The Brood

Movie Information

In Brief: The Brood (1979) may reasonably be considered the first of David Cronenberg’s mature films. It’s undeniably the first that afforded him the presence of two actual stars — Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggar. It’s also the first that is clearly about more than it seems, which only serves to make its excursions into Cronenbergian “body horror” even more horrific. The premise has disturbed wife-and-mother Nola Carveth (Eggar) undergoing a series of experimental treatments at a controversial, unorthodox center run by Dr. Hal Raglan (Reed). Raglan’s approach is to externalize — quite literally — the patients' problems and anger. The question is whether he mightn’t be succeeding too well. The bulk of the film’s mayhem comes from murderous small creatures in hooded Dr. Dentons who aren’t children — or even human — yet resemble nothing else. That sounds amusing, but it doesn’t play that way. More disturbing, though, is the fact that, underneath, the film is about child abuse. The levels in which it deals with the topic are varied, ranging from the fantasticated (the idea of the rage of an abused child literally manifesting itself) to the disturbingly suggestive (that the pattern will continue from generation to generation). Few horror films have ever dared to explore such territory.
Genre: Horror
Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle, Henry Beckman, Nuala Fitzgerald, Cindy Hinds
Rated: R



The Brood was, in fact, the first Cronenberg film I saw — and it was probably the first time I’d been shocked by a movie in several years at that time. The brutal nature of its horrors wasn’t quite like anything I’d seen up to that point. I don’t find it shocking today — certainly not in the way that Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983) retains its shock — and it lacks the kind of single iconic image of the exploding head of Scanners (1981), but it has a quality of its own. There is a sense of inner dread that is unique to the film, born of the lurking horror we suspect may be in ourselves. That alone makes it one of Cronenberg’s most compelling and unsettling works.

The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen The Brood Thursday, Oct. 15, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville, hosted by Xpress movie critic Ken Hanke.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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6 thoughts on “The Brood

  1. This was one of the first horror movies I ever saw, and it has stayed with me forever. This one called my attention to Cronenberg and The Fly made me fall in love with his work once and for all. I have been an avid fan ever since.

    • Ken Hanke

      It was probably about my 2000th, but it sure made an impression on me. For me, it was Videodrome that sealed the deal.

  2. Dino

    I wonder if he got the idea from Woody’s STARDUST MEMORIES. Remember when one of the films within a film was about his character’s “rage” escaping?

        • Ken Hanke

          I lean more toward coincidental. I could be wrong, of course, but I just don’t envision Allen going to see The Brood. Now, reading about it is a possibility.

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