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Episode 126 - The Brood (w/ Kier-La Janisse)


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Poll: Episode 126 - The Brood (w/ Kier-La Janisse) (23 member(s) have cast votes)

Should "The Brood" enter The Canon?

  1. Yes (13 votes [56.52%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 56.52%

  2. No (10 votes [43.48%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 43.48%

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#1 Dalton Maltz

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Posted 29 October 2017 - 10:42 PM

Author Kier-La Janisse (House of Psychotic Women) joins Amy this week to discuss David Cronenberg’s 1979 film “The Brood.” They touch on the film’s treatment of trauma as theatre, the attachment of power to femininity, and how Cronenberg used his actors to play out a real-life personal tragedy. Plus, they get into what the rage monsters represent, and Kier-La shares some surprising information about human experimentation and the Satanic Panic.

#2 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 30 October 2017 - 02:36 PM

Good movie, but I'm not seeing where it's Canon-worthy. Cronenberg has plenty of other films that are more deserving. It's not a hugely influential movie, and there are plenty of other "devil-child" horror films with more cultural cache.

The argument in the podcast was that it was an interesting film about a "woman protagonist," but is she? I'd argue that within the structure of the film we are meant to see Art Hindle as the main protagonist (driving the investigation into his daughter's injuries), with the wife and psychologist as the antagonists preventing him from getting what he wants. Yes, it's true that the wife is eventually revealed as the one who controls the monster children, but I'm not sure how structurally that places her in a different position than a Bond villain. The villains, however interesting, are not the protagonists of the Bond movies.

Anyway, The Brood is worth seeing as an early Cronenberg entry that showcases some of what he can do, but let's be honest: his 80s work is where it's at.

#3 AmandaNumbraOne

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Posted 30 October 2017 - 07:31 PM

I could listen to Kier-La Janisse and Amy dissect films all damn day.

I got House of Psychotic Women for my birthday and have yet to delve into it, but I’m even more stoked about it after listening to this ep. Cannot wait for Yuletide Terror this holiday season.

The Fly is not in The Canon and I doubt one of my favorite Stephen King adaptations, Dead Zone, will ever be included (esp after so many political paranoia films have been accepted), so I’d gladly have The Brood.

There are a few doc horror movies worth mentioning that came out around this same time including Patrick and The Fury, though Patrick (save for the soundtrack) is a boring representation of a horror film. Asylum, the anthlogy film from 1972, is just a fun watch for horror fans, but also lends a weary eye towards psychology and psychiatry.

If Oliver Reed isn’t in The Canon for The Brood, can he be in The Canon for The Devils?

#4 FictionIsntReal

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Posted 30 October 2017 - 07:47 PM

An interesting case, because while there's lots to talk about, and I think Cronenberg does belong in the Canon, this film is probably not the best example. It's an unusually blunt example of revenge-by-movie where the director gets to vent against his ex-wife and the divorce they went through, but here I'll side with Adam Egypt Mortimer in saying that the "psychotronic breakup film" to watch is Possession.

I find it hard to remember any details about the director's own stand-in because he's so uninteresting. Maybe the reason Art Hindle never became a bigger star is because he doesn't have star quality? I'm reminded that some try to excuse the extreme dullness of the protagonist of Cronenberg's "Scanners" by saying it's because he's so mentally off. I think sometimes Cronenberg didn't care about making interesting protagonists when he could focus on exploding heads or whatever instead. They don't have to be likeable, as James Woods in Videodrome isn't especially. In fact having this from the POV from the ex-wife (a la Carrie perhaps) might have worked better.

This is a film I'm glad I saw, and I'd recommend it to the same sort of horror afficionado who'd want to check stuff off this list, but I don't think it belongs in The Canon.

#5 Johnny Pomatto

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Posted 30 October 2017 - 08:32 PM

I wasn't sure how I was going to vote before listening to this episode but Amy and Kier-La's conversation sold me on a YES vote. I truly do adore most of David Cronenberg's career. At the very least, I find him fascinating even on the rare occasions when his films leave something lacking. THE BROOD came at a point of his career when he was full of incredible and original ideas, but sometimes struggled a bit in translating them to the screen. THE BROOD, VIDEODROME, and SCANNERS all have unforgettable moments and sequences, but sometimes feel a little clunky and overstuffed as whole cohesive films. THE BROOD in particular, while tonally haunting and ominous, I feel succeeds better when we have no idea what is going on and are just trying to piece the fantastic individual scenes together ourselves. Whenever the dialogue begins to explicitly explain the meaning behind the cryptic metaphors, things suddenly seem less creepy and upsetting. Watching it again, I was reminded so much of Nicholas Roeg's DON'T LOOK NOW, (also featuring little people wearing red), which never fully explains in detail what everything means and the film succeeds all the more for it. I will concede though that the finale of THE BROOD still delivered horrifying chills for me and was instrumental in turning me around on some of the aspects of the film that didn't age as well for me. I wish that the film focused a bit more on Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggar, because I think they do the best work in the film. I never quite care enough about Art Hindle and too often his character comes across as rather ignorant. But learning more about the backstory of this film and the connections to Cronenberg's own personal life made me see so much of it in a whole new way, and it makes me appreciate how Cronenberg approaches his work in general all the more. I still lament that (maybe) my favorite Cronenberg film, THE FLY, missed getting into The Canon, and while I don't necessarily think THE BROOD would be my 2nd choice, I still think he deserves some representation here and this is certainly a unique film, true to his soul, and I would give it something of a soft YES.

