Doctor Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed) is performing a demonstration of his groundbreaking techniques on one of his patients. He is the author of the bestselling self-help book The Shape of Rage, and his methods see his subjects purge themselves of their problems by manifesting them as sores and welts on their own bodies. When they heal, the idea is that their troubles will also be over, but for Frank Carveth (Art Hindle), Raglan's techniques leave much to be desired, especially as his wife Nola (Samantha Eggar) has refused to see him as she undergoes her therapy. However, when Frank finds bruises on their daughter's back, he suspects abuse is going on...
One of writer and director David Cronenberg's most personal films, The Brood was also one of his most reviled until Crash happened along in the mid-nineties. The reason for this was it was seen as him getting back at his ex-wife, with whom he had painfully divorced just prior to this film being made, and for some this was a revoltingly anti-female film. Yet Cronenberg being the deep thinker he is, he seemed reluctant to completely condemn the character of Nola, and in a way is more fascinated by her bizarre condition than he is put off by it.
But The Brood is still an unsettling film, because Cronenberg comes across as such a cool, calm and collected individual you can hardly imagine him losing his temper, never mind creating a film that acts as revenge on someone who has slighted him. On the other hand, he is only human, and here we see the struggle between the less savoury emotions and the more intellectual way of thinking things through, those things being a developing hatred of someone who you might have previously got along with fine. He does not go into the whys and wherefores of what brings a man to this state of mind though, and Nola seems irrational from the very start.
Although we do not find out precisely the nature of Nola's anger until the ending, we can have a pretty good idea when those who have prompted her fury begin to be bumped off. The film can resemble a horror version of The Incredible Hulk from some angles, except the manner in which hate manifests itself does more than transform the subject's body. Dr Raglan is the catalyst for this, egging the process on as Reed's excellent reading leaves us in no doubt that he is a mad scientist in both the classic and future mould, barely raising his voice above a whisper as his patients do damage to themselves by carrying out his theories.
The first victim of Nola's disturbance is her own mother, who Frank leaves Candice with only to receive a call hours later that his mother-in-law has been hammered to death by person or persons unknown, although the little girl has been left unscathed, physically at least. Frank knows that this is somehow connected to Nola, but he has no proof seeing as how she has been holed up in her room at Raglan's institute all the time this has been going on, so how could she have been involved? He is entirely correct, of course, and the method of her killing, which she is unaware of, is easily guessable though no less disquieting for all that. Cronenberg sets up the relationship between Frank and his grave-looking daughter as an endearing one, but The Brood is too clinical a film for that to take, and what you leave with is the powerful, unrelenting anger - both his characters' and his own. Music by Howard Shore.
Highly regarded Canadian writer/director who frequently combines intellectual concerns with genre subjects. Began directing in the late-70s with a series of gruesome but socially aware horror thrillers, such as Shivers, Rabid and The Brood. 1981's Scanners was Cronenberg's commercial breakthrough, and if the hallucinatory Videodrome was box office flop, it remains one of the finest films of his career. The sombre Stephen King adaptation The Dead Zone and the hugely successful remake of The Fly followed.
The disturbing Dead Ringers (1988) was a watershed film, based for the first time entirely in reality and featuring a career-best performance from Jeremy Irons. The 1990s saw Cronenberg in uncompromising form, adapting a pair of "unfilmable" modern classics - Burrough's Naked Lunch and Ballard's Crash - in typically idiosyncratic style. M. Butterfly was something of a misfire, but eXistenZ surprised many by being fast-moving and funny, while 2002's powerful Spider saw Cronenberg at his most art-house.