“The Brood”

My friends and I had, had our fill of all of the mainstream horror bogeymen. It wasn’t that we didn’t still love seeing Freddy terrorize people’s dreams in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, watch Michael silently stalk his prey in Halloween and its sequels, or anticipate Leatherface revving up his chainsaw, we did, but we had reached a saturation point where we wanted something different. It was the early 90’s and collectively we were all a year or two away from getting our drivers’ licenses. On cold winter nights on Long Island, specifically East Norwich / Oyster Bay where I grew up, when we couldn’t hang outside, and no one was throwing a party thanks to their parents being out of town, movie rentals and pizza usually provided the entertainment.

One Friday evening, my father drove me to the local video store. I am not sure if Blockbuster was in business yet, but even if it was, it would be almost a decade before they put a branch in my town. As I made my way into the store, I immediately headed for the horror section. Not finding what I wanted, I asked the clerk if he could recommend something. He asked me what I was into – gore? slasher? monsters? I told him the sort of things my friends and I had been watching and that we wanted something very different. It didn’t take him long to hand me a VHS copy of a movie called “The Brood.”

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Prior to that evening I had never seen any of director David Cronenberg’s (Eastern Promises) films; after that night I actively sought his movies out. “The Brood, which was written and directed by Cronenberg, premiered on May 25, 1979. The film’s 92 minute runtime is a mixture of the horror and Sci-Fi genres. (As an aside, Cronenberg considers “The Brood” his most autobiographical movie.  He wrote and directed it at a time when he was going through a bitter divorce and custody battle with his wife. The director has joked that “The Brood” was his version of Oscar winning director Robert Benton’s film “Kramer vs. Kramer,” which came out the same year and starred Academy Award winners Dustin Hoffman (Tootsie) and Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), portraying a couple going through a contentious divorce. Cronenberg has also made mention in the past that, unlike his other films, there is not one line of humor to be found in the movie.)

The film opens at the Somafree Institute in Canada, which is run by Oliver Reed’s (Gladiator) character, psychologist, Dr. Hal Raglan. In addition to role playing, which sometimes becomes quite intense, Raglan has created a method for treating the mentally disturbed which he calls psychoplasmics. What the treatment attempts to do is have the patients turn their mental anguish into physical manifestations that can than be healed.

At the start of the movie it appears as if two actors are performing a play on a stage, but that is not the case. What is taking place, in front of an audience, is Dr. Raglan demonstrating the power of psychoplasmics. During a role playing session with a man named Mike (Gary McKeehan), who has serious father issues, Raglan is able to help the man work through his issues of low self-esteem and fear of making eye contact. The end result is that not only is Mike able to speak aloud and say what is bothering him while looking Raglan in the eyes, but his psychological pain takes shape on his body in the form of welts.

The B Pic 2

It is that sort of treatment which causes Frank Carveth (Art Hindle) to become deeply concerned when his daughter Candice (Cindy Hinds) returns with bruises on her body after visiting her mother at the institute. Nola, Frank’s estranged wife, one of the patients at Somafree is portrayed by Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominated actress, Samantha Eggar (The Collector). Nola’s reason for being there is never fully explained, but is hinted at through the characters of her parents: Her mother, Juliana, (Nuala Fitzgerald) suffered from psychological issues when she was younger. Making matters worse was that her father, Barton (Henry Beckman), a seemingly good natured person, divorced Nola’s mother because of her problems, and due to his alcohol addiction, was not a good role model for Nola when she was growing up. Barton leaving Nola also leads to her developing fear of abandonment issues.

The B Pic 3

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After discovering the bruising on his daughter’s body, Frank has a confrontation with Dr. Raglan, where he insists on seeing Nola, as well as demanding answers as to why his daughter has been harmed. He is rebuffed by the doctor in a cold and clinical manner. Raglan feels that Nola’s therapy is at a critical stage, and should not be disturbed by an aggravating presence such as Frank, because it would do more harm than good. Frank could care less and refuses to allow Nola to see Candice anymore. In addition, if he is not granted access to speak with his wife, he is going to do whatever it takes to expose Raglan and, what Frank feels are his questionable methods.

When Nola grows angry, death is visited upon those who have enraged her by facially deformed childlike creatures who will come to be known as ‘the brood.’ It is unknown where the creatures come from and who sends them to carry out their murderous tasks. The first killing the brood commits is of Nola’s mother, who is baby-sitting Candice while Frank tries to gather incriminating information on Raglan. Upon investigating some strange noises, Juliana finds her kitchen destroyed, and is then attacked by one of the creatures. She will be one of several people that are directly involved in the Carveth’s lives that the mysterious brood will murder. The more Frank digs into Raglan’s life and the goings on at the Somafree Institute, in order to keep his daughter safe and away from Nola, the more the brood appear to carry out rage filled killings.

