Second times the charm for the body horror hero, and as Rabid sets director David Cronenberg up for one of his many successes, there is a sensation of guilt that rushes through this late-70s experience. Another tale of infections in society, there are immediate comparisons to that of Shivers, where an unlikely experience for one person leads to a breakdown of order. Pale zombies patter through the streets, all after a freak incident in a radical surgery. His reliance on understanding the leading character, rather than experiencing the horror, is the great change needed to keep his work fresh and invigorating. That much would be true for the greatest hits of his filmography, and it is an exceptional draw for Rabid too.
With an economic recession on the mind, and the violent impacts of that lingering throughout Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg, once again, tries his hand at adapting a unique text. Don DeLillo has a unique style to his prose. That’s the nicest way of saying it certainly isn’t for me. A few pages into the book, and it is clear to see Cronenberg has done quite the job of hacking his way through the text and making sure the transfer to screen is as seamless as possible. Capturing the core assets and meanings DeLillo had to offer, Cronenberg paves the way to effective character destruction. Too bad, then, that the destruction of his character is something we are actively cheering for, rather than making notes about.
Diplomats and deceit go hand in hand for M. Butterfly, the oddly dense and flummoxed David Cronenberg feature that sees a French diplomat fall for an opera singer. On paper, a simple story of love should be fine. Defined by the characters, powered by the underlying subtext, and rewarding to watch. This, however, is brought to the screen by the man who, only two years prior, adapted Naked Lunch. Understandably, such success in adapting the William Burroughs text led Cronenberg down the path of adaptation. M. Butterfly, the David Henry Hwang play, does not get the true, rewarding treatment. Cronenberg takes the bite out of such a heavy text, instead spinning a dull story of love in the 1960s.
Suburban, apartment living turned on its head by the man that once turned Jeff Goldblum into a life-size fly, Shivers represents those ever-pressing notes of commentary from David Cronenberg. He has, once again, paired it with the intensity of his body horror. I cannot say the idea of body horror in a stuffy apartment block as a concept does not appeal to me, but in execution, it is a clumsy, laboured process. Shivers benefits from being an early piece of work, and most infractions can be accounted for and forgiven. What cannot be forgiven, however, is how these people decorate their homes.
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.
Twin gynaecologists, both played by Jeremy Irons, are the subject of lust and excruciating horror in David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers. While it too has fallen to the reboot treatment (a television series lingers on the horizon), it will be interesting to see just how that episodic basis captures the loathing between two twin brothers. Maybe it will do away with that concept entirely. Perhaps it will be so far removed from Cronenberg’s interesting, stumbling thriller that it crafts a dynamic all of its own. Only time will tell. Until then, though, we can reflect on the lasting legacy Dead Ringers has seemingly provided.
Virtual Reality really does feel fresh in our minds right now. Thanks to its mainstream advent, throwing away the novelty first applied to the bulky, nauseating feeling of being in a completely different environment. As the trends of gaming now swing toward trying to impress newcomers with flash technology that can turn their living room into a battlefield or a meadow, it’s rather comforting to see that director David Cronenberg had his say on the subject twenty years ago. How dangerous Virtual Reality could become if thrown into the wrong hands is investigated thoroughly well in Cronenberg’s final 20th century outing, and is perhaps one of his strongest films.
As I skid towards the final few David Cronenberg directed films I’ve yet to see, I realise that there are themes within his work that he becomes so fixated on, so disturbed by certain aspects of his story, that he soon forgets to flesh out the actual characters and story around his premise. Crash, for instance, is a tale of car crash survivors who get their sexual gratification from car accidents. Sickening, twisted, right up the street of Cronenberg, and if anyone could have made such a strange premise work, then it’d absolutely be him. But something just doesn’t click, the spark fizzles out rather quickly and it’s, dare I say it, a bit of a car crash.
Some of the biggest and most influential names of cinema, coming together to bring us some short vignettes on what cinema really means to them. It worries me that something like this could go so wrong. To Each His Own Cinema may feature the personal reflections of some of our favourite directors, but the actual value the collection of short movies on display really comes under fire almost immediately. What can these directors offer together that they can’t offer alone? It’s interesting to see how big a disaster the final product really is.
As director David Cronenberg steered himself towards projects set in the gloomy, destitute plains of England, it seemed that the earlier films from this era had trouble letting go of the shlock of his former career. In turn, Spider, starring Ralph Fiennes, Gabriel Byrne and Miranda Richardson, feels like Cronenberg toiling between mature, bleak expressions and an inability to bury the love he has for the gory horrors of his glory days. It’s an interesting mixture, one that falters from time to time in some unexpectedly bland moments. But Cronenberg’s style and confidence behind the camera make up for the occasional tedium throughout, with Spider setting off a new range of stylish choices for Cronenberg.