THE BROOD (1979)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

Brood poster

Directed by: David Cronenberg

Written by: David Cronenberg

Starring: Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle, Nuala Fitzgerald, Henry Beckman, Susan Hogan, Cindy Hinds

David Cronenberg has referred to THE BROOD as his “most classic” horror film. For a guy who’s certainly freaked many people out with his bizarre ideas and certain taste of body-horror, Cronenberg crafted an excellent, suspenseful, and downright terrifying ride that is frequently subtle throughout. I counted about four real shocking moments through the entire movie (though one of them is the final 15 minutes). The rest of story relies solely on complex characters, quiet thrills and mounting tension.

Brood 1

Frank is at a rough point in his life. He’s committed his mentally disturbed wife, Nola, to an asylum that specializes in a special kind of therapy. This method is called “psychoplasmics” and it’s encouraged by a brilliant psychiatrist named Hal. This therapy makes patients bring out suppressed emotions that literally manifest themselves through changes in their bodies. Frank feels that it’s already a tad questionable to let his young daughter, Candice, stay with her mother at the institute over the weekends. When she returns with unexplained bruises on her back, Frank believes that Nola is abusing their child and begins a nasty custody battle. As Frank’s situation rapidly becomes more stressful, certain people around him are being killed by what appear to be feral children. Everything begins to tie in together and it leads to a disturbing showdown that you surely won’t forget.

Brood 2

While I find SHIVERS and VIDEODROME to be superior films, THE BROOD is up there with Cronenberg’s remake of THE FLY as a chilling tale of horror that begins with humans and ends with his signature style of bringing atrocities out of our own bodies. The idea of mutations and horror springing from our own genetic code is the perversion of biology at its sickest. Cronenberg was never subtle about launching his brand of “new flesh” and THE BROOD certainly delivers in spades at certain moments. As mentioned before though, this is far more subtle and quiet than anything I’ve seen from Cronenberg.

Brood 3

The look of the “feral children,” which it’s safe to already assume are not what they appear, isn’t as silly as one might expect. We mainly get brief glimpses or they are kept just far enough away that we don’t see the specific details of them. In fact, one scene involving the autopsy of a discovered “child” gives just enough information by the examiner to make goosebumps rise on arms of any jaded viewer. Sometimes, it’s scarier to keep the beast off-screen and Cronenberg revels in knowing when to give the audience a bloody shock and when to hide the terror. After seeing him show a man’s head blow up in SCANNERS, all the disturbing scenes in SHIVERS, and the cancer gun in VIDEODROME, I really wasn’t expecting THE BROOD to be as subtle as it was throughout. This is a creepy movie!

Brood 4

All of the actors do a perfect job in fleshing out their characters and you know an actress is fantastic, when she makes you hate her character so much that you want to jump through the screen and murder her. Oliver Reed (THE DEVILS, BURNT OFFERINGS) steals every scene he’s in as a character that keeps you in the dark on which side of the fence he’s on. By the end of the film when all the gruesome mysteries are answered, we know exactly how we feel about him. Body-horror and classic suspense are a combination that one wouldn’t normally expect, but leave it to master of horror David Cronenberg to pull it off! A triple feature of SHIVERS, VIDEODROME and THE BROOD will leave you itching and wondering if just what’s beneath the surface of your body will betray you one day. It’s a frightening thought, indeed!

Grade: A

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