Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Brood (1979)

I haven’t seen any of David Cronenberg’s films from the 1970s. In fact I haven’t seen too many of his films in general. So I was pretty stoked to see that Criterion was putting a couple of his better regarded films on Hulu Plus. I didn’t know much about this film, other than it had something to do with creepy kids. That seemed to be a staple of 70s horror, maybe thanks to The Omen. All I knew is that it was probably going to include some disturbing fleshy moments.

Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar) has some serious emotional issues. Her husband Frank (Art Hindle) has her undergoing experimental therapy under the care of Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed). Raglan is able to work with his patients to expose their pain and anguish in physical manners, such as raised bulges and protuberances that appear instantly. While this is shocking and disturbing, Frank begins to wonder if this is actually helping any of the patients.

His doubts are validated when his daughter Candice (Cindy) returns from a visit with her mother with bruises and scratches on her. Frank tells Dr. Raglan that he wants to stop the visits, but Raglan insists that Nola is at a critical phase in her treatment and stopping the visits will only cause things to get worse. Well, things do get worse, but in a way no one expects. While Candice is staying with her grandmother a strange little “person” attacks and kills the grandmother. Frank fears for his daughter’s life. When more attacks continue he begins to wonder if Dr. Raglan is connected to the fearsome attacks by the murderous Brood.

Good Points:
  • A slow building story that gets more disturbing as it goes along
  • The finale really packs a punch
  • Acting by the three leads helps the story along

Bad Points:
  • If you don’t buy into the concept at the heart of the story, the film will not work for you
  • Some viewers may find the pint sized horrors to be silly looking
  • Some of the supporting cast goes a little over the top

I found this film to be a nice slow build to a very disturbing climax. The concept of manifesting your strong emotions into a physical form is an interesting horror idea and Cronenberg uses it well. The main cast does a great job with Oliver Reed providing a cool intensity that makes you immediately distrust him. Beneath the horror is the idea that physical abuse and torment within a family can literally be passed down from generation to generation.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 3
Acting: 4
Script: 4
Music: 3
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 4
Total:  4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. Giving a new meaning to "makes my skin crawl." I haven't seen this for many years, but I liked it at the time though it didn't leave me with any wish to see it again. Oliver Reed is usually worth watching. Off the set he bore watching.

    1. Yeah I've heard some interesting stories about Reed. He's certainly one of those who got labeled "difficult", like Marlon Brando and Klaus Kinski.

  2. I've seen this, but I'll be darn if I remember much about it. I remember enjoying it as I have a number of his films. If you're into watching a few things for Halloween, he's a good director to start out with. I added a few of his later films to my NF queue, but haven't gotten to them yet. They steer away from horror, but less successful too according to critics.

    1. I saw his film, "A History of Violence" and thought it was really good. There is a review of it somewhere on this blog. :) But I find his horror films to be visually more interesting. I watched "Videodrome" a few years back and that one blew my mind. I'm still not sure if I loved it or was too damn disturbed by it.

  3. Fantastic film as are many of Cronenberg's early ones. Interesting that the origins of this film came out of messy divorce that he was going through.

    All those little creature kids swarming adults is a disturbing image I won't get out of head any time soon!

    1. Yeah I read about the divorce after writing my review. It really makes a lot of sense when you add that context to the film, and put a new light on it for me. I have to say, I need to see more of his earlier stuff. Each time I watch one of his movies I really like it, I may not grasp get all the symbolism, but man I love that he just goes for it.

      I've read a few reviews that found the small antagonists funny. I'm not sure if they weren't in the right mood for the movie or what, but I didn't find them funny at all. They were disturbing! I think Cronenberg did a good job keeping them very creepy and not letting their size appear like a handicap (which could have lead to un intentional humor). In fact their small size made them more dangerous and harder to detect.

    2. Definitely. Same goes for the equally diminitive and creepy antagonists in PHANTASM.