ICFIFC: The Brood (1979)

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Monday, February 3, 2014

ICFIFC: The Brood (1979)

Note to self – When you write about Cronenberg, be prepared for many, many notes and learning about bizarre medical conditions, Canadian Medals of Honor and weird stuff that has never come up in conversation before.

David Paul Cronenberg, OC1 OOnt2 FRSC3 (born March 15, 1943) is a Canadian filmmaker, screenwriter and actor. He is one of the principal originators of what is commonly known as the body horror4 or venereal horror genre.  This style of filmmaking explores people's fears of bodily transformation and infection.  In his films, the psychological is typically intertwined with the physical.  In the first half of his career, he explored these themes mostly through horror and science fiction, although his work has since expanded beyond these genres.  He has been called "the most audacious and challenging narrative director in the English-speaking world." -- J. Hoberman (May 17, 2005). "Historical Oversight". The Village Voice. Retrieved May 18, 2011.

The Brood is a 1979 Canadian science fiction horror film written and directed by David Cronenberg, starring Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, and Art Hindle.  The film depicts a series of murders committed by what seems at first to be a group of children.  These are in fact the "psychoplasmic5" offspring of a mentally disturbed woman, whose husband fights for custody, and finally the life, of their daughter.


The Brood (1979)

  • Genre: Horror – Mystery – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: David Cronenberg
  • Produced:
    • Pierre David 
    • Claude Héroux 
    • Victor Solnicki
  • Written: David Cronenberg
  • Starring: Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle, Henry Beckman, Nuala Fitzgerald, Cindy Hinds, Susan Hogan, Gary McKeehan, Michael Magee, Robert A. Silverman
  • Music: Howard Shore
  • Cinematography: Mark Irwin
  • Editing: Alan Collins
  • Studio:
    • Canadian Film Development Corporation  
    • Elgin International Films Ltd. 
    • Mutual Productions Ltd. 
    • Victor Solnicki Productions
  • Distributed:
    • New World-Mutual  
    • New World Pictures  
    • Astral Video  
    • Embassy Home Entertainment  
    • Image Entertainment  
    • MGM Home Entertainment  
    • Malo Video  
    • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • Rated:
  • Release Date:
    • 25 May 1979 (USA) 
    • 1 June 1979 (Canada)
  • Running Time: 92 minutes
  • Country: Canada
  • Language: English

Psychotherapist Hal Raglan runs the Somafree Institute where he performs a technique called "psychoplasmics", encouraging patients with mental disturbances to let go of their suppressed emotions through physiological changes to their bodies.  One of his patients is Nola Carveth, a severely disturbed woman who is legally embattled with her husband Frank for custody of their five year-old daughter Candice.  When Frank discovers bruises and scratches on Candice following a visit with Nola, Frank accosts Raglan, and informs him of his intent to stop visitation rights.  Eager to protect his patient, Raglan begins to intensify the sessions with Nola to resolve the issue quickly.  During the therapy sessions, Raglan discovers that Nola was physically and verbally abused by her self-pitying alcoholic mother, and neglected by her co-dependent alcoholic father, who refused to protect Nola out of shame and denial.  Meanwhile, Frank, intending to invalidate Raglan's methods, questions Jan Hartog, a former Somafree patient dying of psychoplasmic-induced lymphoma.

Frank leaves Candice with her grandmother Juliana, and the two spend the evening viewing old photographs; Juliana informs Candice that Nola was frequently hospitalized as a child, and often exhibited strange unexplained wheals6 on her skin that doctors were unable to diagnose.  While returning to the kitchen, Juliana is attacked and bludgeoned to death by a small, dwarf-like child.  Candice is traumatized, but otherwise unharmed.

Juliana's estranged husband Barton returns for the funeral, and attempts to contact Nola at Somafree, but Raglan turns him away.  Frank invites his daughter's teacher Ruth Mayer home for dinner to discuss Candice, but Barton interrupts with a drunken phone call from Juliana's home, demanding that they both go to Somafree in force to see Nola.  Frank leaves to console Barton, leaving Candice in Ruth's care.  While he is away, Ruth accidentally answers a phone call from Nola, who, recognizing her voice, insults her and angrily warns her to stay away from her family.  Frank arrives to find Barton murdered by the same deformed dwarf-child, who dies after attempting to kill him.

