Frank Carveth (Art Hindle) becomes concerned that his deeply-disturbed and institutionalized wife, Nola (Samantha Eggar), has been abusing their five-year-old daughter, and his investigation into the situation unexpectedly takes him down a path of family dysfunction rendered utterly nightmarish. While under the care of radical psychotherapist Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed), Nola has been encouraged to work out her rage over her abused childhood via a new technique called "Psychoplasmics," by which the negative emotions are exorcised in the form of physical manifestations such as lesions or polyps, and in Nola's case the process has worked in unforeseen ways. To say much more would be to blow a truly disturbing reveal, so let it suffice to say that if you think your family is fucked-up and dysfunctional, you really need to shut your pie hole...
Canadian director David Cronenberg has built himself a signature niche in the annals of scary cinema by focusing on "body horror," and THE BROOD may just be the prime example of that specific flavor in the auteur's works. I find body horror to be a particularly interesting area of dark cinema because although man has mapped the human mind and body to a considerable degree, there is still much that we do not know or understand, and from there once can derive a wellspring of sheer horror that all members of the audience can relate to. In the case of THE BROOD, we are handed dire ruminations upon the trust we impart to our doctors (whether they have truly earned it or not), emotional and physical abuse within the family unit, anger management, the fragility of marriage and home life when stacked against mental illness, and the gory and revulsive aspects of the all-too-animal act of birth, so there is much to absorb and ponder in what some might dismiss as a simple shocker from the cold and sometimes remote Great White North.
Don't ask. No, seriously. Just don't.
It's a slow-build but THE BROOD is tense, uncomfortable, and creepy as a motherfucker, so don't approach it looking for a simple "BOO!" of a horror film. Cronenberg swims in very dark and personal waters here, so be prepared for its serious downer vibe.
Poster from the original theatrical release.