So I’m going to start out by saying that maybe there is something I just don’t get about Cronenberg, because I tend to find his films a bit dull. It’s not that I don’t understand an atmospheric build-up, it’s that I don’t find it all that tense, at least not in The Brood.
The film starts out in a bizarre psychological setting, a doctor performing an unusual role-play therapy in front of an audience of other patients. For a moment, I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be real therapy or a play, but then I remembered it was the 70s and probably some primal screaming type thing.
Anyway, we learn that Frank’s wife, Nola (Samantha Eggar) is being treated here and he is picking up his daughter, Candice, from a visit. The therapist, played by the always melodramatic Oliver Reed (who roguetimeguy calls the Shatner of British actors) believes the visits are important to therapy. But when Frank discovers that Candice is bruised and cut all over her back, he feels quite differently, concerned that his sick wife has abused the girl and deciding the visits must end.
This resistance to weird Dr. Raglan’s approach sets a strange and murderous series of events in motion. A creepy kid monster shows up and kills Candice’s grandparents and eventually threatens Frank, played by Art Hindle, who is as flat as Reed is exaggerated. The attacking creature suddenly dies and this is where we get a little explainer in the medical examiner’s lab about how it has no bellybutton and lives off of some lymphatic fluid that must have run out while it was on it’s murder field trip.
Cronenberg explores what’s called body horror, the ideas of repulsion and fear we have to being mutated or infected in some way. We discover these little mutants are not human but we still are not sure where they developed. Frank, fearing for his daughter’s safety and starting to see the connections with Dr. Raglan’s unusual approaches returns to the clinic (which is a gorgeous complex in the snowy woods of Toronto) and confronts him about the creatures. As it turns out, Raglan is aware of what’s going on and is in fact trying to stop it. Nola has created these beings from her intense anger and jealousy. And these beings are only appeased when she is appeased, it’s an elaborate emotional terrorism scheme.
The film is based on Cronenberg’s own acrimonious divorce and custody battle with his first wife. So it’s painfully clear that this is metaphor for coping with a crazy partner and the difficulties when there are kids involved too. But it’s also a brutal depiction in that it is so very one sided and uncertain. I do not understand how she became so crazed, why they had issues or what his role really is in all this. And I am someone who has also experienced an acrimonious divorce, battles over children and an ex who is completely nuts. Regardless, she is physically manifesting her insanity in these monsters and the end culminates in Frank stopping her and saving Candice, their young daughter.
I find the backstory intriguing, and I completely understand the desire of imagining the outcome you prefer with a person who fucked with your life. But it’s so boring. And melodramatic. All at once. UGH. This one has great elements but is just meh.