Cast & Crew
A man's wife is under the care of an eccentric psychiatrist who uses innovative and theatrical techniques to breach the psychological blocks in his patients. When their daughter comes back from a visit with mom and she's covered with bruises and welts, the father attempts to bar his wife from seeing the daughter, but faces resistance from the secretive psychiatrist. Meanwhile, the wife's mother and father are attacked by deformed children, and the husband begins to suspect a connection with the psychiatrist's methods.
James Douglas Brown
Maris H. Jansons
Jack H. Young
The familiar Cronenberg idea of bodily transformation mirroring the conflict or evolution of someone's psyche reaches its zenith here with psychoplasmics, a method pioneered by therapist Hal Raglan (Reed) at his institute with patients including his sequestered star patient, Nola (Eggar). Her estranged husband, Frank (Art Hindle), is in the process of handling their divorce and the safekeeping of their daughter, Candice (Cindy Hinds), but when members of Nola's family start getting killed off by what appear to be homicidal, home-invading children, it seems her therapy might involve something truly grotesque and horrifying.
Cronenberg himself was in the middle of an acrimonious separation and child custody dispute when he conceived of this film, and the personal connection shows in the deep sense of anguish and rage that permeates each of the characters. As some viewers and critics have noticed, this marks the first time a genuine human pulse seems to be running through a Cronenberg film, perhaps due to the director's personal investment in the material; here the icy cold setting forms an intriguing backdrop against the tension between the two battling parents, who ultimately only end up sharing a tiny shred of screen time together.
The film is also notable as the first collaboration between Cronenberg and composer Howard Shore, who would score almost all of the filmmaker's subsequent projects. The presence of an original score (versus the Ivan Reitman-supervised library music tracked over the prior two horror films) gives this film a richer, more unified feeling with those reliable Shore strings ratcheting up the tension to an unbearable degree during the main murder set pieces and the grand finale. Speaking of which, that ending, which takes a natural childbirth instinct to a visually upsetting degree, was a major sticking point with the MPAA, who demanded some close-up licking be excised along with an aftermath shot of a particularly gruesome mallet attack. Cronenberg was dismayed by the cuts, noting that it now seemed Eggar was committing an act of cannibalism instead of motherly cleaning. Fortunately the uncensored version of the film has since become the norm on home video since the film passed into the MGM library for its first release on DVD.
Early promotional Canadian sales materials for this film promised, "In May 1979, The Brood will take you beyond fear, beyond terror, beyond the boundaries of the mind... and will devastate you totally." For once the hype turned out to be true as audiences turned out in droves for the film, whose 1979 opening placed it in one of the busiest single-year periods in horror movie history.
Many critics were less amused by the film's extreme depiction of domestic strife. For example, Films & Filming chided, "Ms. Eggar, hitherto such a nice type of British gal, should be ashamed, and Oliver Reed should dust himself off and start all over again." Likewise, Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times huffed about the film's R rating and found the project "is so totally sickening it's an irresponsible work itself. You can't help but feel that the MPAA, in its lenient rating, hasn't been very responsible either." Leonard Maltin's pithy capsule review (which awarded the film a "BOMB" rating) has since become legendary as well. A few critics managed to see the value in the film, however, such as Ron Pennington's Hollywood Reporter appraisal that called it "an excellent new psychological horror film that should have audiences shivering this summer." Interestingly, the film did pick up a Gold Award at the annual Rank Screen Advertising Campaign ceremony for its creative TV spots, which featured infrared reaction shots of audiences watching the film. That same concept was employed later for Cronenberg's Scanners (1981) and has become a fixture in numerous horror movie campaigns since then, most notably Final Destination (2009) and The Ring (2002).
By Nathaniel Thompson
The Brood on DVD
The Brood stars Oliver Reed (1938 - 1999) as Dr. Hal Raglan, the head of a New Age-ish experimental form of aggressive therapy called Psychoplasmics. Unlike other Human Growth Potential movements made popular during the Me Generation that spawned such profitable ventures as Werner Erhard's "est" or L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology, Psychoplasmics never quite caught on, probably because their star pupil, Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar), proved a bit too apt at giving birth to her repressed anguish. Whereas other Psychoplasmic students develop rashes or tumor-like growths, Nola's manifestations take the form of child-like monsters that go about killing people near to her estranged husband (Art Hindle).
The Brood stands on its own as a satisfying genre excursion that, unlike many of other Cronenberg's creations that spin off into their own mythos, actually conforms to a classic horror film structure. It's also an uncompromising bit of work that Chris Rodley's book, Cronenberg on Croneberg, files under the era of Cronenberg's "Tax-Shelter Experiments" (an era preceded first by "Avant-Garde Films" and then "The Cinepix Years"). This is important insofar as the original investors had approached Cronenberg with an idea about troubled telepaths that was to have been called The Sensitives, but Cronenberg was in the midst of a bitter custody battle and was consumed with a different idea, thus delivering the script for The Brood instead. As Cronenberg notes in Rodley's book, "I got a call from my ex-wife saying she had decided for religious reasons to go and live with these nice people in California and was going to take Cass with her. I put the phone down, told Carolyn (I was now remarried) and went to the school and kidnapped my daughter." Since that time Cassandra Cronenberg grew up to establish herself as an assistant director on many films including The Sweet Hereafter and American Psycho, so one can presume things worked out much better than they did for the characters in The Brood. While the backstory is not necessary to enjoy The Brood, it is nonetheless fascinating to think of the director, much like the characters he created, achieving a very real catharsis from his own form of self-therapy; a film that he gave birth to that is as real to those of us that see it as are the child-monsters that Nora unleashes.
MGM's dvd release of THE BROOD presents the film in its original widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and includes the theatrical trailer.
To order The Brood, go to TCM Shopping.
by Pablo Kjolseth
The Brood on DVD
Thirty seconds after you're born you have a past and sixty seconds after that you begin to lie to yourself about it.- Juliana Kelly
Released in United States Summer May 25, 1979
Released in USA on video.
Began shooting November 14, 1978.
Completed shooting December 21, 1978.
Film exists in both an English and a French language version.
aspect ratio 1.85
Released in United States Summer May 25, 1979