Running Time: 92 mins
Reviewer: David Gillespie – HCF Official Artist
They say that the journey through a divorce is one of the most frightening, stressful and hurtful experiences that you will encounter in your life. I’d back that up as I presume Canadian director, David Cronenberg would also. The painful process inspired him to write and direct one of the most shocking but brilliant additions to the body horror genre called The Brood. The story oozes with the pain and anger that he was probably experiencing during that period of change. A time when you must rebuild your life as you are separated from the ones that you love and care about the most.
Having recently been admitted to Dr Hal Raglan’s (Oliver Reed) Somafree institute specialising in curing mental disturbances through psychoplasmics, Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar) responds to his controversial form of psychology with terrifying results. Her husband Frank (Art Hindle) and Candice (Cindy Hinds) follow Raglan’s instructions with the daughter making weekly visits to the rural setting to meet with her mother. Frank is forbidden to join the sessions with Raglan arguing that this would hinder her progress. However concerns are raised when Candice returns with strange bruising and scratches on her back. After getting short change from the psychologist, Frank threatens Raglan with court action and meets with an ex-patient (Robert A Silverman) who is intent on taking the institute to court after acquiring cancerous lumps on his throat from the treatment. While he visits the medical facility, Nola’s alcoholic mother is brutally murdered by a deformed infant. Candice witnesses the incident but is traumatised by the event to such an extent that she blocks it all out. When Candice goes missing during a similar attack at her school, Frank travels to the somafree institute to find his daughter. It seems Raglan has released all of his patients apart from Nora. Something that has been locked in the attic of one of the log cabins has got out of control. Frank must decide as to whether he can trust Raglan enough to help rescue his daughter from the brood.
The Brood was a film that required a makeover in Bluray more than most. Not only was the picture and sound quality terrible in the previous DVD that I owned but also the censors criminally chopped the infamous gory finale. The transfer has been tidied up and the movie is now in its uncut format. Although overshadowed commercially and critically by Cronenberg’s later shockers like Scanners and The Fly, The Brood is an expertly crafted and executed horror film. It was certainly a commercial success and easily recouped the modest $1.5 million budget.
There is an overbearing sense of dread and anger bubbling away before any of the violent infants make an entrance. This is enhanced by the creepy score by Howard Shore (a first for Shore and a regular composer of music for Cronenberg thereafter) and the incredible performance by Samantha Eggar as Frank’s unhinged ex-partner. There are four set pieces featuring the creatures and each one of them is handled superbly. The first attack has a memorable image as Candice witnesses one of the infants growling at her from behind the white banisters of a staircase. When the creature scurries away it leaves a smear of fresh blood on the paintwork. There is also the horrific attack in Candice’s school where an unfortunate teacher is bludgeoned to death with hammers. What makes the scene even harder to stomach is the reaction on the pupil’s faces as they watch the helpless woman beaten to death. There is also a highly disturbing shot, taken from distance as two of the brood walk hand in hand with Candice along the side of a snow swept, rural road. The Brood will be remembered for the final scene where husband and wife are finally reunited. This is the sequence that was cut to the point that it confused the viewer as to what was actually going on. I don’t disagree that what Nola does is repugnant but it is not as gratuitous as the type of thing that we would expect to witness in an entry in the Saw or Hostel franchises. The whole scene is perfect and a classic moment in terror. It should be watched by all aspiring horror directors out here as to how to have your audience completely at your mercy.
The Brood is not without its faults. Eggar delivers a far more engaging performance than either Reed or Hindle in the acting stakes but has only about ten minutes screen time at most. Hindle seems to drift through the movie without a care in the world and does not seem perturbed by any of the monstrosities or manifestations that he comes into contact with throughout the duration of the story. Reed looks as if he’d rather be somewhere else for most of the time, presumably the pub. The movie also seems a little rushed with the film perhaps benefiting with a little more time as to the backstory of what it was that attracted Frank to Nola in the first place and about the skin condition that Nola had as a child.
These are minor quibbles, as The Brood remains a classic shocker that still has the ability the chill the bones of the viewer. It may not be Cronenberg’s best film (Dead Ringers will always be his masterpiece in my opinion) but it is certainly his more powerful horror movie. This is not bad coming from a man that has brought us horror classics such as The Fly, Videodrome, Shivers, Scanners and Rabid.
(Please also click on the link below to have a look at Dr Lenara’s fantastic review on The Brood)