If you’re looking for a definition of “Cronenbergian,” The Brood isn’t a bad place to start. It’s deliberately paced, pairing operatic grandeur with restrained domesticity. It prominently features Cronenberg’s early obsessions of science fiction, horror and body horror, interwoven with more conventional problems; as Cronenberg uses genre conventions to comment on the emotional damage dealt by divorce. Mark Leonard describes the film as “a scathing answer to Kramer vs. Kramer” and I don’t disagree.
Unfortunately the subtext proves problematic when subjected to more than a cursory analysis, given it’s produced by a man who’d recently divorced his first wife. The Brood channels the ragged ruin wrought by divorce … except that this damage is invariably at the hands of Nola, whose ex-husband is the unambiguous hero of the piece. Nola’s spitefulness and jealousy bring about tragedy and she revels in the devastation; it’s hardly an even-handed portrayal.
I don’t know that I’d describe The Brood as misogynistic, but it’s demonstrative of Cronenberg’s hatred of one woman – his ex-wife. Ironically, given the film’s evident distrust of therapy, it serves as therapy itself – good for helping Cronenberg move on, perhaps, but a more balanced approach would have made for a better film.