Brood, The (1979)

Brood, The (1979)

“The law believes in motherhood.”

When he picks up his daughter Candy (Cindy Hinds) from a weekend visit with her mother (Samantha Eggar) at a controversial therapeutic clinic and notices welts on her back, Eggar’s husband (Art Hindle) confronts Eggar’s doctor (Oliver Reed) and tries to determine what’s going on. Meanwhile, a rash of mysterious murders by a dwarf-like creature ensues, as Frank first leaves Candy with her grandmother (Nuala Fitzgerald) and then with her sympathetic schoolteacher (Susan Hogan).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • David Cronenberg Films
  • Father and Child
  • Horror Films
  • Mental Illness
  • Mutant Monsters
  • Oliver Reed Films
  • Psychotherapy
  • Samantha Eggar Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “complex, chilling horror film by David Cronenberg advances two of his major themes: there is nothing more frightening than sudden unexplained changes in our physical compositions” and “sterile institutions meant to promote health are often responsible… for destroying a person’s physical and mental well-being.” He notes that “this was the first Cronenberg film in which his characters are sympathetic”, with “the relationship between Hindle and Hinds… truly touching” (agreed).

While he feels the “film often has repulsive imagery and much in the climactic scene is illogical,” there “are several terrifying scenes” and he posits that the picture has “a cold, other-worldly feel” which is “heightened by the fact that many of the characters’ surnames… can’t be found in your local telephone book” (!).

Peary elaborates upon his review in his first Cult Movies book, where he admits to being “intrigued by the premises of all of Cronenberg’s film” but questioning “his judgments and directorial maturity”, given that he gets “juvenile pleasure from trying to jolt viewers by repelling them with blatant, often ridiculous images”, and gets “kicks trying to disgust us.” (In a “making of” documentary about this movie, Eggar concedes that it was hard not to laugh while filming the infamous scene in which she reveals her deformed body to Hindle…) Peary writes that among the “terrifying sequences” are “the murders of Julianna [Nuala Fitzgerald] and Barton [Henry Beckman]” (Eggar’s parents); he accurately notes that “when Julianna enters her mysteriously ramshackle kitchen, looks up toward the ceiling, and spots a little crouched figure in red atop the cupboards about to leap on her, or when Candy sees the hooded figure (who may remind you of the dwarf assassin in Don’t Look Now, 1973) hiding on the stairwell, you are likely to jump.” Meanwhile, “the most chilling” scenes are when two of the dwarf-like creatures “brazenly enter Candy’s classroom pretending to be her classmates:

… and when they walk with Candy hand in hand along the highway in the snow.”

Peary writes that “perhaps what is most remarkable about The Brood is the sinister quality that Cronenberg establishes,” by “staging intense psychodramas between Raglan and Nola” (and, in the opening scene, with another troubled patient):

… as well as “by creating a restrictive atmosphere around the Psychoplasmics Institute; by making his characters humorless and setting the picture in cold, snowy weather (where everyone wears coats and scarves, and walks under gray skies)”:

… “by giving the autocratic Raglan a henchman; [and] by making us aware of the history of child abuse in Nola’s life.” While Peary doesn’t think the final sequence makes sense, he concedes that “at least it’s spooky, lively, and comes after about an hour and a half of absorbing, solid cinema.”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Art Hindle as Frank
  • Oliver Reed as Dr. Raglan
  • Samantha Eggar as Nola
  • Fine cinematography and direction

  • Many creepy moments

Must See?
Yes, as an eerie and still-powerful cult horror flick. Discussed at length in Peary’s Cult Movies book.


  • Cult Movie
  • Important Director


2 thoughts on “Brood, The (1979)

  1. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Unusual, thought-provoking sci-fi horror film with some great ideas, good performances and bags of atmosphere. Good, but not must see for FFs.

  2. Not must-see.

    This is a film I’ve never liked. Its premise (rooted explosively in parental abuse) is more interesting – and more solid – than its facile follow-through. The bulk of the narrative is ponderous.

    The best observation comes midway when Hindle (whose natural performance I like) reveals, “[I] got involved with a woman who married [me] for [my] sanity, hoping it would rub off. Then it started to work the other way.” (It’s significant that Cronenberg wrote the script following a particularly messy divorce.)

    Cronenberg’s thesis concretizes teasingly when we’re shown the cover of Reed’s published research {‘The Shape of Rage’).

    The sub-plot of the murders (and the convoluted logic behind them) feels tacked-on for the sake of weird drama (and the 3rd one, taking place in view of a classroom of traumatized children, is sick).

    It’s true; the gross / bizarre resolution makes no sense. If the film has a point (esp. re: mental illness), we’re left not to care about what that point might be.

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