May 12, 2011
Before he made The Fly, The Dead Zone, Videodrome and Scanners in the 80’s, David Cronenberg wrote and directed The Brood in 1979. Although not his directorial debut, The Brood was his first commercially successful film. While by no means as popular as the films he would make in the decade after its release, The Brood would pave the way for the iconic mix of science fiction and horror that would become the director’s trademark.
In The Brood, Frank Carveth (played by television character actor Art Hindle) notices cuts and bruises on the back of his daughter Candice (Cindy Hinds from The Dead Zone). This discovery prompts him to investigate the unconventional therapy that his wife Nola (soap opera queen Samantha Eggar) is going through at the hands of the fishy Doctor Hal Raglan (Gladiator’s Oliver Reed). Doctor Raglan’s program is built on his theories about physical manifestation of his patient’s anger. Nola is an inpatient at Doctor Raglan’s clinic, and only gets to see her daughter Candice on weekends. At first, Frank suspects Nola of beating her child, but the truth that he uncovers is far more disturbing. At the clinic, Nola’s rage manifests itself as a group of mutant children who she psychically and unconsciously controls. This group is the Brood from the title of the film, and they attack and kill anyone Nola might happen to think negative thoughts about. Person after person in Frank’s life is brutally murdered before he realizes what’s happening, and he must struggle to save his daughter from the clan of killers that are under his wife’s control.
The Brood is an intensely original film. It takes the spooky kids motif found in films like Children of the Corn and Village of the Damned and ups the ante. The mutant children are very frightening. The combination of their physically deformed faces, their zombie-like walk and their hissing insect-like voices make them some of the creepiest characters in recent memory. And they pull no punches. Like most of Cronenberg’s films, there is plenty of gore in The Brood. The preferred method of execution for the misfit kids is bludgeoning. They will grab whatever is closest and pound until their victim is dead, and then they’ll pound a little more. And there are more and more of them as the film moves on. They multiply from one mutant kid in the first kill scene to two in the next, until the film’s final scene where they’re buzzing and leaping so fast that the exact number of them can’t even be counted. These kids are scary.
Generally credited as being ahead of its time, The Brood is one of the most inventive sci-fi/horror films of the 70’s. Cronenberg gives the audience a little taste of the things to come from him in the next decade while making a classic film. There are rumors of a remake of The Brood being in the works with Breck Eisner (the director behind the remake of The Crazies) slated to direct. While there are things about the film that could be improved, there are more things that could be done worse. Horror fans should check out Cronenberg’s version so that they can honestly say “the original was better.”