THE BROOD (1979) – The Dungeon Review!

“The Ultimate Experience Of Inner Terror”

I did a little blurb about David Cronenberg when I first started this blog, but I am shocked that The Brood is my first full-length review of one of his films. What the hell is wrong with me?! Cronenberg is without a doubt one of my favourite directors of all time. I am particularly fond of Cronenberg’s older stuff referred to as “body horror” which is certainly apt as the body is transformed, infected and diseased in the most grotesque of ways. While the premise of his films seem wildly outrageous, Cronenberg’s intelligently written plots make you believe the impossible may actually be possible. Cronenberg’s films boast unforgettable scenes of gore and violence and some of the genre’s most perfectly cast leads. Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, James Wood in Videodrome, Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone, Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers to name a few. Cronenberg includes social commentary, humour and various obsessions in his stories and character development is always an important component. I could go on for days about Cronenberg, but I’ll sum it up by just saying I think the man is brilliant. His flicks get under my skin and that really turns me on.

Psychotherapist Dr. Hal Raglan is using an unconventional treatment with his patients called Psychoplasmics. The method encourages the patient to work through the emotion until it physically manifests itself. Dr. Raglan demonstrates with an audience attended therapy session where we see one man abused by his father develop welts on his skin. Nola Carveth becomes the focus of Dr. Raglan’s unorthodox treatments due to her extraordinary adaptation to the therapy. Nola receives weekend visits from her young daughter Candy that is important to her therapy. But after ex-husband Frank picks up Candy after one such visit and finds her bruised and scratched he puts an immediate end to the visitations. Dr. Raglan attempts to reason with Frank, understandably to no avail. Shortly after, Nola’s abusive mother is found brutally murdered. Even more disconcerting they discover the dead body of a mutated child who appears to be the one responsible for the death.

Oliver Reed is the perfect choice for Dr. Raglan and brings charisma, strength and authority to the mad doctor role. The idea of Psychoplasmics is eerie. The ability to materialize your anxiety, fear or anger would be a pretty unsettling ability to have if you ask me. I’m not sure the Psychoplasmic therapy is actually helpful to the patients in any way. It seems more of a burden than anything. A rather horrifying burden as a matter of fact! The wonderfully wide-eyed Samantha Eggar plays Nola Carveth exquisitely. There is no disputing that Nola is disturbed, but along with the psychosis and rage she brings a certain amount of empathy to the role. Cindy Hinds who plays Candice Carveth barely speaks the entire film. The solemn little girl sees some pretty disturbing things but has this numbness to it that is chilling. The films final shot of Candy suggests that the apple may not fall far from the tree. My one and only complaint about The Brood is the casting of Art Hindle as Frank Carveth. Frank is supposed to be the sane character in the story, and Hindle isn’t awful in the role, he’s just kind of generic and flat. Sharing the screen with Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggar doesn’t do Hindle any favours. He is the only minor blemish on an otherwise brilliant piece of filmmaking.

The mood and atmosphere in The Brood is perfect, and hints from the start that something is not quite right. When Frank finds bruises on his five-year-old daughter after picking her up from a weekend visit with mom, we get our first hint of the horror to come. The film is well paced and the steadily building tension is spot on. There isn’t a ton of violence but what there is will certainly leave an impression. The climax is one of the greatest horror moments of all time! It’s a visual assault even after multiple viewings! (I intentionally included no spoilers in this review, but if you want the films monumental moment ruined you will have no trouble whatsoever finding reviews with spoilers galore and pictures to back it up). Another great scene takes place in a kindergarten class with a bunch of child actors who probably grew up seriously traumatized thanks to Cronenberg! The effects are impressive, particularly those featured in the finale. The makeup on the mutant children is very creepy. From the back or a distance the mutant tikes blend in nicely bundled in their winter snowsuits. Little kids in snowsuits scared the hell out of me for years after seeing this film.

As mentioned in my opening statement, Cronenberg has a way of making the impossible seem horrible possible and The Brood is a perfect example. The minds power over the body is a fascinating topic, which Cronenberg takes to a whole new frightening level with his Psychoplasmics. Harnessing negative emotion and creating something physical may seem absurd but it is completely believable in Cronenberg’s world. The Brood is full of anger, bitterness and trauma with some seriously ass kicking final scenes that will stay with you long after you’ve turned off the DVD player. The Brood is suspenseful, intense and chilling. Hell hath no fury like Nola Caveth scorned. Highest of recommendations.

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: David Cronenberg

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

11 Responses to “THE BROOD (1979) – The Dungeon Review!”

  1. Oliver Reed has always been one of my favorite actors. He’s been great in just about anything I’ve ever seen him in. That said, his role as Dr Raglan was probably my least favorite. He has this detachment that lends itself well to roles like he did in Oliver Twist and ZPG (my favorite with Mr Reed), where he played a character of sudden violence or self-contained determination, but as an experimental psychiatrist, it seemed to me he was a little flat…. too much of a cold fish.

    I had seen the Brood years and years ago, long enough that I had forgotten I ever saw it until I bought it last year and rewatched it. The movie has always been a little uncomfortable for me, not the least of which because the little girl has my name!! I also have a tendency, or did when I was younger, to bottle up my resentments until they exploded. So this movie about personal demons was little close to home. With that admission, the very last part of the movie where Candice and her father are driving away has always struck me as the creepiest part.

  2. This one’s been popping up around the blogosphere a lot as of late. Never seen it myself, but Cronenberg is the man and I really need to get through his whole catalogue one of these days. Great review!

  3. Cold and clinical tends to be what I think of doctors in general, particularly horror movie doctors. Your average horror movie doc is generally “madder” than Mr. Reed’s Dr. Raglan, but I think that is what worked for me. Dr Raglan isn’t made, he is a sane and intelligent man that has become obsessed with his work.

    The final scene with Candy developing the welts on her arm really is chilling.

  4. This and The Fly are my two favourite Cronenberg films. There’s so much to take from The Brood, I think that’s why it’s so fascinating. It’s also hugely entertaining with the mystery that runs through it and the ending is suitably shocking. Great review Goregirl.

  5. The Film Reel Says:

    I loved this movie. Cronenberg certainly makes some amazing films but this one may be my favorite of the ones that I’ve seen. The one that I really must watch though is Shivers. It’ll have to be on my to see Cronenberg list.

    • The Brood is also one of my favourite Cronenberg flicks, along with Videodrome, Rabid and Shivers. I’ve yet to see a Cronenberg horror film I didn’t like!

  6. An awesome review for an awesome movie! I often associate this as Cronenberg’s grimmest work emotionally (along with Dead Ringers) and, as I understand it, he was going through an ugly divorce at the time it was being made and I think that’s reflected in the film. Other than Videodrome this is probably my favorite piece of his but it’s hard to choose since he’s got a catalog worth of excellence.

    • Thank you! Cronenberg has long been one of my favourite directors. Videodrome is my personal favourite too…although you are so correct, choosing one amoung a catalog of excellence is tough indeed.

  7. […] Cronenberg’s films the full review treatment. In fact, I have reviewed only one previously; The Brood. The only other full Cronenberg review you’ll find in the Dungeon is Scott Shoyer’s […]

  8. Watched this on Blu-Ray last night. First time I’d seen it in 27 years, and it still packs a punch. Nice to see it uncut at last, too! I think a Cronenberg mini-season might be on the cards soon… 🙂

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