Review: The Brood (1979)

Bleak and horrifying, David Cronenberg started strong with this The Brood.

Wow. That’s all. Wow. The depths of David Cronenberg‘s combined body of work – ‘body’ being the operative word – knows no limits. No matter how far back one goes into his oeuvre, you will always find a gem. His is a pretty much unbroken streak of great film after great film, and yet he remains relatively unknown to the public en masse. Sure, he’s had brushes with mainstream popularity – his recent Cosmopolis attracted confused reactions from the Twihards, given its casting of Robert Pattinson – but he as a director is nigh untouchable.

The Brood is early Cronenberg, but he’d been directing films for ten years at this point. He made Shivers four years previously, so he was on something of a roll when he brought this out. That he got Oliver Reed to take a role as Dr. Hal Raglan is all the more impressive, given the relatively niche genre he worked in at that time. He made Scanners a year later, in 1980, which solidified his place in the genre and, maybe, was so good that it overshadowed this film. That doesn’t mean it’s not great though, not at all. It is still horrible after all these years.

So, there’s a few murders, committed by a dwarf-like creature that goes on to terrorise the town. Is it anything to do with the secret treatments that Frank Carveth’s ex-wife Nola is undergoing at the mysterious Somafree Institute of Psychoplasmics, led by Dr Hal Raglan? Possibly.

Regarding the creature – there’s a series of revelations that come out during the course of the film, which leads up to a completely unexpected and genuinely disgusting finale. It’d be a real shame to spoil it, because it’s just that good. Suffice to say, you will be appalled.

The atmosphere hangs heavy over the film – this is vintage horror, the kind that just doesn’t get made today. It relies on practical special effects, mood, and the creepiest music imaginable. This is on a par with The Shining for sheer crawling horror, the kind that makes you want to wriggle out of your own itching skin, so tense is this film. Like spiders crawling all over your body, but in a fun and exciting way.

Is it worth your time? Yes. Yes it is. Second Sight’s Blu-ray release of the film brings what happens on screen into your brain with an all new detail, granting you the full horror that was previously only accessible to those who saw it in the cinema. Go buy it, and hate yourself for watching it when you try to sleep afterwards.

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