By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Wife creates dwarf murderers.
After suffering a mental breakdown Nola (Samantha Eggar) is sent away to a secluded clinic run by Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed) who uses unorthodox methods to heal his patients. Once she gets sent there strange murderers resembling dwarfs begin to terrorize her family members including her daughter Candice (Cindy Hinds) who they kidnap. Her husband Frank (Art Hindle) is convinced there’s some connection between these strange killers and the institute so he goes there to confront the Dr., but is ill prepared to the secret that awaits him.
Through the years this film has become a staple to director David Cronenberg’s work and is well filmed with shadowy lighting and fluid camerawork that help create an ongoing creepy feel as well as Howard Shore’s pounding score. The film’s ultimate moment though remains Eggar’s bizarre ‘birthing’ scene where she takes a blood drenched embryo and licks it, which apparently was something she improvised on-the-spot. It remains perversely disturbing even by today’s standards, but was cut from the release at the time and only now is intact with the Criterion Blu-ray in all its glory or gruesomeness depending on your point-of-view.
The story though isn’t as clever as the filmmakers think as I was able to figure it out almost immediately and having to watch a protagonist take 90-minutes to come to the same conclusion that took me only 10-minutes makes for a rather annoying and dull plotline. There’s also no explanation for why Nola is able to have the ability that she does. If it’s connect it to the experimental therapy she’s going through then fine, but others in that group should , or at least some of them, be able to do the same thing, but they’re not, so why is that?
There’s also a murder scene that comes in the middle of the movie that to me didn’t seem logical. It entails the dwarf murderers coming into the kindergarten class that Candice is attending and using toy hammers that they pick-up from a nearby table to bludgeon her teacher to death. Normally toy hammers are lightweight, so no matter how hard or how long a person may swing it at their victim it’s highly unlikely that it would be able to crush their skull. I also thought all of the children who witnessed the crime would’ve run out of the room screaming instead of just one and having them then stand around the body quietly whimpering afterwards sounded forced and fake.
Reed’s dark and commanding presence always helps every movie that he is in although it’s a bit weird that he becomes the ultimate hero especially after the opening scene in which he is emotionally abusive. Eggar, whose eyes look strangely wider and more rounder here, has her acting meddle put to the test by portraying a person that I didn’t think she had the ability to do, but she proves quite qualified.
The young Hinds is surprisingly effective despite her extremely young age, but Hindle is transparent as the protagonist. I realize that he acts as a sort of buffer to the craziness, but he lacks an edge and unable to match the energy of his flamboyant co-stars.
Horror fans should find this thing adequate, but for me the story is too basic and predictable they’re needed to be some sort of secondary angle or side-story. Supposedly Cronenberg was inspired to write this after dealing with the custody battle he had with his own ex-wife, Margaret Hindson, who had worked with him on many of his earlier projects. According to him Eggar’s character reflected many of her same traits.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: May 25, 1979
Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes
Director: David Cronenberg
Studio: Canadian Film Development Corporation
Available: DVD, Blu-ray (Criterion Collection), Amazon Video