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When Frank Carveth discovers deep scratch marks on his little girl’s back, he immediately suspects that his estranged wife, Nola, is responsible. He visits the Somafree Institute of Psychoplasmics where Nola is undergoing intensive therapy. He tells Doctor Raglan that he is going to stop his daughter Candice seeing her mother, but Raglan is genuinely distraught by the news, explaining how Nora is at a critical juncture of her therapy which involves drawing out her rage as physical manifestations. As everyone around Frank is brutally murdered, he is at a loss for an explanation – even after what appears to be a dead child-size mutant is examined. But the frightened and tight-lipped Candice has witnessed more than one of the attacks, and the truth of the matter is far beyond Frank’s worst nightmare...
David Cronenberg is one of those creative minds who wrote and directed many of his own horror projects. The Brood is certainly one of his best early films and, although novel in terms of its central theme, is probably one of the most coherent in structure, too. Many of his other flicks are more than a little off-kilter; being a kaleidoscope of mind-altering unrealities and body horror. Not that that’s a bad thing. However, it’s the central theme and set pieces which make this such a shocking example of 1979 cinematic horror. Cronenberg was said to have been going through a divorce and arranging custody of the children when this idea occurred to him. It makes you wonder what the courts might have made of his work at the time. Many people will go to see horror films and then make pains to say how twisted the writer/director/effects team (or anyone else connected to the relevant movie) is, as if that will distance them from the inherent evil and make them seem normal in the eyes of everyone else. Hmm...
Of course, Oliver Reed as Raglan and Samantha Eggar as Nora are the two big British stars on show here. But Art Hindle, of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, appraises himself very well as the central character, Frank. By far the biggest joy in this movie is Candice Carveth, played by Cindy Hinds. She is simply one of the best child actors I’ve seen in a horror movie. She hardly says a word throughout the running time, but it’s her stance and particularly her expressions which set her apart. Rather than the expected over-acting from a youngster, here we get a stunned, almost totally withdrawn countenance. It is almost on the edge of madness, and yet she drifts around as if in a dream, seemingly resigned to what is going in around her. And yet she was said to have been such a normal, happy, playful child off-set. You wouldn’t think so when you see her face in the dramatic final scene.
There are some nice extras included on this disc: Cronenberg – The Early Years is a very interesting interview with the director about how he broke into filmmaking; Meet the Carveths – is a fun interview of Art Hindle and Cindy Hinds, mediated by Fangoria magazine editor, Chris Alexander; The Look of Rage is a brief and frankly dull interview with cinematographer Mark Irwin; Character for Cronenberg is an interview with Cronenberg regular Robert A. Silverman; and Producing the Brood is an entertaining interview with producer Pierre David.