The Brood (Cronenberg, 1979)

SO… Kramer vs. Kramer won the Oscar for best picture in 1979, though it hasn’t aged well, it apparently was ground breaking at the time for tackling the role of the father in raising a child and within the legal system. The same year, Cronenberg’s film The Brood was released, a horror film about a husband trying to unravel a mystery surrounding his wife being treated with an experimental psychiatric treatment, and a series of violent deaths of people who have some link to her life.

Cronenberg’s film about paternity, is far more rich and relevant than the tired and traditional Kramer vs. Kramer. The emotions are far stronger, and the implications though symbolic and allegorical allow for more depth and timelessness. The effects on the child especially are explored with far more nuance and immediacy. In bringing to life her confusion and trauma, the film gives the daughter far more life than the son in Kramer vs. Kramer ever did. She is not incidental to the parent’s transformations, she is just as human as they are.

The film though not consistently scary, has some very eerie and shocking moments. Though you can half guess what’s going to happen next, it doesn’t take away from the film because Cronenberg is very good at what he does. The film is stylish, well-written and even the cast is quite good.

6 responses to “The Brood (Cronenberg, 1979)

  1. I haven’t seen it since 2000, but I love the film’s minimal, eerie wintry setting and mood. Even the arch performances, too; the father’s performance is better than usually credited, I think; the schoolteacher-mistress has a kind of feral face that perhaps helps one root for the matriarch’s evil vengeance (!) and Reed is very memorably solemn. I love at the finale where he says: “It’s the right way; it’s the only way” or something to that effect– i can’t remember the words but he gives them a cadence that is very persuasive yet doom-laden; in moments of great moment or indecision that moment often comes back to me! And of course those demoniac kids jumping off their bunks is about as terrifying as anything ever witnessed. The very final shots– carrying his daughter through the snowy woods, into the (truck?), down finally to the evidence of this infernal psychosomatic experiment carrying on again, is Bergmanesque.

  2. PS: Also love the hammy early moment where the guy in the audience is muttering: “Genius! GENIUS!!” Hope I’m not misremembering it, but that one gets some shared laughs over my own purply Nietzschean propensities to anoint everything with the G-word in tones of momentous awe.

  3. Canadian settings lend itself to eerie atmosphere. There is something claustorphobic (and well…cold) about winter and the sheer sparseness of the Canadian lanscape. Though this film doesn’t quite touch on it, there is also an anonimity as Canadians are always searching for identity. It’s as if yo uhave faceless people in a faceless land.

    The kids are freaky, especially before you know what exactly is going on… though they’re certainly a different kind of freaky afterwards. It’s just an unsettling film.

    And you are remembering correctly :p

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