Homage to Nicolas Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW: inspired by labyrinthine alleyways and murky canals of Venice to the inner demons of anguish and guilt, stalks the tiny deformed killer in a red jacket, one of a demented progeny born of their mother’s primal rage. Writer/Director David Cronenberg takes us on a journey through the looking glass and into the bloody tangled womb of horror, where the inner child dwells, abused and enraged, where it is birthed into a cruel world without consent and imbued with a survival instinct that transcends moral boundary.
A terrible custody battle between Frank and Nola leads to this brutal conflict, as her childhood trauma (both imagined and real?) is born into flesh and blood offspring who carry out her sadistic desires. She is kept isolated at a retreat while undergoing Psychoplasmics: a counseling technique that is ultimately responsible because it’s not a cure, only an exacerbation of her condition. Cronenberg builds the gruesome tension through sound and editing; each death-scene a grueling exercise in suspense as we know what’s coming….until he reveals the horror in shocking fashion. The violence is brutal and unforgiving, the effects upon Candice and the other children frighteningly realistic, and this adds an element of vile realism to this brooding narrative.
Howard Shore’s eerie score evokes Bernard Herrmann and adds a psychotic pathos to the story, a subliminal thrum that creates frisson by making an ordinary scene unnerving and expectant. When Frank confronts his wife, she reveals a pulsing sac, which expunges its fetid fetus and she licks clean its afterbirth. This is absolutely disgusting, perverse, and genius. Now that his daughter is safe and they drive into the night, Cronenberg cuts to close up on Candice’s arm showing two bulging welts, then extreme close up to her tortured eyes…the window to her soul.
Final Grade: (B)