A father traces a series of murders by dwarfish creatures to an unconventional psychotherapy hospital treating his ex-wife.
David Cronenberg’s first outright miss. A monster movie he conceived after going through an acrimonious divorce. He crafts a terrific sequence in which the conflict between a mother and father downstairs manifests in physical danger to their child upstairs. But this comes at the film’s climax and the journey there proves muddled, underwhelming, and—worst of all—boring.
The film opens with a creepy therapy sequence between hospital head Oliver Reed and a patient that lands somewhere between role-playing and hypnosis. Reed oozes subtle menace in a role I wish gave him more to do. But alas.
Enter Art Hindle as our protagonist. Bonus that his character’s name is Frank, but Cronenberg writes him as ineffectual and bland. He spends the film in talky scenes piecing together what the audience has already intuited. If he’s Cronenberg’s surrogate, then Cronenberg lacks the self-awareness to examine his own culpability in the divorce. Frank is an ideal father with no faults, aside from lacking personality.
But I digress. The plot picks up when a dwarfish creature straight out of Don’t Look Now murders Frank’s mother-in-law. More bodies pile up before Frank puts two-and-two together and ties the creatures to his wife and her therapy. This leads to the aforementioned sequence where everything gels and we’re even treated to a memorable bit of Cronenberg’s trademark body-horror. But it proves too little, too late.