Watch It: The Brood
Note: Watch It will be a regular feature that highlights films—both mainstream and cult—that need to be rented, downloaded, purchased or stolen—whatever floats your boat, as long as you watch it.
David Cronenberg called The Brood his version of Kramer vs. Kramer, and the comparison is apt in that both films deal with divorce and the trauma that it wreaks upon all concerned. Cronenberg was recovering from a messy divorce himself when he wrote the script, so The Brood proves two things: 1) Art can be wonderfully, brutally cathartic, and 2) if you marry a writer/director, you better be prepared for a very unflattering depiction of yourself if things go bad.
Frank Carveth (Art Hindle) is the divorced father of Candice (Cindy Hinds), his sweet but quiet six year-old daughter. His ex-wife Nola (Samantha Eggar) had abused Cindy and is getting help at Dr. Raglan’s (Oliver Reed) private mental health center. Raglan’s technique is called Psychoplasmics, which involves his playing the role of whomever had inflicted psychic damage upon the patient, thus forcing the patient to confront that person and reach a kind of catharsis. Not that far removed from a lot of pop psychology schools of thought, right? The difference is in the form of catharsis: physical manifestation of the mental pain that takes the form of welts, boils, scars, or in Nola’s case, fetuses. That’s right: Nola is able to channel her anger—against her own abusive mother, the father that let it happen, the ex who abandoned her—into children that quickly develop into sub-lingual, eerily wizened killing machines that go after the source of Nola’s rage.
Cronenberg cannily leaves the precise details to our imaginations and focuses on the idea that repression creates monsters. The cold Canadian winter, clean streets of suburban Toronto and late 70′s earth tones all work with performances both restrained (Hindle and Hinds) and gloriously over the top (Eggar and Reed) to create a feeling of tension that runs through the whole film, a tension that comes from the fear that the calm veneer of civilized, family life is about to be ripped to shreds. It takes a while to get there (Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage might be a more appropriate comparison for the first half of the film) but the confrontation between Frank and Nola at the end of the film is nothing short of spectacular in its horror. Without giving it away, let’s just say that many a pregnant woman has probably second-guessed the virtues of natural child birth after seeing The Brood. Anyone who prefers the raw terror of 70′s horror over the CGI-enhanced nonsense we are so often presented with today should see this film, especially if they don’t mind some intense family drama thrown into the mix. Just be prepared to seek (traditional psychoanalytic) therapy after you see it.