The Brood (1979)
★★★ / ★★★★
Frank (Art Hindle) found his daughter (Cindy Hinds) covered in bruises and bite marks. To Frank, there was only one person to blame–the mother (Samantha Eggar) who was entitled weekly visitations from a psychiatric institution run by Dr. Raglan (Oliver Reed), a doctor who had a strange way of providing therapy to his patients. It seemed as though he induced his patients into deep hypnosis. By pretending to be key figures from a specific patient’s life, they engaged in conversations and sorted through many emotions in hopes of arriving at some form of closure. Writer-director David Cronenberg took a lot of risks with this project by focusing on how negative emotions could potentially manifest themselves physically. There was true horror when the mutants started killing people. Were they real or were they simply a product of the mind? During an autopsy of one of the mutants, it was revealed to resemble a human but it did not have a navel. When the film was concerned with specifics regarding the mutants and how the new therapy technique worked, I was most fascinated. There also came a point when I stopped and asked myself if I was being paranoid for characters. Perhaps there was a scientific explanation that connected all the strange happenings. But the movie was not just about the horror of the unknown corners of our minds. It was also about ethics such as a doctor’s relationship with his patients. How far should we push a patient to go through therapy when, if they had been in extended states of hypnosis which possibly altered their judgments, they were not aware of its effectiveness? Or worse, they were not allowed to see their loved ones so that they, too, could see how the therapy was coming along. I was constantly challenged because metaphysical and psychological questions often came up and just when I thought I arrived at a valid conclusion, new evidence made me question. In a way, it felt like I was analyzing the movie as my own patient. Even though it asked us to take certain leaps of faith such as the so-called psychoplasmic therapy, the material had a solid grasp between playing within the extremes based on today’s established psychology (such as psychosomatic disorders) and total unbelievability. The final twenty minutes was very memorable because it offered grotesque images even the most hardcore horror fans would be impressed with. “The Brood” may have been deliberately slow-paced but the rewards were plentiful. It was the kind of horror picture that did not sacrifice intelligence and actually incited thoughtful discussion about mutation as a tool (or side effect) of therapy.
★★★ / ★★★★
Written and directed by the very controversial Lars von Trier, “Antichrist” tells the story of a couple (Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg) who retreat to the woods appropriately called Eden to deal with the recent death of their son. Dafoe’s character, a psychiatrist, uses various therapeutic methods to help his wife go through grief, pain and despair (the titles of the first three chapters of the picture). Gainsbourg’s character believes that her husband doesn’t much care for the death of their son. It must be said that this is not the kind of film for everyone. In fact, I think this movie is made for certain groups of people who can take heavy levels of very sexually intimate scenes, violence and symbolism. The way von Trier focused on his two characters fascinated me from start to finish. He was not afraid to show them at their most vulnerable to the point where it was almost painful for us to watch; it really felt like I was watching a real couple who lost their only child. From the synopses I read, I got the impression that the bulk of the story was going to be rooted in the supernatural. It wasn’t at all. In fact, although it did reference to an evil force residing in the woods, the focus was more on the psychological breakdown of the wife. In order to make the strange happenings more believable (and more terrifying), von Trier pushes “ordinariness”–both the nature and the unknown in our minds–to the extreme until it almost felt like we were dealing with something extraordinary. That strategy in storytelling is something that I don’t often come across and ultimately that’s why this picture worked. I also had a lot of fun watching this movie because I noticed it having some similarities with “Dogvile” (also directed by von Trier). For instance, the breaking of the figurines (something that Nicole Kidman’s character considered a part of herself) in comparison to breaking certain body parts and Kidman’s character being tied to a heavy metal contraption like Dafoe’s character. The similarities made me think beyond the violence of this film and really tried to think about what the director was trying to convey. I loved that each scene had a purpose and he was not at all afraid to take risks–risks that may give the audiences to laugh uncontrollably. A lot of people thought that “Antichrist” had an open-ended ending. I did not get that feeling. I thought it came full circle: the final feelings and images highlighted the surrealism of the first two chapters. My wish is for less adventurous moviegoers to see this picture and not get distracted by the sexuality and violence because it offers a real insight about what it means to grieve in its core.