the brood | david cronenberg | oliver reed | samantha eggar | art hindle | monster | sci-fi | canada | sci fi | creature | body horror | henry beckman | nauala fitzgerald | cindy hinds | susan hogan | robert a. silverman | gary mckeehan | michael magee | joseph shaw
Film: The Brood
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: David Cronenberg
Starring: Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar and Art Hindle
This film is one that I’ll be honest, I didn’t hear about until I got the Fangoria Top 300 Horror Movies issue. It appeared there so I made a point to see it. I didn’t love it after that first viewing, but I enjoyed it with how good of a filmmaker David Cronenberg is. This is one that I appreciate with each viewing of it. I’ve now given it two watches for the Podcast Under the Stairs, once for Movie Club Challenge and then again for a potential pick on the Summer Challenge Series.
Synopsis: a man tries to uncover an unconventional psychologist’s therapy techniques on his institutionalized wife, amidst a series of brutal murders.
We begin seeing a therapy session between Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed) and Mike Trellan (Gary McKeehan). It gets intense as there is deep emotional trauma that Mike is carrying from his father. Dr. Raglan is speaking to him as if he is his father to help dig deeper there. Mike removes his shirt to show all these markings that he tells his real father caused him. The focus then shifts to Frank Carveth (Art Hindle) as he watches in on the session with others. He isn’t as impressed as the guy who sits next to him though.
We then follow Frank as he goes to a private guest room to collect his daughter, Candice (Cindy Hinds). At home, he is giving her a bath and he has her turn around so he can wash her back. This is when he notices bites, scratches and other markings. He calls Dr. Raglan and is irate with him. He says that he will not let her mother of Nola (Samantha Eggar), who is in the care of the doctor currently, see Candy until he knows what happened. Dr. Raglan doesn’t back down though and tells him that is not in his best interests. Frank even consults a lawyer who also agrees that he can’t prevent this.
Frank goes to work and he drops off Candy with her grandmother of Juliana Kelly (Nuala Fitzgerald). She is happy to spend time with her, but it looks like she has a drinking problem. They look at old pictures together. One is of a girl that looks just like Candy. This turns out to be her mother when she was a little girl. She is in the hospital and the way the story is told is suspicious. Their time is cut short when Juliana hears something in the kitchen. We see something is tearing the place up. When she goes in, she is attacked by a small person that is dressed in a winter coat. She is beaten to death with a meat tenderizer. Candy goes in and sees her grandmother on the floor.
The last part of the recap deals Nola and why she is staying with Dr. Raglan. There is trauma from her youth that she’s never dealt with. It is affecting their marriage and Nola thinks with Dr. Raglan, she can get past it. It is interesting as what she relays to him is different than what Juliana relays to Frank and Candy. We learn that this therapy, psychoplasmic, might not be as healthy as Dr. Raglan is letting on. It does seem that Nola is working through her issues and her anger, but her rage is manifesting in a different way now.
Where I should start is that my first time seeing this, I came in blind. I knew that Cronenberg was the director/writer, but not knowing any of the back-story of what went into making this. I read up on things before my second viewing. All viewings after that, I know quite a bit more about Cronenberg and his works. What I can see makes sense as to what he was going through when making this film. He was going through a bitter divorce and that is reflected with the relationship of Frank and Nola. There is an issue with a custody battle. Frank is more stable, but as his lawyer tells him, the mother gets standing when it comes to court rulings. I can feel the anger Cronenberg was feeling by what he put into this work.
To shift this slightly is the issue of Candy. Frank is worried that he and Nola not working out is messing with her. Ruth Mayer (Susan Hogan) is her teacher and she’s concerned about Candy. She thinks he’s doing a good job, but there is something missing at home. It does feel like there is blame being put on Nola here. She is the broken character so I get it. She is trying to break the cycle of abuse by seeking help, but what she chose is a new age treatment that has results that are dangerous.
That is where I want to go next. This movie seems to be mocking treatments like. This is the late 1970’s so there were a good number of them, more things with the metaphysics and new age remedies. It is interesting that at first Frank is looking to build a case against Nola. This brings him to a former patient of Dr. Raglan in Jan Hartog (Robert A. Silverman). He puts it best. They can’t beat Dr. Raglan in court. He is a medical doctor and they can’t prove what he’s doing doesn’t work. Jan’s goal in court isn’t to prove his treatment gave him cancer. He wants the public belief to be that it did to help ruin him. Frank is disheartened but can also see the point there.
The last thing here for the story would be the creatures. I love what they turn out to be. It is interesting that Hinds is not only Candy but is also portraying Nola in the picture of when she was a little girl. I do like that Cronenberg made sure that all these creatures look like Candy, just distorted into monsters. That makes sense as to the reveal of them. It is an interesting idea. When I first saw the reveal, I was hooked on it. Since Cronenberg is known for his body horror. This is a bit different as it is more of a framing device.
Since I brought up body horror, I’ll go to the effects. This movie surprisingly doesn’t have a lot in it, but what are were done practical. It is tamer with the blood and gore that we got. If anything, I wish they would have gone just a bit farther with them. Not something that I’ll hold against the movie since none looked bad. I think the look of the creatures was good. The bits of body horror are interesting for sure. The cinematography is also well done with changing the height of the camera for different points of view and what not. There are no issues here for me.
Then the last thing that I wanted to go into would be the acting. The first person I’ll go over would be Reed. He is good as Dr. Raglan. He brings a bit of arrogance to the role that fits as this doctor. There is a softening in the end as he sees everything he’s built is falling apart and he’s partially to blame. Eggar is solid as Nola as well. What is interesting is that we never see her normal. Her trauma and treatment have broken her. I think it was done intentional and like that. It is bias as well. Hindle is fine as our hero, but I’m not blown away by his performance. I thought Hinds was solid as the child here. She shows fear in a believable way. Aside from that, the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.
In conclusion, this movie does keep getting better each time that I see it. The concept is interesting as it feels like a cathartic piece where Cronenberg is working through his own rage and hurt over his divorce. The truth of the creatures is an intriguing one. The effects for them are good and the rest don’t go as far as you would normally expect, but no issues there. The acting is good across the board and the soundtrack fits for what was needed. If I did have an issue, I think the movie runs a bit long and is more deliberately paced. I did feel my interest waning just a bit. I’d say this is a good movie overall. If you’re a fan of Cronenberg, I’d recommend giving this a viewing for sure.
My Rating: 8 out of 10