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(Credit: Toronto Film Festival)

The unlikely film that inspired David Cronenberg's classic

Sci-fi innovator and horror aficionado David Cronenberg is responsible for some of cinema’s most horrifying trips, including 1983s Videodrome where reality, sexual desire and bulging special effects merge. Winning numerous awards across the course of his career for his ambitious, imaginative projects, in 1996 The Cannes Film Festival awarded him with a rare Special Jury Prize for Crash, giving the prize to the director “for originality, for daring, and for audacity”.

From Videodrome to The Fly, his films are often concerned with the transformation of either mind, body, or both, as characters metamorphose into creatures that challenge their psychosis and perception of reality. Speaking of the role of transformation throughout his filmography, Cronenberg stated: “Because of our necessity to impose our own structure of perception on things we look on ourselves as being relatively stable. But, in fact, when I look at a person I see this maelstrom of organic, chemical and electron chaos; volatility and instability, shimmering; and the ability to change and transform and transmute”.

Evolving as a filmmaker, Cronenberg has gone from assessing contemporary culture through body horror to criticising it directly through the surreal narratives of his modern feature films, Cosmopolis and Maps to the Stars. It appears that Cronenberg has too metamorphosed into a more reserved, measured filmmaker, commenting: “You have huge power and potency at this age,” in a recent interview. Continuing, he notes, “There’s the mythology of age, the bearded elder, the wise old man. In some cultures advanced age is very much revered, the Chinese culture, Confucius and so on: you are supposed to gain in wisdom and experience and therefore be quite a valuable member of society who should be honoured and listened to. At the moment, in the west, we certainly don’t have that”.

Though despite this change in pace, Cronenberg remains a significant icon in the history of horror, and in retrospect marks The Brood as “the most classic horror film I’ve done”. Conceiving the screenplay in the aftermath of a bitter divorce from his wife that resulted in a fierce custody battle over their daughter, he was inspired by the classic Robert Benton legal drama Kramer vs Kramer to make the horror film. 

Disillusioned by Benton’s optimistic depiction of a familial breakdown, Cronenberg began writing his screenplay for The Brood, aspiring to depict the conflict between a divorced couple fighting over their child. “The Brood is my version of Kramer vs. Kramer, but more realistic,” David Cronenberg stated. 

As horror legend, Wes Craven once said, “Horror films don’t create fear. They release it”.

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