I was excited to find this film on YouTube without much of a search – I had recently saved it to my Netflix queue (yes, I still get blu-ray discs and dvds from them) to watch for a future blog.
The Brood was a movie I knew by title only – I had no idea who was in it, or what it was about. I was stoked to see Oliver Reed’s name appear in the opening credits – I have been a fan of his since Tommy and The Devils.
In this movie he plays somewhat of a mad scientist – he’s a psychologist with an unorthodox way of treating mental patients – he manipulates their emotions to the point that physical manifestations appear on the patient’s body. For example, as the movie opens, Dr. Raglan (Reed) is working with a patient by the name of Mike. Raglan role plays as Mike’s dad – belittling him to the point where angry red welts appear all over Mike’s body – the manifestation of his internal outrage at his “dad.” One presumes that as the mental patient gains control of his / her emotions, he / she can control the manifestations of welts on the body. An extreme form of anger management, if you like.
Frank Carveth (portrayed by Art Hindle – Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1979) arrives at the facility to pick up his daughter who is visiting his institutionalized wife. Upon arriving at home, Frank discovers that daughter Candie has been abused by less than normal Nola.
Soon, those around Frank and Candie begin to die horrible deaths at the hands of a “dwarf.” Frank’s mother-in-law is the first to be dispatched. Didn’t really feel sorry for the woman (who was beaten to death with a meat tenderizer) – we find out not long after that she was very abusive to Nola as she was growing up. Nola shares that during a session with Raglan. She also shares her anger and frustration at her estranged father, who turned a blind eye to mom’s “tough love.” Well, lo and behold, distant daddy shows up for the ex-wife’s funeral and decides as long as he’s in town he’ll see his darling disturbed daughter. No such luck. Doctor dearest won’t let him near Nola. Daddy’s demise is swift, and again at the hands of this “dwarf killer” who dresses oddly similar to cutesy Candie.
** SPOILER ALERT AHEAD **
Frank finally starts to put two and two together when Candie’s school teacher (whom Nola believes is having an affair with Frank) is killed in front of her students by two “children” who are grotesque looking. They take Candie with them and leave the school. Frank follows them back to Raglan’s facility. There, he meets up with Raglan, who shares his little secret – Nola’s treatment has gone so deep that welts no longer appear all over her body – they have melded together to form an external birth sac, from which comes “The Brood” – grotesque children who are similar in appearance to Candie, but who fulfill all of Nola’s murderous feelings. Her anger toward her parents? The Brood took care of the parents. Think your husband is having an affair? The Brood will take out the competition. The brood is the physical manifestation of Nola’s anger and range.
The last fifteen minutes of this movie, I must say, are not for the squeamish. Don’t watch if you’ve just eaten. Or if you have a strong gag reflex. Or…
Basically, our dear Frank is called upon to play the devoted husband and tell his wacko wife that he loves her and he wants them to be together always, etc. in order to keep her calm so that Dr. Raglan can sneak into the compound and save little Candie from The Brood. If Nola gets angry, the Brood gets angry, and well, you know.
Fearless Frankie plays the part well until Nola decides to birth another one. Nothing says “Honey I’ve got my shit together” quite like gnawing at the birth sac hanging from your belly… or licking your deformed “child” – and I use the term loosely – clean like a mama bear with her cub.
Cronenberg is one sick mother. I’ve seen a number of his films. They are imaginative I’ll give him that. Not for everyone I’m sure. It doesn’t rank up there as a favorite of mine, but it is a classic. I’m actually surprised no one has thought about remaking this one. We’re almost 40 years removed. I’m no fan of remakes, but this one I could see.
The tagline for this movie is The Ultimate Experience In Inner Terror. For 1979? Of that I have no doubt.