got that mileage, I will but with the warning that this is gonna get nice and specific. The movie is about a man (Hindle) trying to protect his daughter (Hinds) from his estranged wife (Eggar), who is in an experimental type of therapy. Eggar is a damaged woman, with a childhood wracked with abuse dealt from her mother and was essentially abandoned by her father who allowed it. So as a grown woman, she’s damn near psychotic. But this therapy seemingly puts the daughter in the path of abuse by the mother, so Hindle sets off down a path that ends in a much different way than he ever imagined. And knowing that it’s Cronenberg, it’s a disgusting way.
Ok, so let’s get to it. No more burying the lede. The experimental form of therapy is called psychoplasmics. It’s goal is to force patients to let out their suppressed emotions by battering them with negative emotions, and the emotions come out in physical changes to the body. This form of therapy was spearheaded by Oliver Reed, who has taken a special interest in Eggars. And that’s because Eggars has a special talent when it comes to the physical changes brought about by the psychoplasmics. Her near psychotic rage at anyone she feels wronged by, brought about by the childhood abuse she suffered, is manifested as little deformed monsters that grow in little sacks on her gut. And when Eggars is particularly angry at someone, one of her little monsters goes out and kills that person. It’s a movie that has a horror movie bent to it, with kill scenes and the acknowledgement that these killers are abnormal little freaks. But the twist of the birthing process takes it to a new level.
Knowing what Cronenberg was going through when he made this movie makes some of this thematic material much more obvious. Cronenberg was in the midst of a horrible divorce and a hard custody battle for his daughter. So the movie starting with a man picking his daughter up from the psychiatric home that his wife is staying in and seeing that the daughter appears to have been beaten, leading to the father trying to get sole custody doesn’t make it surprising that the movie is about divorce. Not solely divorce, but divorce is a big part of this movie. Divorce and how it effects not just the married couple, but the children they have. This movie very much is about the battle not just for the daughters physical form, but her mind. Hindle doesn’t want Hinds to become her mother.
Being a Cronenberg horror movie, the idea of the mind and the body being linked is obvious, as is the body being the thing to be most afraid of. The idea that trying to overcome an issue may cause even bigger problems, with the therapy unleashing these beasts. Common things in his work. Another thing common in his work? Vaginal imagery, obviously brought up in the end image of Eggars birthing a little monster. Folks would like to throw misogyny complaints at his films, something common for any horror director to deal with, but that’s especially wrong here. The movie is about what happens when a woman is constantly wronger her whole life. From her parents to the husband she married to the doctor who helped bring this about. All these men (and mother) hurt her and it ended up being their downfalls. Her rage became so strong that they became living things. It’s a movie very much on the side of the woman, but by showing the negative effects of keeping them down.
All this is well and good. Cronenberg has always been a heady guy, infusing his work with themes and metaphorical imagery. Subtext has always been his game. But none of that matters if the movie isn’t well made and watchable, which this is in spades. So much so that this is probably my second favorite movie of his. The thematic work and the entertainment value works in damn near perfect harmony. It’s possible to watch the movie with a mind being shut off, just enjoying it for the horror aspects and the sci fi elements of it. But watching it with eyes wide open, it’s a damn revelation. It’s shot very well, with great compositions in his cold style. The score is unsettling. The acting is actually great for the most part, a rarity in some of his early work. Reed is electric and Hindle has a Redford thing going on. Eggars feels like an alien life form, mysterious and seductive but damaged. And the horror scenes, the kills, are great. Simple and effective, well executed bits of carnage. And obviously the ending is just some great bits of mind fuckery, with the insane image of Eggars ripping open this unnatural sack with her bare teeth to unleash this new rage baby is something unforgettable.
This may be peak Cronenberg in terms of his horror stuff. The Fly may be his most popular and populist. And I’ll agree that this is not gonna be for everyone because it’s so weird that some unimaginative jerks are gonna be unable to get past the weirdness. But as a horror nut and a cinephile, this was just nerd heaven. It feels like it’s been a while since a horror film has so thoroughly worked my intellect and the joy parts of my brain in equal order. Aside from some cheap effects with the little monsters and a weird little detour to some ex therapy members, this is a wild ride and a fucking great piece of cinema. Totally human and totally wild, this works on every level.
Diamonds Are Forever (October 21st, 2015)
Director: Guy Hamilton
Starring: Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Gray, and Jimmy Dean
For more, click here.
Director: Terrence Young
Starring: Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi, and Luciana Paluzzi
To listen to me and Anthony talk about this movie, click here to listen to the episode.
The Creature From The Black Lagoon (October 24th, 2015)
Director: Jack Arnold
Starring: Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Dennings, and Antonio Moreno
This right here is another underrated entry into the Universal Monsters world. This one fits into the sci fi genre with The Invisible Man and Frankenstein, unlike the more fantasy entries like Dracula or The Wolf Man. It would seem that I’m more into the sci fi, since I’m really into this movie and the other ones in this genre. And this one might be the hardest sci fi entry they have, since the monster in question is not something man made in a thematic quest to tell us not to play god. No, this is man vs nature fully anthropomorphized. A bunch of researchers in South America come upon a fossil of something they’ve never seen or heard of before. So they go into uncharted territory in that region to find more evidence of this great discovery. But little do they know that this beast is stalking them. A beast of the water that evolved enough to stalk the land but stopped before a full transformation could take effect. So we have this fish man thing hunting our intrepid researchers, complete with cocky asshole who won’t take a hint to get the fuck out of dodge and puts everyone into more danger. The creature may be the most striking monster in the group for my money, besting Frankenstein by a smidge. And it lacks total humanity, another first for the studio. Even Dracula at one point was a human. And it also lacks a tragic romantic aspect like the others do. There’s an intimation that the beast wants the main actress, but it isn’t focused on. The group is also a nice change of pace, since they are all smart people trying to use their brains to solve problems. The focus on science not being an evil enterprise like it was in Frankenstein is a nice change too. What makes it my favorite though, aside from all those elements? It’s gorgeous. No gothic locales or British countrysides. Sure, it may be a set but it’s a nice change of pace for their locales and the underwater sequences are gorgeous and kinda mind blowing. It’s really something to behold, giving the movie a nice uniqueness among the others. And while many people bemoan remakes and the like, I’m really curious to see what John Landis and Rick Baker would have done with their proposed remake in the 80s. It coulda been something. But as is, this is another great entry from the Universal lot and a surprising highlight in my eyes.
Bone Tomahawk (October 24th, 2015)
Director: S. Craig Zahler
Starring: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, and Matthew Fox
For more, click here.