Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Canada, 1979. Canadian Film Development Corporation, Elgin International Films Ltd., Mutual Productions Ltd., Victor Solnicki Productions. Screenplay by David Cronenberg. Cinematography by Mark Irwin. Produced by Claude Heroux. Music by Howard Shore. Production Design by Carol Spier. Costume Design by Delphine White. Film Editing by Alan Collins.
David Cronenberg was reportedly inspired by his divorce from his first wife to write and direct this creepy horror movie, one that shows his strength as image-maker and storyteller very early in his feature film career. Art Hindle is terrific as a man pulled in multiple directions, trying to give his wife (Samantha Eggar) room to experience healing at the alternative psychotherapy retreat she is staying at under the tutelage of “Psychoplasmic” doctor Oliver Reed. His concern is that his increasingly detached daughter is suffering the separation from her mother and is made worse by being allowed to visit her, coming home covered in bruises and bites. When Eggar’s parents are murdered by mysterious tiny people, one is captured and examined by a medical authority who declares them inhuman; is this an alien invasion, or is something truly diabolical happening at Reed’s unconventional but presumably harmless institute? Cronenberg’s style has real relish as he connects his preoccupation with the horrific possibilities of mortal human flesh with maternal anxieties and the fragility of the marital bond, highlighted by excellent acting and genuine tension that keeps it from being the kind of Alice Sweet Alice trash that the plot could easily give way to. Eggar is particularly affecting in her performance, and her concluding scene that reveals the truth about her situation is one of the most frightening and upsetting images in the genre.