Whereas David Cronenberg’s first films center on the body turning against itself, The Brood shows the terrors of body transformation even when we’re in control.

If you’re noticing a theme in Cronenberg’s work, it’d be that experimental shit never goes as planned. The Brood is no different. This time, Oliver Reed plays Dr. Hal Raglan, founder of the Somafree Institute at which he practices a radical new form of therapy called “psychoplasmics” with his patients.

This approach involves releasing one’s internal pain and suppressed emotions through physiological changes to the body. The results are the very definition of body horror– welts and boils among other far more terrifying manifestations. Samantha Eggar plays Nola Carveth, one of Dr. Raglan’s patients, who’s fighting with her husband Frank for custody of their daughter Candice.

As Raglan intensifies Nola’s therapy sessions, a string of murders begins, committed by bizarre dwarf-”children”. I use “children” in quotations here as these “children” lack a navel, which implies they didn’t have an umbilical cord… which implies they couldn’t have been born the way the rest of us are. Yet here they are… and they’re angry and weird looking and oh yeah, they’re killing people.

Who gave “birth” to these creatures, and what do they want with Candice? The Brood is a significant film in Cronenberg’s filmography as it was his first cast of well-known actors, including Oliver Reed (from genre favorites like Burnt Offerings and The Devils) and Samantha Eggar (who had been nominated and won several awards for her performance in 1965’s The Collector.)

It also marks the start of Howard Shore’s relationship with Cronenberg as film composer. Following The Brood, Shore went on to compose nearly all of Cronenberg’s subsequent films, including Videodome, The Fly, Naked Lunch, and even his most recent Maps to the Stars. Cronenberg has considered The Brood to be his most “cathartically satisfying” film, as it mirrored a lot of what was happening his real life, including the dissolution of his first marriage during which he was fighting for custody of his own daughter.

Perhaps releasing one’s internal demons through art isn’t too far removed from psychoplasmics.

Annette DiGiovanni

Director: David Cronenberg
Country: Canada
Runtime: 92 min.
Year: 1979


 Part of “The Shaping of Rage”: One ticket price for the full, four-film marathon!

September 29
1:45 pm (8h)

Egyptian Theatre

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