The Brood isn’t only one of the finest horror films ever made. It’s one of the finest films ever made, regardless of genre. Though such claims may be seen as excessive, one need only revisit the David Cronenberg directed masterpiece to realise that it represents genre filmmaking at its most profound, and literary. The Brood is a film in which the metaphor is made literal – in which thoughts become physical – in which emotions become akin to diseases. It is a film bursting with ideas, one with enough thematic material to sustain hours of discussion. But, despite this, it’s never overly cerebral. The film packs up a primal punch as well, and has a climax that genuinely moves.
Cronenberg has famously described the film as his version of Kramer Vs. Kramer, and indeed one of the film’s many concerns is the emotional scars left by divorce. The plot sees Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar), a traumatised woman, seek psychiatric help from Hal Raglan, a cutting edge practitioner brilliantly played by a wonderfully sweaty Oliver Reed. Raglan believes that emotions can be made physical, and begins to assist Carveth to manifest her rage as horrendous tumors, and then, eventually, something even more sinister.
The film shows off Cronenberg’s wonderfully restrained directorial style. He never overstates his presence as a filmmaker, and ensures that his world is carefully, subtly drawn. Indeed, his use of colour – particularly the colour red – is striking, but never flashy. He allows the vibrant hues to make sense within the universe he has created, rather than artificially injecting them into the story in order to shoehorn in a subtext.
Reed and Eggar are brilliant; the scares are stunningly effective; Howard Shore’s music score is as good as anything else he ever did with Cronenberg. In short, it is difficult to find a single flaw with The Brood, a film that definitively proves that horror is nothing less than a pure, unfettered form of expression. It’s a masterpiece that exists to remind the world that horror films have always been more intelligent, more nuanced than the mainstream media has ever given credit for.