A mad doctor (Oliver Reed) tries psychoplasmic therapy on a raging woman (Samantha Eggar) soon to be a mother.
I really knew nothing about The Brood going in except that it was another horror movie from David Cronenberg and it was meant to be quite good. It is great as to be expected, very well made, and was one of the more unsettling horror movies from Cronenberg, while also managing to be quite surprising.
The Brood is at its core is a movie about divorce, it’s basically David Cronenberg’s response to Kramer vs Kramer. It’s also worth noting that Cronenberg was writing the movie while undergoing a messy custody battle, and let’s just say that it really shows in this movie. Knowing that when watching The Brood does make it feel more personal and honest. Trauma and abuse are also prominent themes involved with this movie. There are some readings of the movie that does see the movie as being a bit misogynistic (especially with regard to the character of the wife), and while I might see where those people coming from, especially when looking at the movie on the surface level, I think it’s a little deeper than that, though I can’t fully explain why in this review. The tone of the movie is quite serious, some of what happens in the movie could’ve easily fallen into being camp, but Cronenberg keeps it pretty serious. It is definitely more focused on character drama than horror. The Brood pretty short at just over 90 minutes long, and with regard to the plot, I guess you could call it a slow burn. The first two thirds are actually fairly slow and uneventful, playing more like a family drama than a full on horror movie (a horror movie made by David Cronenberg no less). However, I was pretty interested in the story, and the movie flew by for me because of how frantic it feels at times. Without revealing too much, the finale is pretty insane, almost serving as a reminder that this movie was made by Cronenberg. Also in terms of notable scenes in this movie, there’s also a particular scene just before the third act which was effectively freaky and disturbing.
The cast all play their parts well. Art Hindle plays the main character of Hal. He’s decent enough on his part but does feel like a blank slate more than an actual character. He feels a little out of place, but maybe it’s because it’s really the other two main performances that stood out in the movie. Samantha Eggar is great in her role as Nola, the ex-wife of Hal. Her performance could’ve been over the top but she and Cronenberg managed to create the right performance for this complicated character. Oliver Reed is fittingly subtle and understated, yet effectively creepy in his scenes as a therapist who is treating Nola using ‘unconventional’ methods.
David Cronenberg directs The Brood very well. It’s greatly shot, with some very memorable images that really stick with you. It does have some body horror (not a big shock, this is a Cronenberg horror movie after all), and those parts were very well handled, with some great effects, especially in the crazy final act. The monsters in the movie (not explaining the context beyond that) are fittingly unsettling when on screen. The practical effects are good, though it’s not quite as spectacular as some of Cronenberg’s other body horror work like The Fly or Videodrome. Howard Shore composed the score and it was great and fit the tone well. It’s also worth noting that this is the first movie score he worked on, and it’s quite impressive. It really helped convey the amount of atmospheric dread as well as the urgency. Like with the story, the direction is relatively restrained and doesn’t go all out (until the third act at least).
The Brood is a greatly written and directed horror movie. While the body horror was quite good, it was the story, characters and themes that had me so invested in everything that was happening. I wouldn’t personally recommend it as a first film from Cronenberg, but it is worth watching for sure, especially if you like horror.