#6 Lawbster31

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Posted 31 October 2017 - 06:28 AM

The Brood is a good film and I'm glad I saw it but it's not a Canon film. The Fly absolutely should have been voted in, so I'm still hoping we get around to some more worthy Cronenberg films at some point because he absolutely deserves representation. But this is not the film to accomplish that.

#7 mrm1138

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Posted 31 October 2017 - 12:24 PM

At the risk of beating a dead horse (and eating its flesh), if Cannibal Holocaust can be in The Canon, this most definitely can be, as well. With repeat viewings, I find that The Brood has become quite possibly my favorite David Cronenberg film. (Honestly, it's between The Brood and Videodrome. The latter is probably more Canon-worthy, to be honest.) While I normally side with the folks who want to see some sort of demonstration that it has had a wider cultural impact than just being a good (or great) movie. Unfortunately, I can't quite make that argument here, but I love it so much that I feel that I must vote yes.

#8 bleary

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Posted 31 October 2017 - 02:11 PM

I was a soft no before listening to the episode, but Amy and Kier-La won me over. My initial impression of the film was the anti-women view, but I liked the alternate view presented in the episode. And I learned a lot about how messed up Canada was!

#9 Film Explorer

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 04:19 AM

Can we please stop using the Cannibal Holocaust the exuse. Cannibal Holocaust is simply a more influential and important film in the horror genre than The Brood. Even as someone who loves Cronenberg, I can’t deny how bland and boring The Brood was. It has many interesting ideas, but it’s simply not executed well. Even in terms of Cronenberg and not in the horror genre as a whole, I would still say it’s not Canon worthy. I would much rather have something like Videodrome or A History of Violence in the Canon than The Brood.

#10 Teddy Gomi

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 05:45 PM

I am a firm believer that David Cronenberg's early work is his best work. While I personally wouldn't have selected the Brood as a representation of Cronenberg in the Canon, reflecting on it now makes me think it was the perfect choice. It doesn't have a lot of the flaws of some of his other early works and it really captures a specific aspect of the time it was made in. The film let's thing be ambiguous; but doesn't fall into complete ambiguity. It gives the characters, even the antagonists, many layers of complexity. And perhaps most importantly, the movie does not devolve into strangeness for the sake of strangeness. While strangeness for the sake of strangeness is a quality I love in Cronenberg's work (see: Videodrome); this can hinder the work's vision and drag films down to spectacle for the sake of spectacle reducing the impact, vision and statement of the film.

So I am voting a resounding YES on the Brood and commending Kier-La Janisse for nominating it.

#11 daustin

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Posted 02 November 2017 - 07:09 AM

View PostAmandaNumbraOne, on 30 October 2017 - 07:31 PM, said:

I could listen to Kier-La Janisse and Amy dissect films all damn day.

I got House of Psychotic Women for my birthday and have yet to delve into it, but I’m even more stoked about it after listening to this ep. Cannot wait for Yuletide Terror this holiday season.

The Fly is not in The Canon and I doubt one of my favorite Stephen King adaptations, Dead Zone, will ever be included (esp after so many political paranoia films have been accepted), so I’d gladly have The Brood.

There are a few doc horror movies worth mentioning that came out around this same time including Patrick and The Fury, though Patrick (save for the soundtrack) is a boring representation of a horror film. Asylum, the anthlogy film from 1972, is just a fun watch for horror fans, but also lends a weary eye towards psychology and psychiatry.

If Oliver Reed isn’t in The Canon for The Brood, can he be in The Canon for The Devils?


Yes, please, let's get The Devils in there. Need some Ken Russell.

Very soft no on The Brood. Good movie, just not a masterpiece. The context Amy and Kier-la provided definitely made it much more interesting, though. Put up Videodrome, though, and I'm a definite yes.

#12 DrEricFritz

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Posted 02 November 2017 - 05:49 PM

Some really interesting comments! I am surprised how much people are not voting for this movie. I feel like Cronenberg's oeuvre is one of the best amongst our very best film makers. Not that Cronenberg's filmography is perfect, but he is a rare director that I will always watch. Even set next to other contemporary horror film makers of the time, I believe his films have aged far better and still lead to interesting discussions.

I think The Brood stands quite well on its own. Great performances and an interesting subtext are what I always hope from a Cronenberg film and this one delivers quite nicely. I think a few comments have mentioned it being historically minor, but that isn't necessarily a case against what is a very good movie. Influence can be a marker of an important film, like the Matrix, but does not necessarily help a case against it. I think Spielberg or Hitchcock or (fill in with great director) have lesser films that should be considered compared to their obvious masterpieces.

