5. The Brood (1979)
Was it “wrong” of David Cronenberg to make a film in response to his tumultuous divorce and custody battle with Margaret Hindson? To depict a psychotic mother so consumed with rage that she was willing to kill her own daughter before she’d agree to let the father take her? Maybe. But if The Brood teaches us anything, it’s that therapy comes in many forms. Sometimes your mental trauma manifests in a film inspired by how your ex-wife fell in with a psychotherapy cult and it ruined your marriage. And sometimes your mental trauma manifests physically as fleshy external uteri that asexually birth a deformed gaggle of murderous children who act out your violent, unconscious desires.
As much as The Brood is a vindictive film born out of hate it is, also, a very personal if upsettingly cold reflection on the horrific responsibility of parenthood; how mental wounds can be inherited and take physical shape, how children get caught in the middle of adult affairs, and how parents become the reason their kids need therapy. (Meg Shields)
4. Inside (2007)
That Inside was gifted to us (read: inflicted on us) from a sub-genre with extreme in the name should have been a warning. But that still doesn’t do a proper job of preparing you for what’s to come. A cornerstone of new French extremism, Inside relentlessly showcases the plight of Sarah (Alysson Paradis), a pregnant woman who is attacked in her own home by an unnamed intruder, played by Béatrice Dalle (who naturally takes to this vicious role like a fish to water). The intruder is after Sarah’s unborn baby and by hook, crook, or rusty scissors, she’s gonna get it. Inside is brutal, cruel, and genuinely gobsmacking in its willingness to push limits. (Anna Swanson)
3. The Fly (1986)
David Cronenberg is a “show it, don’t imply it” kind of filmmaker. His monsters rarely stay to the shadows. They proudly stand in bright beams of light, often in front of bathroom mirrors as pieces of themselves drip into the sink. Brundle-fly (Jeff Goldblum) cuts a gnarly, gruesome figure. He’s hard to look at, and even harder to love, but Ronnie (Geena Davis) does her best. However, when she learns that his seed grows within her, the unseen and utterly monstrous possibilities tear into her mind.
The question of what is incubating beneath her skin is far more horrific than anything Cronenberg could conceive, but, of course, he does his best during one particularly grim dream sequence. The pupa baby! The pupa baby! You’ve gone too far, Mr. Cronenberg! The fact that he also casts himself as the doctor delivering the monstrosity is equally cheeky and repulsive. (Brad Gullickson)
2. Alien (1979)
Ridley Scott‘s Alien is undoubtedly one of the most terrifying films ever made, but it’s also quite sexual. Those H.R. Giger designs aren’t exactly subtle after all. In the film, the crew of the Nostromo come in contact with these sexual aliens and do so without the proper protection. And as we all know unprotected sexual encounters often lead to unplanned pregnancies. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what Alien is really about?
In the film, Kane (John Hurt) becomes an alien carrier after a facehugger latches onto his face (obviously). Eventually, that little sucker needs to come out and it does so in a delivery scene that is as bloody and explosive as anything you’ll find in the maternity ward. Moral of the story? Always use protection! (Chris Coffel)
1. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Rosemary’s Baby was released a year after major Women’s Liberation organizations began to form across America, but it’s set three years earlier. This is apt for a film that imagines a young woman who stands on the precipice of autonomy, only to be yanked back by the overtly patriarchal forces around her. Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) has a dream partner and a dream apartment, but when husband Guy (John Cassavetes) decides he wants them to have a baby, her life becomes a series of manipulations and tragedies.
Rosemary’s Baby is remembered for its jaw-dropping, Satan-hailing ending, but the masterful film’s grounded social horror is just as effective. Few scenes in horror history are as upsetting as baby antichrist Adrian’s conception. After Rosemary has hazy memories of a terrifying, otherworldly rape, Guy plainly tells her that he had sex with her while she was unconscious.
From there on out, everyone from Rosemary’s doctor to her husband to her next-door neighbors tells her what to do, what to eat, and — again and again — that the signals she’s getting from her body are wrong. Every person in town claims to understand Rosemary’s needs better than she does, and whenever she pushes back, she’s gaslit until she doesn’t even know which way is up.
The obvious feminist trappings of Rosemary’s Baby are, of course, complicated by director Roman Polanski’s own rape conviction, along with a grim ending that imagines that Rosemary’s only way out of a hellish situation is by embracing motherhood. Whatever your relationship with the film, there’s no doubt that Rosemary’s Baby is both nuanced and bold in its portrayal of pregnancy’s potential for horror. (Valerie Ettenhofer)