31 for 31: 'The Brood'

For the whole month of October, our own Kevin Stairiker will be watching a horror movie a day and cataloging his findings in a new feature called “31 for 31.”


One of the many joys of the “31 for 31” project is the process of digging deeper into filmographies I either already love or know that I’ll appreciate. One such filmography is the work of director David Cronenberg. I’m already familiar with the crux of his ’80s work (“The Dead Zone,” “The Fly,” “Dead Ringers”) though there are many more classics to unravel (“Scanners,” “Videodrome,” “Shivers,” etc.) I’m starting with “”The Brood,” though hopefully it won’t be my only Cronenberg stop this month.

“The Brood,” though it was released in 1979, hits most of the same satisfying notes that the best of horror in the ’80s would, albeit with traditional Cronenberg weirdness. The TV Guide description of this movie would be something like this:

“A psychotherapist attempts to protect the child of a failing marriage before uncovering that his own work is leading to trouble beyond his control.”

Obviously, the plot is far more involved with that, but this is a movie where a mountain of exposition is not only welcome but still sometimes not enough. The film picks up in a big way one the psychotherapist in question, Dr. Hal Raglan, begins to encounter what can best be described as “cute mutant children in winter coats armed with adorable hammers.” Much like the main baddie in “Don’t Look Now,” these things look harmless from far away, but as soon as you get close enough to look under the hood, you’ve probably already been bludgeoned to death by hammers.

All the praise of the film should go to Samantha Eggar, who plays Nola Carveth, the main patient of Dr. Haglan. With only varied shrieks and crazy eyes, Carveth is convincingly someone on the very deep end of psychosis. As the movie progresses and things really get set in high gear, that becomes frighteningly more clear.

Body horror, which serves as the trademark of much of Cronenberg’s first two decades of work, is very much in the background of “The Brood” until it’s not, which makes the final scenes all the more fulfilling. Of course, my own personal peak of Cronenberg body horror is “The Fly,” so I clearly have a lot more Cronenberg to Cronenberg, Morty.

By the numbers

Total deaths: 10
Stars “The Brood” earned from Roger Ebert: 1/4
Utterances of (*shudder*) “Mommy” or “Daddy” throughout: 15
Total teeth count amongst the brood: 0
Scenes of creepy fetus-licking: 1

Total movie death count: 147
Watched via: Hulu
Worth the watch? Yes
Arbitrary rating: 4/5 deformed kids with hammers

31 for 31 viewing list

  1. Jeepers Creepers (2001)
  2. Cube (1997)
  3. White Zombie (1932)
  4. Demons (Dèmoni) (1985)
  5. Phantasm II (1988)
  6. Kuroneko (1968)
  7. Creepshow (1982) / Creepshow 2 (1987)
  8. 30 Days of Night (2007)
  9. Last Man on Earth (1964)
  10. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
  11. Cat People (1942)
  12. The Brood (1979)
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Kevin Stairiker is a features writer for Fly. He is a graduate of Temple University and enjoys writing in third person. When he isn't writing, he's probably playing guitar for a litany of bands, reading comics or providing well-needed muscle at The Double Deuce.

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