Good ideas take us so far, but the great ideas are what make movies so incredible. The Brood is a good idea for the early state of David Cronenberg’s filmography. He has yet to assemble those broad strokes and body horror tropes that would define the bulk of his work. They are featured, roughly, but not with the creativity and spark we would seek out in his later efforts. The Brood is serviceable, though, and is a good draft and sign of things to come. That much, we can take stock in. It is not the most inventive of horrors or charming of thrillers, much of that comes down to how these characters are displayed, but it would be harsh of us to demand he hits the ground running so early in his career.
Some moments do elicit the strong themes of his later works. As Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed) considers the events before him, he begins to understand nothing is what it seems. Such a typical way of introducing these themes, but Cronenberg, even in this early era, shows great promise. Raglan is tasked with uncovering strange happenings and controversial techniques carried out on his wife. Reed gives a strong performance, the worried husband who soon uncovers horrors beyond his imagining. That transition from relatively placid drama to tense thriller is guided nicely not just by the work Cronenberg puts in behind the camera, but also through Reed and Samantha Eggar.
It is the horror of familiarity that Cronenberg wishes to depict here. He does so, but not with any astounding effect. His themes of domesticated living and the real horrors that are provided through this way of life are nicely tuned but never make a greater impact. Homegrown horrors are some of the most engaging and fear-inducing topics filmmakers can provide. The Brood does this well enough. Cronenberg is a confident director no matter the subject or genre, but it is strikingly unforgettable here. He holds the hand of his audience well enough, guiding them through an intricate script and strong workings of such craft, but they never formulate as something bigger, something wider for an audience to sink their teeth into. There are horrifying moments, granted, but Shivers and Rabid have these same issues. Horrid horror, but nowhere to define it as more than spooky tact.
Children are horrid bottles of vermin. That much, I and Cronenberg can agree on. As this brood of mutant kiddies makes their way through the relatively timid town, there is never the notion that The Brood is going to take a sudden turn or explode with much variety. Cronenberg is confident in his story and performers, so much so that he relies on them to do much of the heavy lifting. They are not all that memorable, but the core concept and ideas found within this late 1970s horror are more than enough to drag Cronenberg through another feature. He would find his footing far more firmly just a few years after this with Videodrome. That is the silver lining.