by Kristin Battestella
This quartet of seventies scares is full of evil kids, demented moms, and twisted science. Because we can never have enough of such macabre reproduction horrors...not!
The Brood – Mind and body horrors run rampant in this 1979 David Cronenberg (Shivers) allegory starring an on form Oliver Reed (Burnt Offerings), sympathetic dad Art Hindle (Black Christmas), and a crazy “Mummies never hurt their children” Samantha Eggar (The Collector). Harsh one on one psychological exercises, intense therapy, heavy confrontations, and upsetting family actions shape the believable anger and discomforting dialogue, layering the icky delusions and abuse suspicious before the violent attacks, blunt trauma, and blood spilled in what should be a safe visit to grandma's ye olde kitchen. The cutaway editing and low angle filming smartly disguises the unseen culprits while hissing, gurgling, and screaming create a look away repulsion to delay the creature reveal. Those are strong little suckers! Polaroids, old toys, a natural look, and rustic colors counter the strung out feelings, skeptical on edge, and simmering Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings) music while the repressed character drama balances the metaphysical and fantastic conversations. What if we could manifest all our ills on our body? This cultish “psychoplasmics” takes the psychosomatic fears too far – the opposite extreme of looking the other way alcoholism, perpetuating abuse, and festering pains. Purple visuals set apart autopsies, mutant examinations, and radical science, upping the would be laughable of those frumpy seventies snowsuits with disturbing witnessing and child helplessness. Although the source of titular critters becomes obvious during the 92 minute uncut duration, the monstrous possibilities and mental spiral remain a frightening what if with plenty of gruesome projections for a twisted little horror finale.
Crimes of the Future – This early 70 minute short film is featured on The Brood's Criterion blu-ray edition alongside another 85 minutes worth of cast and crew retrospectives, archive footage with Oliver Reed, and Cronenberg interviews. Understandably, the bizarre silence, slow comings and goings, weird stillness, and sporadic voiceover all on a 1970 nil budget is not for everyone. Fortunately, the 1997 bleak concrete and fallen industrialized affluence match the empty dystopian isolation. A “rouge” cosmetics plaque has killed all the women, and our androgynous, cleric clad in black unreliable narrator gives a detached lab report on the increasing gender changes. Red nail polish adorns men's sinistre left hand only and one with painted toes is mugged and beaten – but it's okay to consume the “chocolate” secreted by these special men so long as there are no women. Such venereal disease references, biological differences, and veiled statements on institutionalizing homosexuals for “therapy” are quite ahead of their time, and it would be intriguing to see Cronenberg do a fully scripted version today. The sorting socks and underwear scenes reflect a perverted ritual collection, but the near boring repetition detracts from a disturbing barefoot and white gloved secret pedophile meeting. Distorted sound schemes and the in limbo atmosphere create a lull before the chaos, as these repressed, feminine men escalate toward wicked violence, child trafficking, and disturbing sexual deviance for their supposedly justified and clinical cure. It's an ironic title, as it doesn't take a gender skewing apocalypse for this kind of horror to happen. Yes, this is an out there picture with poor pacing, structural flaws, and an upsetting real world horror finale – making this worth a look for sociological studies and film historians.
Devil Times Five – Teen idol Leif Garrett and his sister Dawn Lyn make for some creepy youngins in this 1974 picture also known as Peopletoys – and a dozen other titles for good measure. Eerie seventies lullaby notes ironically accent the snowy vacation spot, yuppie couples, and old fogies as perilous, icy, winding roads lead to vehicular disasters. Nuns and kids should be a sign of safety, however, real snow filming, old fashioned cars, and past technological isolation up the apprehensive mood. Although the teen voiceovers and their jive lingo are dated and the characters are initially stock stereotypes, the acting both from the adults and the children isn't bad. Slow motion and still zooms are unnecessary now, granted, but the black and white scenes showcase the shocking child violence, blunt objects, and group attacks – an extra oomph on how these miniature sociopaths get hungry and sleepy after a good bludgeoning. A belittling sex proposition of a slow adult is awkward, but cat fights, lingerie, and boobs about the bedroom scenes create a saucy upscale before our unaware adults come to realize they can't handle these escaped, killer charges – who have a wicked motivation and intellect far beyond their years. Guns go missing, knives disappear, wood needs to be chopped, and it's fun to see who or what is going to set off another crafty murder. Sure, this isn't scary by today's standards. However, the bathtub terrors and snow siege build well over the 88 minute time for some bemusing – if twisted – entertainment.
Embryo – Barbara Carrera (Dallas) co-stars in this 1976 Shelley twist wildly proclaiming how the science fiction presented is closer to medical possibility than we think. Weird fetal pictures, stormy roads, and sensitive puppy moments have the audience believing the freaky, too. Dogs in horror movies – gosh darn it why?! Widower Rock Hudson (Giant) narrates these procedures upon returning to his nice, in house, rural laboratory, complete with sister-in-law Diane Ladd (Wild at Heart) and warm cup of coffee comforts to hide the sinister science. Giant old tape decks, ancient computers designs, and period hospital imagery add a dated, fantastic mood alongside an ambulance (really just a van with lights and an orange stripe!) rung up to drop off a fetus. This old fashioned easy is inadvertently bemusing at times, sure, however the 104 minutes condenses too much of the accelerated timeline and sped up growth hormones via the dry voiceover. The experiments proceed with typical education montages, questioning individuals, and rehearsed introductions – rushing over what could be intriguing developments before some fun oohs and ahhs over a chess match at the center of a party. So chess is only a man's game, really Roddy McDowell?! It's interesting to hear “God is a liberated female and she is on my side” said as a joke when such concepts feel more recent, and controversial conversations on extending the titular viability outside the womb remain intriguing. Our well intended doctor discusses social prejudices and Biblical morals but gets some inappropriate saucy on despite regretting his uncontrollable creation. Of course your super intelligent protege is going to one up the ruthlessness when her survival is in jeopardy! The public domain print's quality is poor, often too dark with low volume, and overall, this needs more polish. Fortunately, tense near discovery moments, scary barking, violent tendencies, medical complications, murderous jealousy, and even some sympathy and surprises overcome the convenient presentation.