Perhaps this is a good moment to reflect on what is this elusive thing we call "The Canon." I freely admit that Videodrome and History of Violence are far superior films, but I do not think that would make for as interesting of an episode. The show has done some "slam dunk" episodes, but the episodes I enjoy the most are the ones that call out the films that teeter between good and great. Or better yet, a film I missed that I had never considered. Not that I should make an assumption, but Videodrome clearly gets in, whereas The Brood is a very good movie that may or may not deserve to be in the Canon.

#13 HoldenMartinson

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Posted 02 November 2017 - 07:20 PM

I hadn't seen The Brood, and I was pleasantly surprised by it. I did a write-up of it--one that was not as well-researched as this episode, as I did not listen to The Canon beforehand, so I feel silly--and I found myself writing so much about Nola, because her character, and Samantha Eggar's all-timer performance are amazing. We talk about someone like Anthony Hopkins making the most of his time on screen, but Eggar gives him a run for his money. Her performance is so dynamic and exciting, whereas Art Hindle--the ostensible lead of the film--is sedate by contrast. Hindle is as dull as Eggar is electrifying.

The one thing I love about The Brood is how Cronenberg uses performance and narrative as therapy within the world of the film. It's a lot like Adaptation., if it wasn't so self-reflexive. Cronenberg is making a movie about his divorce, which involves characters play-acting with their therapist to reach some kind of emotional catharsis by finishing their own stories according to their personal understanding of their trauma. But in real life, these problems don't exist in a vacuum. Cronenberg channels this through family, which, by its nature, is a protracted story that can never live in a vacuum. Life itself doesn't exist on its own, and directly affects those around us. Just like Nola is ruined by her parents, her problems extend to her marriage and her own daughter. Candace will likely follow in her mother's footsteps, and mess up her kids, too. So, we'll always have conflict for stories and art, but we'll also keep hurting each other forever. Does this suggest that Cronenberg's marriage crumbled because of his filmmaking career? No idea, but I appreciate that, for whatever reasons, Cronenberg would be willing to put so much of himself into his work.

Still, I'm holding out hope for another, better entry from Cronenberg. I like The Brood, but I don't think it's an essential.

#14 Dale Cooper Black

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Posted 03 November 2017 - 09:52 AM

Great, great episode. Nice to hear from Kier-La, Cinemuerte is a sorely missed event here in ever-more-gentrified Vancouver.

It might be my Canadian bias, but I think nearly all of Cronenberg's pre-Crash work deserves a place in the Canon. Many of his films come across as cold and impersonal--if I had to describe his body of work in one word, it would be "clinical"--but there's no denying that he's able to tap into some pretty elemental fears. Cronenberg movies are scary like a trip to the principal's office is scary; the sense of dread looming over the proceedings is more horrific than anything else.

I was a bit disappointed that there wasn't more of a discussion of Cronenberg's films as a tax haven. Canada's tax-shelter film industry produced a hell of a lot of weird movies in the 70s and 80s (mostly garbage), and it's kind of a miracle that a truly great filmmaker emerged from that debacle.

By the way, if anybody wants to dig deeper into the rabbit hole of Canada's sordid history of psychiatry and mind control, they might be interested to know that the late Leonard Cohen was almost certainly a victim of it.

Anyway, easy yes for The Brood. Thanks again for a great episode.
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#15 Nathan Roberson

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Posted 03 November 2017 - 10:05 AM

This was one of my favorite discussions ever on this podcast. It opened my eyes to a lot of themes I missed. I think it's a crime The Fly had to go up against The Thing (and I voted for The Thing) so any good Cronenberg deserves to get in. I easily voted yes.
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#16 DrEricFritz

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Posted 03 November 2017 - 06:43 PM

View PostNathan Roberson, on 03 November 2017 - 10:05 AM, said:

This was one of my favorite discussions ever on this podcast. It opened my eyes to a lot of themes I missed. I think it's a crime The Fly had to go up against The Thing (and I voted for The Thing) so any good Cronenberg deserves to get in. I easily voted yes.


Such a brutal episode, but I had to go for The Thing too.

#17 raz

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Posted 05 November 2017 - 03:26 PM

My vote is No. I had never seen The Brood before. I appreciated the psychological themes that were discussed in the episode, and really enjoyed it. I thought the pacing was patient and something that horror films today lack. However, the rest of the film is simply fine. Nothing really stands out to me that would make me want to watch it again, or discuss it with others.

#18 mrm1138

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Posted 06 November 2017 - 03:44 PM

View PostFilm Explorer, on 01 November 2017 - 04:19 AM, said:

Can we please stop using the Cannibal Holocaust the exuse. Cannibal Holocaust is simply a more influential and important film in the horror genre than The Brood.


I don't see Cannibal Holocaust as being nearly as influential as a lot of its supporters want to believe it is. Had that been the case, I'm sure we would have seen a much larger spate of found footage films throughout the 1980s (or more cannibal films than just the Italian exploitation movies). The boom in found footage didn't happen until after The Blair Witch Project, and neither Edouardo Sanchez nor Daniel Myrick saw Cannibal Holocaust until after TBWP had been released.