The police autopsy reveals a multitude of bizarre anatomical anomalies: the creature is asexual, supposedly color-blind, naturally toothless7, and devoid of a navel, indicating no known means of natural human birth.  After the murder story reaches the newspapers, Raglan reluctantly acknowledges that the murders coincide with the sessions relating to their respective topics.  He closes Somafree and purges his patients to municipal care with the exception of Nola.

When Candice returns to school, two dwarf children attack and kill Ruth in front of her class, and abscond with Candice to Somafree.  Frank is alerted of the closure of Somafree by Hartog.  Mike, one of the patients forced to leave the institute on Raglan's directive, tells Frank that Nola is Raglan's "queen bee" and in charge of some "disturbed children" in a property work shed.  Frank immediately ventures to Somafree. Raglan tells him the truth about the dwarf children: they are the accidental product of Nola's psychoplasmic sessions; Nola's rage about her abuse was so strong that she parthenogenetically8 bore a brood of children who psychically respond and act on the targets of her rage with Nola completely unaware of their actions.  Realizing the brood are too dangerous to keep anymore, Raglan plots to venture into their quarters and rescue Candice, provided that Frank can keep Nola calm to avoid provoking the children.

Frank attempts a feigned rapprochement long enough for Raglan to collect Candice, but when he witnesses Nola give birth to another child through a pyschoplasmically-induced external womb, she notices his disgust.  The brood awaken and kill Raglan.  Nola then threatens to kill Candice rather than lose her.  The brood go after her, Candice hides in a closet, but they begin to break through the door and try to grab Candice.  In desperation, Frank chokes Nola to death, and the brood die without their mother's psychic connection.  He carries Candice back to his car and they drive off, but it is hinted that the events she endured result in the same phenomenon her mother experienced: a pair of small bumps are seen growing on her arm.



1. The Order of Canada is a Canadian national order, admission into which is, within the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada, the second highest honor for merit.  It comes second only to membership in the Order of Merit, which is within the personal gift of Canada's monarch.

2. The Order of Ontario is the most prestigious official honor in the Canadian province of Ontario.  Instituted in 1986 by Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander, on the advice of the Cabinet under Premier David Peterson, the civilian order is administered by the Lieutenant Governor-in-Council and is intended to honor current or former Ontario residents for conspicuous achievements in any field.

3. The Royal Society of Canada also known as RSC: The Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada is the senior national, bilingual body of distinguished Canadian scholars, humanists, scientists and artists. The primary objective of the RSC is to promote learning and research in the arts, the humanities and the sciences. The RSC is Canada’s National Academy and exists to promote Canadian research and scholarly accomplishment in both official languages, to recognize academic and artistic excellence, and to advise governments, non-governmental organizations and Canadians on matters of public interest.

4. Body horror, biological horror, organic horror or venereal horror is horror fiction in which the horror is principally derived from the graphic destruction or degeneration of the body.  Such works may deal with disease, decay, parasitism, mutilation, or mutation.  Other types of body horror include unnatural movements, or the anatomically incorrect placement of limbs to create 'monsters' out of human body parts.  David Cronenberg, Frank Henenlotter, Brian Yuzna, Stuart Gordon, Lloyd Kaufman, and Clive Barker are notable directors of this genre.

5. psychoplasmics -- n. From David Cronenberg's 1979 film "The Brood".  A renegade branch of psychology that deals in the physical manifestations of one's inner emotions, primarily, rage.  One is encouraged to "go through their anger to the end."  In the movie, one of the main characters express her rage in the form of giving birth to mutant children (the "brood" of the title) who exact her anger on those she feels have hurt her.  "The Shape of Rage" by Dr. Hal Raglan is considered the Bible of psychoplasmics.

6. Wheal – A wheal is a rounded or flat-topped, pale red papule or plaque that is characteristically evanescent, disappearing within 24 to 48 hours.  The temporary raised bubble of taut skin on the site of a properly-delivered intradermal injection is also called a wheal, with the ID injection process itself frequently referred to as simply "raising a wheal" in medical texts.

7. Edentulism is the condition of being toothless to at least some degree; it is the result of tooth loss.  Loss of some teeth results in partial edentulism, while loss of all teeth results in complete edentulism.  Organisms that never possessed teeth can also be described as edentulous, such as members of the former zoological classification order of Edentata, which included anteaters and sloths, all of which possess no anterior teeth and either no or poorly developed posterior teeth.

8. Parthenogenesis is a form of asexual reproduction in which growth and development of embryos occur without fertilization.  In animals, parthenogenesis means development of an embryo from an unfertilized egg cell and is a component process of apomixis, offspring that are genetically identical to the parent.

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