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 (1979) is a 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:
- Adult Fear: A child kidnapped by an ex-wife who believes that she should have custody is scary enough on its own.
- 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.
- Belly Buttonless: 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.
- Bertha in the Attic: Suggested as a possible explanation for the first broodling found.
- Big Bad: Nola.
- 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 Candace. 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, Candace'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."
- Creepy Child / Enfante Terrible: The mutant children.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Self-Made Orphan: Indirectly, Nola
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Mike, of the skin welts.
- 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.