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Film / The Brood

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"Go through it... Go all the way through it... All the way to the end..."

There are certain pairings that you know are going to result in something horrifying: Takashi Miike taking on romantic comedy. Stephen King making a domestic drama. Quentin Tarantino writing a crime caper. And in this case: David Cronenberg discussing alternative psychotherapy.

The Brood is a 1979 Canadian horror film written and directed by David Cronenberg (often considered to be his first really good movie), centering around a psychotherapist, Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed), who has created a technique called psychoplasmics. By encouraging his patients to "go all the way through it", he is able to induce radical physical changes. A man verbally abused by his father develops welts all over his body. Another man's self-loathing induces lymphatic cancer. And a psychotic woman named Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar) parthenogenetically gives birth to strange mutant children who act out her negative emotions. Then the therapist starts bringing all these negative emotions to the surface, and the children start killing anyone she sees as a personal enemy...

Cronenberg has condemned the censorship of the climactic scene, "trimmed" in the United Kingdom, in which Eggar's character gives birth to one of the monsters and starts tenderly licking it clean. "I had a long and loving close-up of Samantha licking the foetus... when the censors, those animals, cut it out, the result was that a lot of people thought she was eating her baby. That's much worse than I was suggesting."

In 2005, the full uncut version was made available on UK DVD. A remake was announced in 2009 with Breck Eisner as the director, but Eisner left the project the next year and the remake was shelved.

The Brood contains examples of:

  • Artistic License – Biology: The medical examiner who autopsies one of the broodlings claims its eyes have no retinas. An eye with no retina would be completely blind, not just colorblind as he claims.
  • Big Bad: Nola. Particularly after it's revealed that, contrary to Raglan's initial perceptions, she's well aware of the brood's actions against her victims. Including her own daughter.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The broodlings have no belly buttons, no retinas (the ME who autopsies one has no idea how they can see at all), no genitals, and no digestive systems, instead drawing nutrients from a membranous sac along their spines.
  • Body Horror: Cronenberg is the king of this trope. The infamous birthing scene definitely plays this straight.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Frank attempts to reach out to Nola while Raglan rescues Candice. They nearly fail when Frank shows outward disgust at Nola's external uterus. She directs the brood to kill Raglan and then tries to have them kill her daughter to prevent Frank from taking her away. Frank strangles her to death, which also kills the brood. On the drive home, Candice's arm shows signs of the mutant growth that Nola had...
  • Canada, Eh?: The movie makes no attempt to hide the fact that it's filmed and set in Toronto.
  • Censored for Comedy: As indicated above, the censors' trimming of Nola's birthing scene made a sequence of her licking her hate-baby clean look more like she was eating it.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander:
    • Jan Hartog, the guy with lymph cancer.
    • Also Mike, the man who wants you to "be [his] daddy."
  • Fan Disservice: Nola's external uterus, which she is quite willing to show off.
  • Genre-Busting: A cross between the Gothic horror of the 1800s and the immediate, gory horror of the 1970s.
  • The Heartless: Nola literally gives birth to her inner demons.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: While Psychoplasmics isn't necessarily a superpower, the ability to birth homunculi from your traumatic memories who end up subconsciously doing your bidding might be considered useful, if fucked up.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: Suggested as a possible explanation for the first broodling found.
  • Mad Love / Manufacturing Victims: Not as in erotic or romantic love, but Mike, one of Raglan's patients, becomes addicted to the treatment when Raglan plays a surrogate of his father who gives Mike all the love his real father didn't give him. He constantly looks for someone to "be my daddy" when Raglan throws every patient of the institute out when he's dealing with Nola's ultimate breakdown. He even says that no one can play his daddy like Dr. Raglan, giving it a very creepy and disturbing pseudo-incestuous vibe.
  • Mother of a Thousand Young: Nola develops this as a Lovecraftian Superpower, giving birth to murderous manifestations of her own psychosis.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Raglan's plan to save Candice would have worked had Frank done what he was supposed to and kept Nola calm. Instead he can't hide his disgust on her "child", getting both the doctor and Nola killed.
  • No Navel, Novel Birth: The broodlings have no navels, a feature which is pointed out during an autopsy as a sign they're not born in the normal way.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Invoked by Robert Silverman's character, who intends to sue the psychiatric clinic that he believes to be responsible for his lymph cancer. He knows he's going to lose the case, but he also knows that in a few years, people won't even remember the verdict.
    All they'll remember is the slogan: "Psychoplasmics Gives You Cancer." Catchy, huh?
  • Redemption Equals Death: Raglan realizes that Psychoplasmics is too effective and turns against Nora. In response, she has her "children" murder him.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Nola's first victims are her parents, whom she resents both for her upbringing and for siding with Frank against her.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Raglan's first patient, Mike, was the son of an abusive father, and his Psychoplasmics effects create cigarette burns and welts on his flesh. He has a tendency to latch onto any possible father figures he can as a result.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: The whole point of Raglan's therapy. He would make mental illnesses into physical ones, which he would then cure.