Blu-ray review | The Brood (1979) | David Cronenberg’s unnerving experience in inner terror is unleashed in HD


Dr Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed) is a respected Toronto psychotherapist whose latest book, The Shape of Rage, outlines his radical therapy in which patients externalise their traumas in the form of develop boils and welts. His greatest success is Nola (Samantha Eggar), whose anger gives birth to ectoplasmic ‘broodlets’ who start killing anyone who upsets her. Caught up in the nightmare is Nola’s estranged husband Frank (Art Hindle), who uncovers the horrifying truth while trying to stop his emotionally damaged wife from taking custody of their daughter Candy (Cindy Hinds).

The Brood continued director David Cronenberg’s fascination with body horror that began with Shivers (1974) and Rapid (1977), but it’s a very different beast as there’s more emphasis on internal drama than action. This was born out of Cronenberg’s own personal troubles (he was going through a divorce at the time), which he uses as a starting point before cranking up the fright factor to unleash another psychogenetic experiment gone wrong.

The unsettling, accomplished result won over the critics, who finally took the underground filmmaker seriously, while the censors dislike of the disturbing climatic scenes only served to whet audience appetites. Cronenberg was now the undisputed dark overlord of body horror and his next film would be his crowning achievement, Scanners (check out our review for Second Sight Blu-ray release here).

Giving understated performances are legendary hell raiser Oliver Reed as the mad doctor whose pursuit for knowledge has unleashed an evil force, and Samantha Eggar, who is downright scary here. The make-up effects for the mutant brood – whose lot includes Felix Silla (aka Cousin Itt from TV’s The Addams Family) – was conceived by Jack H Young, who also did the munchkins in 1939’s Wizard of Oz.

Aside a pristine HD presentation of the feature film, the Second Sight Films
During the school-bludgeoning scene, those are real sounds of kids crying. The poor children were actually frightened by the play acting.

‘Horror films are invariably about death. For me, death is not a spiritual or occult sort of thing, its very physical. One of the main facts of human existence and the human condition is the physicality of the human body; so most of my films are very body conscious. They have to do with physical existence and what happens when that physical existence breaks down in some radical way, through aging, disease, violence of whatever. They’re meditations on the fact of death, and what you do with that fact, psychologically.’ Fangoria Issue No 3. December 1979

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