Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

The Brood is Goood…Really.

Posted: June 5, 2011 in Horror

Do not, under and circumstances, watch this movie before or after eating.  That’s a warning that should be on many of Canadian director David Cronenberg’s films, including (and especially ) The Brood, in big, bold, red letters.  Being a horror aficionado, I have a pretty high threshold for gratuitous gruesomeness and gore, but the last twenty minutes of The Brood had my stomach churning.  Unlike, say, the Saw series, whose only purpose is to expose the audience to superfluous amounts of blood and guts in order to elicit nauseated groans (and vomit), The Brood is a very intelligent movie.

After strange bruises appear on his daughter’s back, Frank Carveth decides that he will no longer allow his wife, Nola, who has been institutionalized and is being subjected to an experimental form of therapy, to see her.  Shortly after, a series of brutal murders, committed by small, malformed children, begin to take place.  The first victim?  Nola’s mother.

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HERE BE SPOILERS

David Cronenberg himself has mentioned several times that this film, on a metaphorical level (I hope), is at least semi-autobiographical.  He wrote the film shortly after going through a bitter divorce and child custody battle with his first wife, and much of the movie is devoted to dysfunctional family dynamics.  There’s certainly a lot going on here.  Maternity is tainted in The Brood, reviled rather than celebrated.  Nola herself was abused by her mother, a fact which can be assumed lead to her irrevocably negative psychological state and her institutionalization.  Her uterus, a symbol of motherhood, is now outside of her, attached by a fleshy tube to her stomach.  It is from this that the brood emerges.  The mutilation of the feminine turns motherhood into something unnatural.  The children which Nola gives birth to are corrupt, lacking the innocence of youth and acting only in accordance with their mother’s damaged emotional condition.  Even her husband, Frank, considers Nola somewhat of a monster even before she reveals to him her new family.  He refuses to let her see their daughter, and blames her for the injuries he finds on their natural daughter.

Most telling though, is Nola’s relationship with and impact on her natural daughter, Candice.  The actress who plays Candice does a great job, simply because very little acting is required for the role.  For a large portion of her on-screen time, she remains stone-faced, expressionless.  She is a blank slate, ready to be molded by her parents. Despite Frank’s best efforts, Cadi’s mother is the one who ends up having the greatest impact upon her.  The final shot of the film shows the young girl beginning to develop large growths on her body, growths which eerily resemble those that were upon the body of her mother in the final scene.  Candi has not escaped unscathed by her mother’s influence.

Stars: ****1/2

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Juliana Kelly: Thirty seconds after you’re born you have a past and sixty seconds after that you begin to lie to yourself about it.

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Recommended Viewing: Don’t Look Now, The Fly (remake)

Next Weekend

Movie #9

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The 70s and, to a lesser extent, the 80s, are considered by many to be the Golden Age of horror films.  Jason and Michael Meyers helped to introduce “the slasher,” an ever-popular sub-genre.  Linda Blaire was possessed by Satan and projectile vomited in The Exorcist, supposedly causing audience members to faint and a nationwide decline in pea soup consumption. Jack Nicholson was busy working (not playing) himself into a murderous frenzy, and a young Tom Cruise was dancing around in his underwear.  Yes, the 70s and 80s were indeed frightening times, and that’s why I was so disappointed by Maniac Cop (1988).

The plot holds a lot of promise:  A serial killer, disguised as a police officer, has been terrorizing NYC.  The detective on the case enlists the help of the cop who hass been framed for the murders. Along with the cop’s girlfriend, they work together to catch the madman.

The idea that those who have sworn to protect may be those that should be feared the most is interesting, but director William Lustig doesn’t really explore its full potential. Not much effort is expended in trying to create an atmosphere of paranoia and mistrust within the NYPD.  There are a few attempts to show how the relationship between terrified citizens and the fuzz has deteriorated, but these are rather comical and generally ineffective.

There is a Michael Meyers-esque quality to the “Maniac Cop”.  He’s tall, imposing, and he kills with ease and the sociopathic disinterest of Halloween’s infamous killer.  His face is hidden in shadows until the final minutes, and when it is finally revealed, the make-up job makes it look like he’s just finished eating a big spaghetti dinner.  Keeping the cop’s identity hidden is undoubtedly meant to enhance the mystery, thus creating tension, but it doesn’t work.  The protagonist, Detective Frank McCrae, is certain, even from the very beginning of the movie, that the serial killer is a policeman within the force, yet he never casts his suspicions on any of his coworkers.  This gives the impression that he already knows the identity of the killer, and it detracts from the film.

Hey! Who took my napkin?!

I was excited to find out that B-movie legend Bruce Campbell has a role in the film, but the over-the-top acting style for which he is known and loved is not on display here. As a result, he’s not as much fun to watch as he is in, say, The Evil Dead films.  In fact, most of the acting in Maniac Cop is disappointingly average, not being bad enough to be funny, or good enough to be…well…good. The writing is also mediocre, typical B-movie fare, and not only in terms of dialogue.  The characters are all one-dimensional, and though hints alluding to troubled pasts are dropped, writer Larry Cohen never cares enough to delve deeper.  The cinematography is straightforward and lacking in stylistic originality; it does nothing to enhance the tone/mood/atmosphere. Another critical area where the film falls flat is the way in which characters die.  Many horror movie aficionados watch these films to see the original and brutal methods in which the killer offs his victims, but there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done before and far better.

Maniac Cop doesn’t do anything wrong, but it certainly doesn’t achieve greatness (or even goodness).  One may argue that B-grade cult films are not artistic, that the writing does not have to be good, that the characters do not have to be developed.  This may be true, but B-movies generally exhibit at least some charm, or some originality, unintentional though it may be, and Maniac Cop does not.  It’s simply mediocre, and that’s the biggest crime of all.

Stars: *1/2

Best Quotes:

Frank McCrae: Look at the size of those hematomas! 

Frank McCrae: Whole city’s goin’ to hell. You can’t take a pee anywhere anymore.


Recommended Viewing: Halloween, The Stepfather (1987)

Saturday, April 23

Movie #3