Do not, under and circumstances, watch this movie before or after eating. That’s a warning that should be on many of Canadian director David Cronenberg’s films, including (and especially ) The Brood, in big, bold, red letters. Being a horror aficionado, I have a pretty high threshold for gratuitous gruesomeness and gore, but the last twenty minutes of The Brood had my stomach churning. Unlike, say, the Saw series, whose only purpose is to expose the audience to superfluous amounts of blood and guts in order to elicit nauseated groans (and vomit), The Brood is a very intelligent movie.
After strange bruises appear on his daughter’s back, Frank Carveth decides that he will no longer allow his wife, Nola, who has been institutionalized and is being subjected to an experimental form of therapy, to see her. Shortly after, a series of brutal murders, committed by small, malformed children, begin to take place. The first victim? Nola’s mother.
HERE BE SPOILERS
David Cronenberg himself has mentioned several times that this film, on a metaphorical level (I hope), is at least semi-autobiographical. He wrote the film shortly after going through a bitter divorce and child custody battle with his first wife, and much of the movie is devoted to dysfunctional family dynamics. There’s certainly a lot going on here. Maternity is tainted in The Brood, reviled rather than celebrated. Nola herself was abused by her mother, a fact which can be assumed lead to her irrevocably negative psychological state and her institutionalization. Her uterus, a symbol of motherhood, is now outside of her, attached by a fleshy tube to her stomach. It is from this that the brood emerges. The mutilation of the feminine turns motherhood into something unnatural. The children which Nola gives birth to are corrupt, lacking the innocence of youth and acting only in accordance with their mother’s damaged emotional condition. Even her husband, Frank, considers Nola somewhat of a monster even before she reveals to him her new family. He refuses to let her see their daughter, and blames her for the injuries he finds on their natural daughter.
Most telling though, is Nola’s relationship with and impact on her natural daughter, Candice. The actress who plays Candice does a great job, simply because very little acting is required for the role. For a large portion of her on-screen time, she remains stone-faced, expressionless. She is a blank slate, ready to be molded by her parents. Despite Frank’s best efforts, Cadi’s mother is the one who ends up having the greatest impact upon her. The final shot of the film shows the young girl beginning to develop large growths on her body, growths which eerily resemble those that were upon the body of her mother in the final scene. Candi has not escaped unscathed by her mother’s influence.
Juliana Kelly: Thirty seconds after you’re born you have a past and sixty seconds after that you begin to lie to yourself about it.
Recommended Viewing: Don’t Look Now, The Fly (remake)