The Brood (1979)

1h 32m / R / Horror

Did you know: David Cronenberg thinks The Brood is the only real horror movie he’s made? Let that sink in. He’s either got a really unusual conception of horror movies or a really unusual understanding of what horrifies other people. He wrote and directed The Brood fresh out of an extremely acrimonious and painful divorce, and, uh, it shows. Best understood as a companion piece with Scanners (similar locations, same soundtrack composer, similar plot beats and character archetypes, same creepy aliens-cast-in-a-soap-opera pacing and dialogue), The Brood turns the breakdown of a marriage and a custody fight into a freakish supernatural battle, lampoons a sadistic form of particularly-‘70s-flavored psychotherapy, showcases the director’s tense formality and Grand-Guignol practical effects, and really turns the “bad mother” trope into a level of monstrousness that has to be seen to be believed.

Cronenberg’s main target is Dr. Raglan (Oliver Reed), the creator of “psychoplasmics,” a hands-on, primal psychodrama that produces head-clearing catharsis and bizarre physical transformation, especially in his prize patient, the beautiful but disconnected Nola (Samantha Eggar). Art Hindle plays Nola’s estranged, heroic husband; his determination to protect their daughter (Cindy Hinds) gets tested in the most terrible ways. Like: terrible. Critics hated this movie — Roger Ebert rhetorically asked whether anybody likes crap like this, and Leonard Maltin descended into a brief manic fugue before calling it a “bomb.” But like so much of Cronenberg’s early work, it’s so singular, such a persistent and shocking bad dream, the amazement of experiencing it is worth the grossness of having to actually see it.

A Nightmare on Franklin Street 2019 is presented by Voodoo Ranger and J.J. Taylor Distributing Florida, Inc. Promotional consideration is provided by Spooky Empire and WEDU PBS.