‘The Brood’ – David Cronenberg’s Chilling Body Horror Fable of Repressed Rage
David Cronenberg plumbed the darkest depths of the human psyche in his 1979 cult classic ‘The Brood’, crafting a horrific metaphor for the physical toll of repressed emotions. When a radical psychotherapy technique causes a mentally ill woman to manifest her rage as child-like mutant killers, the ensuing carnage provides chilling commentary on inner demons unleashed.
After her husband gains custody of their child due to her erratic behavior, patient Nola Carveth undergoes an experimental therapy called ‘psychoplasmics’ – where suppressed emotions cause physical changes. As Nola’s resentment and envy fester, she mysteriously gives birth to mutant children who act as her Id, attacking those she subconsciously resents.
With its warped take on immaculate conception and ‘monster as manifestation of Id’, The Brood adds a sci-fi twist to the adage “holding onto anger is like drinking poison.” Nola’s festering inner turmoil spawns literal monsters, externalizing inner damage in gruesome detail.
Cronenberg’s chilly, clinical style pairs with the fantastic premise to create a drama rife with symbolism. The attacks seem random yet inevitable, like raw emotion made flesh. As with all Cronenberg’s body horror tales, The Brood leaves visceral scars by showing monstrosity wearing a human face.
An intensely personal nightmare fable birthed from divorce and custody anguish, ‘The Brood’ proves our inner demons can be the most frightening of all. Few films depict suppressed emotions metastasizing into literal horrors with such savage power.
David Cronenberg has said that he got the idea for the film while going through a rough custody battle and divorce with his wife Margaret Hindson. He said that Nola possesses some of the same characteristics of those of his ex-wife. The film is his third horror film after Shivers and Rabid.