I’ll get back to the franchise reviews tomorrow but, for today, I am looking at one of the Cronenberg films that I had yet to watch. I had just recently re-watched his version of The Fly and so I had Cronenberg on the brain. This one had been on my radar for a while but something about the premise didn’t manage to capture my interest enough to give it a chance until now. While I don’t think it’s one of his best movies, I will say that I was pleasantly surprised by how watchable this was.
Nola is a patient of Doctor Hal Raglan, a psychiatrist and the inventor of a radical form of therapy called “psychoplasmics”; a type of role play therapy where Raglan takes the role of someone in the patient’s life and then urges them to manifest their anger towards that person. Nola’s husband, Frank, goes to pick up their daughter, Candy, from the institute but when he gets her home, he finds signs of abuse on her. We find out that Nola was abused as a child as well and it is after this revelation that her abusive mother is attacked and killed by what looks like a little kid in pancake make-up. You might be able to see where the movie is going from there.
Spoilers will follow so skip to the last paragraph if you don’t want that. As a movie that explores the theme of generational trauma, I think it does a fantastic job. The creation of the titular “brood”, these monster children that are formed from Nola’s anger, show the literal passing on of trauma. Nola doesn’t want to be like her mother but it doesn’t stop the brood from hurting Candy when she gets upset with her. The brood takes the violence that was inflicted on Nola and perpetuates it onward. At the end we even see Candy, having been fully traumatized by the experience with the brood, with small growths like her mother had, foreshadowing that she too will go on to pass this anger to her progeny.
I’m not sure why people talk about this as a body horror movie. There is literally one small scene where Nola is shown having what amounts to an external womb. The way she bites the new brood member out of the sac and begins to lick it clean like an animal tending its child is certainly a bit disturbing but the that kind of body horror isn’t central to the theme like it is in The Fly or Videodrome. This is much more of a psychological family drama than anything else. Everyone does such a great job acting in this that the family drama ends up being more compelling than Nola’s weird anger babies.
Big points to this film for being engaging and not moving at a snail’s pace even though it had the handicap of being made in the 70’s. With really well done performances and a distinctly Cronenbergian flair, I think this holds up even today.
Score: 3.5 out of 5