David Cronenberg’s cult classic The Brood is perhaps one of the most innovative and surprising films to deal with the dangers of psychological therapy. Starring Oliver Reed as the mysterious therapist, Dr Raglan, Art Hindle as Frank Carveth, and Samantha Eggar as Nola Carveth, The Brood explores the possibilities for body horror in medical science without following tired routes: a man desperately clinging to what is left of his family after his ex-wife becomes increasingly more involved with mysterious treatments at a cultish psychological institute, seeks to save his family and solve a recent spate of murders that coincide with his wife’s psychotic turns.
Considering the plot for the film, it would be easy in other hands for The Brood to misfire in a big way, but in careful hands, with a good sense of humour, Cronenberg executes this passion project with nothing short of full genius. One of the things you’ll notice after a first viewing is how brave the film seems once you’ve gotten over the initial shock. The sites of violence and the manner in which those brutal scenes are depicted is riveting and sharp, in particular a class room assault is one of the most controversial yet open-eyed choices in the film.
At points The Brood can stray into laughable territory, spending too much time with hyper-characterized figures and relying a little too much on the apparent terror attached to lonesome children. Cronenberg does, however, carefully balance the humour of his film with visceral imagery and merciless moments of grotesque violence. Yes, the mutant children have perhaps approached their sell-by date and in their bright winter coats appear a wee bit garish but when taken as part of the whole they are still rendered as utterly feral and devious.
The Brood’s cult reputation comes mostly from its classic finale which offers one of the most startling images in horror, and one of the most engaging feminist/horror dialogues committed to film. It is in this shocking final scene that Samantha Eggar unleashes the full fury of her wonderfully damaged psychotic mother-figure and flaunts an unsettling talent for barmy behaviour.
Sharp and well executed, with stand-out performances from Hindle, Reed, and Eggar, and one of cinemas greatest villians and finales, Cronenberg’s The Brood is a sadly often ignored story of relationship breakdown meets horror of the psyche, highly recommended viewing for any classic horror fan.
Dir. David Cronenberg
Stars. Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle, Cindy Hinds