Plot: What’s it about?
Cronenberg is a very divisive director. People either tend to believe the man is a genius and provocateur or they tend to believe that he is sick and twisted. People also tend to enjoy or hate his films. I can’t think of any director in recent history that made as many people angry as when Cronenberg directed a film called Crash based on a novel by J.G. Ballard. Crash was about people who got sexual fulfillment out of car crashes. At least Cronenberg was used to the name calling and dislike. If you watch his early films, he never shied away from subject matter that veered towards strange or grotesque. He also never shied away from trying to show strange psychological maladies on screen. Both traits continue to exemplify themselves in his work today, including my favorite film of his, A History of Violence.
The Brood is a pretty nasty piece of business. The plot revolves around the disintegration of a marriage. Frank Carveth has had his wife Nola institutionalized in a radical psychiatric ward in order to protect their daughter, Candace, from her occasionally violent mood swings and emotional instability. She is under the care of Dr. Hal Raglan (a menacing Oliver Reed,) a psycho therapist that uses role playing to help his patients work through their issues. Frank becomes concerned when his daughter comes back from a visit with her mother covered in bruises. Frank begins to threaten to take the daughter away completely while Dr. Raglan advises that this would lead to an absolute breakdown of the mother’s psychosis. In the meantime, strange events begin to occur around Candace as people surrounding her are brutally murdered.
The Brood is Cronenberg working at a fairly high level. The acting throughout the film is pretty good and Oliver Reed is excellent. As you can guess, Cronenberg utilizes some pretty interesting body horror elements that are fairly common in his films. Although Scanners is ultimately a superior film, they seem to be part of the same canon. The movie is not overly pleasant to look at, but this may actually work in favor of the film. The movie moves a little bit sluggishly at the beginning, but the gross-out shocker finale of the film more than makes up for it. At the end of the day, I enjoyed watching The Brood and would recommend a purchase only if this type of movie is your thing. I think it is definitely one that I will watch again in the future with a friend. If you love Scanners I would not hesitate to try out The Brood.
Video: How’s it look?
Criterion have presented an almost perfect presentation of the film. Fine detail is excellent and particularly shines in the many outdoor scenes in the film with tiny flecks of snow entering the shot. Clarity is very good and the film maintains grain without ever becoming oversaturated. That said, this is not the most beautiful film ever put on celluloid, so don’t expect it to look like Gone With The Wind. For the material Criterion was working with, I would say that this is a perfect presentation.
Audio: How’s it sound?
This English LPCM Mono track is pretty solid. As you would expect, range is somewhat limited. The score by Howard Shore works excellently in the film, and sounds really good coming through the speakers. I could not detect any hiss or dropping out of audio. There is nothing to worry about here.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Birth Pains – This short documentary focuses on The Brood and Cronenberg’s early features. It has some good interviews with cast and crew from the film along with makeup artist Rick Baker. The documentary was produced exclusively for Criterion in 2015. I really enjoyed this documentary, even though it was just short and sweet. In English, not subtitled. (32 min, 1080p).
- Radio Spot – original radio spot for The Brood. In English, not subtitled. (1 min, 1080p).
- Crimes of the Future (1970) – presented here is David Cronenberg’s second feature, Crimes of the Future, which was restored from a new 4K scan of the original 35mm negative. Director David Cronenberg supervised the transfer. I love that Criterion is giving us a hard to find film from Cronenberg in the best format possible, but I did not really enjoy this film at all. It was only of interest to see what Cronenberg began working with before he had any type of a budget. My recommendation would just be to skip it, as it was one of the most tedious hours I have spent in a while. In English, not subtitled. (63 min, 1080p).
- David Cronenberg – The Early Years – A short but solid interview with Cronenberg about his beginnings as a director. I really enjoyed this feature. The interview was conducted by Fangoria editor in chief Chris Alexander in 2011. In English, not subtitled. (14 min, 1080p).
- Oliver Reed – in this archival episode of The Merv Griffin Show, Oliver Reed, Orson Welles and entertainer Charo have a good back and forth with one another. It was difficult to make heads or tails of almost anything that was said by anybody on stage, but I enjoyed it. The episode was initially broadcast on April 25, 1980. In English, not subtitled. (21 min, 1080i).
- Meet The Carveths – Chindy Hinds and Art hindle sit down with Fangoria to discuss The Brood and their experiences on the set of teh film. This was not that interesting to me, but was not terrible either. The interview is conducted by Fangoria editor in chief Chris Alexander in 2013. In English, not subtitled. (20 min, 1080i).
- Leaflet – an illustrated leaflet featuring an essay by film critic Carrie Rickey.
The Bottom Line
The Brood is one nasty piece of business from Cronenberg. It has an ending that will remain with me for some time to come. Overall, I really enjoyed the film, but it is hard to say if I would recommend it to somebody else. Criterion have done a terrific job on the transfer of the film with extremely solid video and audio. If you are a fan of the film, this is the version to own.