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The Curator of Schlock #307 by Jeff Shuster

The Brood

Seriously, what is wrong with David Cronenberg?

Criterion DVDs are weird. They have weird special features. On my DVD for David Cronenberg’s The Brood, we have an interview with Oliver Reed on The Merv Griffin Show from 1980. Other guests include Orson Welles and, naturally, Charo. I’m terrified because Oliver Reed starts taking jabs at Welles and I’m expecting the whole affair to get bloody, with Merv Griffin getting set on fire at some point, but Reed spends much of the interview talking about his love of American hamburgers and eventually praises Orson Welles as a god among directors. At know no point in this interview is The Brood even mentioned.

Why did Criterion include it in the special features on the disc?

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1979’s The Brood from director David Cronenberg is a disgusting little movie. The movie begins with Oliver Reed wearing nothing but a robe while sitting in yoga pose on a stage berating his son in front of live audience. No, this isn’t a method-acting lesson, but a public therapy session. Oliver Reed stars as Dr. Hal Ragian, a psychotherapist who runs the Somatree Institute where he employs the use of psychoplasmics, a therapy method that has patients unleash their suppressed feelings by physically altering their bodies through pure will of the mind.

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Frank Carveth (Art Hindle) thinks Dr. Ragian is a quack. Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar), Frank’s wife, is a patient at Somatree, dealing with anger issues while fighting with Frank over custody of Candace (Cindy Hinds), their five-year-old daughter. Frank notices marks and cuts on Candace’s back and doesn’t want her staying at Somatree. Dr. Ragain tells Frank that Nola needs Candace there to help with her therapy. He tells Frank that he’d better bring Candace back the following weekend or there will be legal action.

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Frank drops Candace off with his mother-in-law while he goes talk to a lawyer. I suppose Candace is having a better time with Grandma, as she seems more mellow than her mother. Granted, Grandma is indulging in some Scotch and it’s not even 3 PM. While going to refresh her drink, she gets attacked by what seems to be a small child in her kitchen. The attacker hits grandma with what I believe is meat tenderizer. It’s quite awful. There’s blood everywhere.

The child shrink at the police station tries prying some info out of Candace, but the girl remembers noththing. Frank’s father-in-law flies over to attend the funeral. Grandpa and Grandma got divorced about ten years prior, but he gets distraught over her death and decides to get smashed in his old house. Guess who shows up again? It’s that same child that killed Grandma earlier. The child beats Grandpa to death with a snow globe.

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Frank discovers Grandpa’s body and we finally see what the killer child looks like. It’s some kind of mutant freak. A really ugly kid. Its face is all caved in. The kid drops dead after fighting with Frank for a bit. Doctors do an autopsy on the deformed child. The kid has a beak-like mouth, no sexual organs, and no navel. This is bizarre. You’ll be seeing more of them as the film rolls on. And trust me, you don’t want to see how these things are born.

I could go on, but I’m about to lose my lunch. The toilet beckons.


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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.