David Cronenberg  



A Canadian director of mostly horror movies, his films usually containing a ubiquitous, unique, dark, skin-crawling, creepy atmosphere. A recurring theme in most of his movies usually has to do with biological mutations and fleshy representations for all things bizarre, with many references to the flesh and the dark side of sexuality. This has been labelled 'body-horror', and Cronenberg practically invented it. As you can imagine, he features all kinds of twisted gore in his flicks and people with dark obsessions. He also made The Fly and Scanners, two superb sci-fi movies which are pretty normal by this list's standards, but also disturbing and gory. Has gradually become more mainstream and palatable to the masses but is still interested in unique and dark subject matter.

Recommended

Brood, The  
A strange psychologist with a powerful personality and bizarre treatment techniques starts treating a deeply disturbed woman, channeling her anger that overwhelms her into unusual physical outlets. Her husband starts to suspect something is terribly wrong when her family and school-teachers are attacked by violent little disfigured creatures. Superb psycho-sexual and body-horror; very creepy and disquieting.

Existenz  
A reality-bending, fun, darkly twisted movie that deals with virtual reality games that are terrifyingly real to the point where the players can't tell if they are playing or not. Games are played using fleshy-looking bio-pods that are plugged into orifices in your lower back (...), and there are games within games, as well as players trying to kill the game designers. Brilliantly twisted and bizarre bio-techno entertainment as only Cronenberg can make, and which can be enjoyed on a few levels. A more solid, computer-game version of Cronenberg's own Videodrome which dealt with late-night entertainment taking over people's lives and reality.

Of Some Interest

Dead Ringers  
Inseparable identical twins (Jeremy Irons in a double role and a masterclass in subtlety) work as a team of gynecologists experts, fool people with their appearances, and share everything obsessively, until a woman gets between them. A bout with prescription drugs as well as a dependent emotional disconnection and connection with a woman, bring about a worrying chasm between them. Once this painful mental separation begins, it brings a spiraling descent into twisted obsession and destructive psychotic behaviour, and where one twin goes, the other has to follow, until the gory end. The movie starts off very well as a character study, but rapidly deteriorates into melodrama, an all-too-fast deterioration into insanity, and shock value for its own sake, including body-horror nightmares on siamese separation and 'gynecological instruments for mutated women'. Dark and disturbing, but doesn't ring true.

Naked Lunch  
Even amongst Cronenberg's oeuvre of strange movies, this ultimately bizarre and impenetrable cult classic is way out there, mostly because it is based on a supposedly unfilmable bizarre book by cult-figure William Burroughs. Cronenberg blends biographical elements into the story that involves random sketches and hallucinative plot-threads ruminating on various symbols of drug-addiction, the art of drug taking, destroying rational thought, and making use of ambiguous sexuality. An ex-writer who works as a bug exterminator finds that his wife has become hooked on his own bug powder. A rapid spiral into drug addiction sees the drugs becoming increasingly strange as the movie progresses, and the paranoid hallucinations that result become more convoluted and entertainingly bizarre. Accidental murder (which he hallucinated beforehand) leads to trouble with the law and a trip to Interzone, where large bugs send him on missions, centipedes provide an ultimate high, typewriters turn into big bugs that speak out of an anus-like orifice, aliens come out of the woodwork, liquids ooze, and talking typewriters get sexually excited. And it only gets increasingly more bizarre with body-horror alien-typewriter-bug-mutations that must be seen to be believed.

Shivers  
Cronenberg's first proper feature film is a now notorious classic in his repertoire, covering many of the themes of later horror movies: Body-horror, psycho-sexual perversion, some social commentary, bizarre special-effects and dark obsessions. A mad scientist causes an outbreak of strange fleshy parasites that attack an island-building-complex, with frantic, chaotic results. People break out in wanton displays of animal lust and general chaotic disturbed behaviour, often also in violence and murder, controlled by phallic-like parasites that spread quickly and grow in the body. A doctor tries to contain the outbreak, but even children don't stay unaffected, with disturbing results, including local outbreaks of incest and other perversions. Even people's minds and their trained social behaviour are used to ambush the uninfected, leading to a dark satirical ending that takes a stab at society. Gritty, raw, disturbing and strange, but simple, and with a only a thin plot backing up the sex-body-horror.

Videodrome  
A cult favorite from Cronenberg, and it does tend to improve with time thanks to unforgettable bizarre visuals and theme, but its screenplay is deeply flawed. Max (James Woods) runs a controversial fringe TV station, always searching for new extreme shows with which to push the envelope and keep his select underground audience hooked. He soon discovers a secret broadcast of snuff movies that starts to have very strange effects on his brain and his perception of reality, and his new masochistic girlfriend (Debbie Harry) loses herself in this world of extreme and overwhelming mental perversion. Digging into the source of the broadcast uncovers strange conspiracies within conspiracies and cults that use special forms of video to spread their message. Before you know it, bloody VHS tapes are inserted into a vagina-like orifice in one's stomach, hands turn into biological guns, TVs participate in S&M sex, and flesh mutates for the new programmed reality. Grotesque hallucinations turn into reality, or do they? Long live the new flesh! The theme of the obsessive search for extreme content only to be controlled by the content is very fitting for sites like these. But the horror imagery and special effects are often too schlocky, tacky and over-the-top to be taken as seriously as the movie takes itself. Thinking about it... if the movie content takes over reality, then why do the hallucinations even have to involve video technology like tapes and TV sets? And the screenplay doesn't seem to know where it's going, getting lost in convoluted conspiracies that soon stop making sense (and with a weak ending) instead of exploring the theme of extreme content and hallucinations further. In summary, very memorable, mind-warping and entertaining twisted horror, but the screenplay seems lost, as if the screenplay was always secondary and shoehorned to fit the visual ideas. Existenz is better.

Worthless

Crash  
Sexual deviants constantly on the look for new excitements suddenly find a new obsession and excitement in car accidents and develop a very unhealthy fetish for all things that crash or have crashed (paraphilia). Crashes are re-enacted, photos and movies are used as porn, accident disfigurements are used for sexual acts, and the protagonist develops an even more extreme lust for engine coolant and blood. There is nothing here besides a cinematic exploration of people and their sexual perversions, the twisted fetish as a human phenomenon is merely presented as is, with no insight or thought involved. Explicit, very dark and pointlessly disgusting.

Crimes of the Future  
As with his previous student film (Stereo), Cronenberg filmed this with a very low budget, no soundtrack, and a plodding, sparse narrative that seems disjointed with the meandering scenes on the screen. A man wanders through various institutions where men are doing strange things like handle items of clothing in the corridors, place each other's feet on their foreheads, and practice ballet. The narration tells us all women have died as a result of a malady generated by cosmetics and the men are experimenting with this and that. The man stumbles on a pedophiliac group and tries to save a little girl in danger of falling ill. An impenetrable and plodding piece supposedly dealing with gender issues and disease.

Rabid  
A motorcyclist (the always hot porn star, Marilyn Chambers) gets experimental surgery to save her life after an accident. As a result, her body mutates for some strange reason, develops a phallic organ in her armpit, and promptly develops into a sexual predator with a taste for blood, leading to spreading rabid violence and death. This follow-up to Shivers sees another outbreak of bizarre sexual body-horror, except it all feels rather pointless, uninspired and haphazard this time, with unnatural behaviour and reactions. Unenjoyably weird horror.




2000- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents