R for Cronenberg nonsense. I mean, it's pretty violent. Little kids beat adults to death with household objects, which is pretty rad (or offensive, whatever you want to take from this first section). There's some language. But really, the major takeaway is the Cronenberg stuff, which only appears in the final act of the movie. But boy howdy, does he let fly with the gross stuff. R.
DIRECTOR: David Cronenberg
My mom watched this. That's a weird thought. My mom stays with us from time-to-time and she watches the streaming services that she doesn't have access to. For some reason, she decided visiting HBO Max for The Brood was the use of her time that she invested in. Yeah, what a weird choice. In a million years, if I had asked her to watch The Brood, I would have gotten a hard-no. Especially with that ending. Do you know what? I'm going to jump right to that ending because I'm still very much in that headspace.
That ending. For a long time in this movie, I was so proud of David Cronenberg. I know, a lot of people love David Cronenberg and his use of upsetting practical gore. It was such a thing that Rick and Morty full on created a group of creatures named "Cronenbergs". I'm preaching to the choir here, so I'm going to drop that thread. But I always like the idea of watching a Cronenberg movie until I remember that he likes grossing me out a bit too much. And for most of this movie, it's all about story. Sure, there's some blood. It's a horror movie. But it isn't Eli Roth style blood. Then there's the final act. The final act, where Nola (Nola? That's the name we're sticking with? Northern Louisiana or North Los Angeles?) shows Frank her weird demon pregnancy. See, we knew that Nola was giving birth to these monsters. After all, the movie is named The Brood; there should be some offspring. But having them drop out of her? Gross. Having her cut the skin open with her teeth? Even more gross. Having her lick the blood off of her rage offspring? Come on. What was the point of that even? The other parts are the grossest things ever, but you can at least pretend that there's a reason why this is happening in the film. None of the other stuff even makes the most remote of sense. It's gross for the sake of being gross.
But if I can accept that --and I should--the movie is halfway decent, especially for Cronenberg. Yeah, he's doing some of the things that annoy me with his other movies. He tends to make things happen just because that's weird looking and it might not be at all predictable. (I'm mostly looking at Videodrome and Naked Lunch here, but you can apply this rule to any number of Cronenberg films.) But there was a story. While it gets into supernatural stuff, there is an A-to-B-to-C concept. If you are paying attention, most of the movie actually makes a decent amount of sense. Sure, there's almost no way to predict the rage babies as is. The notion of psychoplasmics is never really explained, as proven by the fact that I thought a good chunk of the opening was about acting exercises. But in terms of a creepy child killing people in Frank's life is something that I can jump on board. I actually was overly influenced by that "Treehouse of Horror" episode where Bart's conjoined twin lived in the attic. The Brood even addresses this trope and scolds me for thinking that the story could be that obvious. But that's something that watchable. And, gun to head, even the end of the movie allows me to basically understand what is happening in the film.
We never get the "why". That's okay. I don't know if the "why would actually help or hinder. That's kind of a big part of storytelling. Anything involving the psychoplasmics doesn't do anything besides offer technobabble. What it does offer, instead, is the idea that any mother could do what Nola is doing. (I keep writing "Lola" or "Nora" because those are names.) Sure, it demonizes motherhood a bit. I want to explore that in a second, but Nola's odd possessiveness creates these demon children who murder on a whim. Nothing is particularly locked into Nola being this way. Instead, Nola is the face of motherhood. It's a toxic and upset motherhood. Maybe that's why it really sticks with me that my mom watched this movie. But it is the notion that a mother's love, redirected and perverted, can be somehow supernaturally lethal. It's really weird because Nola comes across as both mentally ill and completely unsympathetic. Let's explore that for a bit.
Dr. Raglan is obsessed with Nola. In retrospect, that may be because Nola is capable of manifesting her thoughts of rage into actual demon children, but it definitely comes across as either sexual or self-serving. He devotes all his time to Nola, which comes across as super creepy. And Nola goes through most of the movie either in hysterics or in a place of flat affect. We don't really have an idea of what crimes that Frank has committed. We are just told over-and-over again that Frank is unloving. Now, this is where it is going to get a bit iffy, so please bear with me. I kind of have the vibe that David Cronenberg is working through some stuff. Maybe he's going through a divorce or something because he's making Frank overly sympathetic in this story.
He's the one who is the primary parent for Candace. He's the one who is holding everyone together. He's the one who is constantly being called a monster when his behavior seems perfectly appropriate bordering on saintlike. Frank is surrounded by people who make terrible parents. But even with this bevy of bad parents, it seems like the men in these situations simply got in over their heads. Nola's mother is the one she considers really toxic, but Nola's father is the one who left the family. Nola herself seems to be in such a state of disarray that she's not even really allowed to see Candace. For two seconds, Frank could come across as problematic, storming into the offices of Dr. Raglan. But that's quickly explained by the fact that Dr. Raglan is the worst. I don't know if Cronenberg is really open to the notion that characters need to balanced by what I'm seeing in this film. Nola, for all of her maternal worrying, never really comes across as warm or even remotely healthy as a parent. When that reveal happens, exposing that Nola is behind everything, it isn't so much a shock as much as it is a natural progression of her character. Heck, even Dr. Raglan is given some redemption because he's male. But Nola, really the only adult female in this story, is only demonized worse and worse.
But I can tell you what? Like Don't Look Now, the notion of children coming to kill you is upsetting as can be. I actually feel really bad for the children in the making of this movie. Sure, I'm sure there was a certain amount of protecting children on the set and even the stunts that the kids were able to see were probably pretty tame. But this movie is messed up. Kids murdering adults is a really effective scare. Heck, it's way more effective than carving open the pregnancy sack at the end. And Cronenberg's use of variation of color on the outfits is perfect. God, it works so well that it makes me mad that we got all that gore at the end. I know, I need to move on. A part of me understands that there needs to be something visually shocking to pair with the notion that Nola is off-the-reservation. I just don't really like that kind of stuff in my horror movies. I like some gross-out stuff, but Cronenberg always goes too far for me.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.