Editor’s Note: These posts originally appeared starting here on the AV Club *stares off wistfully*. They are being reposted for completionist sake as this annual series continued onto the AVCAD and now here. Also, forgive the writing for I was younger and dumber and these were written to appear in comments so don’t include pictures and are far shorter and less thorough than the series is now. They have been preserved as they were.
Month of Horror: World Edition
10/20/2015 – Canada: The Brood (1979)
Directed by David Cronenberg
Despite Canada’s reputation as a place to shoot films cheaper than in the US with Vancouver being a popular sci-fi hub and Toronto being a popular double for major cities, and the fact that its films are often overshadowed by its American counterparts (including those made by Canadian transplants), Canada has turned out a number of great films and especially genre films. The country has turned out such great horror titles as Cube, Ginger Snaps, Black Christmas, and Splice but perhaps its greatest filmmaker is David Cronenberg. Before he came to the US with The Dead Zone he gave us such classic horror as Videodrome, Scanners, and today’s movie (and fresh Criterion release).
Cronenberg’s early career was marked by his frequent use of body horror and that is on full display here though not necessarily to the gruesome extent of some his other movies. In fact, much of the movie is largely dramatic with the body horror shots sprinkled in until the glorious ending. Thankfully the movie nails these scenes for the most part building off a custody battle and somehow making something called psychoplasmics not too ridiculous a concept to base a film around. It is the right balance between something believable as a real life scam drawing cult like adherents and something that would drive Oliver Reed is a good center for the film, humanizing someone who in any other movie would be a villain, but here who may be using techniques that are bad for the people in his care, but does seem to actually want to help them.
The scenes of the brood attacking are pretty laughable (at least until the shot of them breaking through a closet at the end) with the actors clearly missing their targets with the swings of their weapons and no real sense that they are making contact from the acting of the victims with the much better shots of blood not coming until after it is over. The low budget special effects are top notch though in particular the SPOILERS shots of the mom after she opens her robe revealing the external womb and what appears to be other ones developing on her body. The reveal is wonderfully shot, along with the earlier more subtle and unexpected reveal of the man’s neck suffering from lymphoma, leading to the best scene of the movie with the mom opening the external womb with her teeth, slowing pulling it out, then cleaning the baby with her tongue. Samantha Eggar, who is great all film, really dives into the scene and makes something that could have been trashy into something more and something ultimately tragic END OF SPOILERS. The Brood may not be on the level of Cronenberg’s 80’s works (aside from The Dead Zone I found a bit disappointing), but it is damn close and is both a very good film on its own, and a clear indication the that he was someone to watch.
Also included on the disc is Cronenberg’s second film Crimes of the Future. I won’t go into too much since it isn’t horror but I will say there’s some interesting moments, most notably some really nice looking hallway shots, but the whole silent film with everything added over (mostly consisting of a robotic narration) is tedious even if it something necessitated by the budget. It is only worth seeing as a historical footnote in his career though.
Month of Horror: World Edition
Bonus Episode #11 – United States: 30 Days of Night (2007)
Directed by David Slade
Pitch Black proved pretty damn well that stranding a group of characters in the dark during a long period where they are surrounded by creatures that can only come out at night is an effective strategy for generating suspense. It’s only logical that vampires would eventually come to a place which has a month without sun (yes Frostbite did it the year before but the comic this is based on came out in 2002) and no means of escape so with a rock solid premise the film is already half way to being successful. They even got the director of the great Hard Candy (and later semi-frequent Hannibal director), even if this is not the kind of film I’d expect to see next out of him.
The design of the monsters is fine; nothing too memorable but certainly functional. In fact, that could almost serve as the ethos of the movie. The vampires exist to pose and attack (they really like posing) without adding much more despite their screen time. The lead vamp talks evil-like and the movie seems to think he has a personality, but it is all just comes across flat. The human have vague notions of being something more than stock types but they never really develop anything distinctive about them or reason I should care about any specific one while also having none that are really obnoxious. They just kind of are as they die one by one with the film infrequently conveying just how many are left as characters continually sacrifice themselves with decreasing emotional stakes.
Having to stretch the movie over 30 days removes most of the urgency involved and instead of feeling like it is wearing down the humans over time, it instead wore me down especially with the inconsistent plotting of just how trapped they were in one building without any of the skill of Rio Bravo or Night of the Living Dead or their best stylistic derivatives (such as and Assault on Precinct 13). The actions scenes are fairly standard action-horror stuff complete with that unnatural shaking camera and quick cutting effect (and quite possible sped up film) whenever things move fast that always look terrible and it’s no different here. It just makes the movie look cheap and it’s not fooling anyone.
What that leaves is how good the gore is and that is one thing the film does right. The gore effects and special effects in general are good if not particularly memorable with the film never really shying away from showing the consequences of the attacks and everything looking realistic. I guess I should also point out the music which I barely noticed. Normally this isn’t something to highlight but that’s perfectly fine for a movie to have and had been such a tripping point this month. The film is perfectly watchable especially if it was something left on in the background but I can’t say I enjoyed it. At the very least as the director of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, I doubt it is the worst vampire related thing David Slade has ever done.
Up Next: Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s Rabies representing Israel