Canadian director David Cronenberg followed his graphic vampire variation Rabid with this multi-layered, speculative horror film which addresses the way the repressed demons of the psyche can force their way to the surface.
Psychologist Dr. Raglan (Oliver Reed), director of the controversial Psychoplasmic Institute and author of the book The Shape of Rage, encourages his patients to outwardly manifest their anger and fear (aided by some experimental drugs), which then takes physical shape as actual sores, cancers, or strange new organs.
One of Raglan's more successful patients (from his point-of-view, anyway) is Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar), who is undergoing therapy following a painful divorce from her husband, Frank (Art Hindle).
When Frank discovers evidence that Nola may have injured their daughter, Candice (Cindy Hinds), he begins to suspect Raglan's techniques but is unprepared for the most horrifying by-product of her rage: a progeny of sexless, dwarflike mutants who are born for the sole purpose of acting out her violent fantasies of revenge.
Containing only enough energy to carry out their murderous tasks, the brood is dispatched to kill Nola's parents, then a woman she believes is having an affair with Frank. By the time Frank discovers the origins of the tiny offspring, they have already abducted Candice and taken her to the institute, where Frank must confront Nola in person.
Although it contains one of the most visceral and nauseating scenes in movie history (during the film's climax), this nevertheless remains the most subtle of Cronenberg's early horror projects, with a strong subtext about the devastating effects of divorce.