Frank Carveth is worried that his ex-wife Nola is being driven crazier by Psychoplasmics, a form of therapy invented by pop psychologist Dr Hal Raglan in which patients neuroses manifest physically on their bodies. Child-sized, deformed creatures murder
David Cronenberg’s third above-ground science fiction/horror movie is more controlled than Shivers or Rabid, narrowing focus from a community going insane to a single, troubled family.
An intensely-acted, cleverly-written mystery, this methodically sets out an absurd premise – that mad Nola’s rage is given shape in an exo-womb which produces the Brood, who go out into the world to kill according to her conscious and unconscious desire – with such conviction that it seems to make perfect sense.
Barrel-shaped Oliver Reed is an ambiguous mad scientist, a confrontational shrink who employs extreme roleplay technique in therapy sessions that sometimes seem like improv drama and seem as liable to drive his patients deeper into insanity as pull them out of it. Though it’s a serious picture about a surprisingly well-played broken marriage and custody case, Cronenberg is always playful with the scary stuff.
The Brood, wrapped up in bright parkas and scarves, are unsettling monsters, and their attacks are memorably nasty: battering an abusive mother to death in a well-appointed kitchen with a meat-tenderiser, dragging a drunken father into the dark under the bed like a childhood nightmare made flesh and murdering a kindergarten teacher with building blocks in front of her terrified pupils.
Hindle seems appropriately numbed by the whole experience, stuck with the deadloss assignment of representing normality, but Eggar does a great deal with the role of the mad mother, lifting a white ceremonial robe, chewing through the birth sac, licking her newborn monster clean of blood.
Genuinely disturbing horror but with Cronenberg producing a slightly deeper edge in his portrait of a troubled family.