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A word of caution for the squeamish, most of the film is devoid of gore, but there are a few scenes involving the brood, as well as something that Nola does toward the end of the movie, that are gory. Who are the brood? Where do they come from? Who is sending them out on their murderous missions? Does Frank Carveth succeed in shutting the Somafree Institute down and exposing Dr. Raglan for treating his patients through dangerous methods? Does Nola get the help she needs to overcome her psychological fears before she hurts her daughter again – or worse? What kind of lasting psychological impact will all of this have on Candice?

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If you are  looking for a film in the horror genre with more of a psychological bent, which is as equally disturbing as it is thought provoking, “The Brood” delivers. The movie serves as a good introduction for those who are unfamiliar with Cronenberg’s films, and is a must for those fans of the director, who have not viewed some of his earlier works.

The Brood Poster

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About robbinsrealm

I was born in Smithtown, New York, and grew up, worked, and lived in various areas of Long Island before moving to Boca Raton, Florida where I now make my home. In addition to being an aspiring writer, I am also an English teacher. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master’s Degree in Education, both from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. In my spare time you will find me engrossed in books, watching movies, socializing with friends, or just staying active.
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16 Responses to “The Brood”

  1. Great write up of a good film. I haven’t seen this in years!!!! Actually outside of the Dead Zone it’s been a few years since I’ve seen many Cronenberg films. Right now I’m saving for my new laptop (my old one was flooded). After I get it, which should be tomorrow I gotta pick me up some of Cronenberg’s films. All I have left is History of Violence and the Dead Zone (might have Eastern Promises, but I’m fairly certain that was lost as well).

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting; as always it is greatly appreciated. I hadn’t seen the movie in years and decided to re-watch it so I could include it in this month’s blogs. I am sorry your laptop was destroyed because of hurricane Sandy. Did you get a new one? What Cronenberg films did you wind up purchasing? Did you know that the Cronenberg film “Rabid,” was supposed to star Sissy Spacek before Marilyn Chambers got cast in the lead role? I wonder if that film would have been more popular in the mainstream if Spacek had been cast.

      • Yeah I finally had enough saved up. Not the greatest but does what I need to. I’ve used it only a little so far.

        I haven’t bought any Cronenberg films yet. After the laptop I’m wiped out lol. Towards the end of the year I’ll get around to it. Checked my collection. Dead Zone & History of Violence are the only two I have left.

  2. davecrewe says:

    I wasn’t a big fan of this one, despite loving Cronenberg’s films, though perhaps if I’d seen it before I’d delved into most of his filmography I’d be more forgiving of its flaws (since what must have seemed fresh on first viewing was worn down a little by being reused in better films). It’s a well-made film but I wasn’t a fan of its pacing and was left… uncomfortable by the autobiographical aspects. It’s a very misogynist film at its core (or at the very least, Cronenberg demonstrates his hate of one woman)! Nice review, though, even if I disagree with your assessment. 🙂

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Firstly, thank you for reading and commenting. I appreciate your thoughts and the reasons you offered as to why you are not a fan of the movie. In regard to it being a misogynistic film, I think Cronenberg gets a bad rap on that one. During the entire movie, the main character Frank Carveth is trying to save his daughter, the person he loves most in the world, from having any harm inflicted on her. In terms of his wife Nola, Cronenberg didn’t write her character as some mean drug abuser or alcoholic who lashes out at people when they can’t get their fix. She has serious issues, as the movie more than alludes to, which stem from her upbringing. That, I feel, has more to do with the way Nola acts as compared to anything Frank has done to her.

  3. Woo Cronenberg! Love this flick! Terrific write-up!

  4. I have not seen this movie and looks like I need to correct that soon!

    B2B.

  5. jpthorn says:

    I’ve always felt that this one has always flown a little bit under the radar. Great writeup.

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting, it is much appreciated. I agree with you in regards to this film not being nearly as popular as many of Cronenberg’s other films. When I have brought this movie up in conversation over the years, even to people, who I know love horror, more often than not, I wind up lending the film to the person, because they’ve never seen it.

  6. Robbin, I was ready to say that this wouldn’t be a good introduction for folks to the works of Cronenberg—too heavy and disturbing for instance. Then I realized it was my first DC film too! So, maybe it DOES possess the power of persuasion—it made me a lifelong fanatic after all. As I theorized in my recent Chronicle review, it is probably Cronenberg’s first near-great film, perhaps only hindered by the merely adequate performance of Art Hindle. But Reed and Eggar are superb. Glad you have experienced, and that you appreciate, this release from David’s formative years. ML

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting; I am glad the film made you a life long fan of the director. It was the first time I had ever seen any of his movies, but since then, I have seen most of what he has directed. I couldn’t agree more with you regarding the performances given by Eggar and Reed. I haven’t seen Eggar in much, but I am big fan of director, Ken Russell, who cast Reed in many of his movies, and from there, I branched out and watched other films that Reed was in.

  7. Great review. Such a strange film.

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting and your compliment on my review, it is greatly appreciated. I agree this particular outing by Cronenberg is not for anyone who wants to just sit down and watch a movie because they have nothing better to do; it is both strange and though provoking.

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