Essays · Movies

31 Days of Horror: The Brood

Frank Carveth shares custody of his daughter with his estranged wife, Nola, and one day finds bruises and welts on the little girl’s body after a visit with her mother.
By  · Published on October 14th, 2008

The Brood (1979)

Synopsis: Frank Carveth (Art Hindle, The Octagon rocks!) shares custody of his daughter with his estranged wife, Nola (Samantha Eggar), and one day finds bruises and welts on the little girl’s body after a visit with her mother.  The wife is in the care of an unconventional psychiatrist (Oliver Reed) who has devised an experimental form of therapy called psychoplasmics that turns inner emotional traumas into physical mutations.  (This is a David Cronenberg film after all…)  As Frank works to protect his daughter and discover more about Dr. Ragland’s treatment, scary-ass little kids dressed like menacing Teletubbies begin a bloody killing spree.

Killer Scene: Reed enters a bedroom filled with freaky, sleeping, murderous little kids.  He slowly works his way through them all in an attempt to rescue Carveth’s daughter, Candice.  The suspense is palpable and just when you start to think the duo has made it… the pint-sized, creepy-ass, mutant fucks wake up.


Violence: Brutal beatings including one where the snow suited tykes pummel a teacher with mallets… while the horrified class watches.  Another attack finds the miniature psychos wearing pajamas (with feet) stained in blood that also covers their hands and faces.

Sex: Eggar shows a little bit of skin, but there’s nothing in The Brood that you’d call “sexy.”  In fact, between the killer kids and Eggar’s baby factory revelation, you may just swear off sex all together.  Sex with other people anyway.

Scares: The killer scene above is terrifyingly suspenseful, and any shot with the killer kids in it is unnerving as well… even when they’re just standing still.  The assault on the little girl frightens because she seems to be screaming in real fear.

Final Thoughts: Cronenberg’s early films laid the ground work for his obsession with the “new flesh” where the biological is mixed with obsession, perversion, mutation, and a general sense of the fucked-up.  The movie is still weird and bizarre, but unlike many of his other films it’s also scary.  Besides the obvious freakish scares onscreen, the movie is at it’s core about divorce and child abuse.  Cronenberg himself has called the movie his Kramer vs. Kramer, and like the psychoplasmics practiced by the good doctor, The Brood gives physical form to the psychological and cyclical pain that arises from those twin emotional maladies.  The terror and suffering doesn’t stop when the movie does either, as that last shot of Candice’s arm offers the sad possibility that the cycle of violence will continue.

Do you prefer Cronenberg’s early films like The Brood, Rabid, and Videodrome over his more recent mainstream works?

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.